THE growth of European control over the other four continents can from some points of view be taken as the most important political process of the modern era. For five centuries the initiative remained with Europeans, whose energy contrasted with the passivity of Indians, negroes, and Chinese. Tartars, Moors, and Turks, who in their day had pressed so hard on Europe, shrank into obscurity. Two European inventions were indispensable in this process- gunpowder and the improved warship. The process was marked by the utmost jealousy between competing European nations, and they generally treated their overseas dominions strictly as private appurtenances. Great Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave political liberty to the Europeans in her overseas settlements, and freedom of trade to all-comers in her non-self-governing possessions. The usual practice of all other European powers, however, has been to give little political liberty to their settlers, and to employ their overseas dependencies for the advantage in the first place of the parent country. France, for instance, has always, except for a short period in the mid-nineteenth century, been rigidly " protectionist " in her policy. The laxer policy of Great Britain, though defensible on many grounds, would hardly have been adopted by a nation struggling through such difficulties as those encountered by continental states. In the sixteenth century the exclusionist policy was coloured by religion. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when co-religionists began to fall out, it was justified on economic grounds.
The greatest of the " mercantile " school of statesmen was Colbert, who lived in France from 1619 to 1683; the object of these men was to collect great stores of bullion by exporting much and importing little. Each principal country and its overseas dependencies were to supplement each other and be in combination self-supporting. The principal country would not grow crops to compete with those of the dependency, which, in return, was not to compete with the principal country in manufacture or in the carrying trade, or to sell to others any products that the principal country wanted (especially those useful in war), or to buy from others any product that the principal country had to sell. The system was invariably modified by extensive smuggling. It was always unpopular with colonists, and trade actually improved when principal and dependencies were separated, as England was from her American colonies in 1783. The system in England was embodied in certain " Navigation Laws," first enacted by Cromwell. In these circumstances, wars were fought to secure trade and colonies, and trade led to more wars. The flag followed trade and trade followed the flag. Similar conceptions were largely responsible for the war of 1914-18.