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The British East India Company also made significant profits as its agents bought and sold spices, cotton, silk, tea, and eventually a drug called opium. At its peak, this organization controlled one-fourth of the world’s trade. As with the Dutch East India Company, part of these profits came from using the labor of enslaved people.
Urban Financial Centers As banking and finance changed, new capital markets emerged based in several urban financial centers, such as Genoa, Amsterdam, and London. Bankers in these centers could make deals throughout Europe.
   URBAN FINANCIAL CENTERS IN THE 16TH AND 17TH CENTURIES
 City
  Location
  Economic Importance
   Genoa
  On the Mediterranean Sea near the current border of Italy and France
  Genoa gained new importance in the later 16th and 17th centuries as the center of capital for the Spanish empire. Through central trading fairs and letters of exchange (authorizations of payments), bankers helped money flow from Spain to Spanish soldiers in the Netherlands.
   Amsterdam
 On the North Sea along the Amstel River
 In 1609, the Dutch formed the Bank of Amsterdam, owned by many investors. Individuals, companies,
and governments could deposit money in the bank
and transfer capital to one another. The Dutch also established the Amsterdam Exchange for stock trading. It was the center of European business by the mid-17th century, as Amsterdam became Europe’s financial capital.
   London
   In southeast England along the Thames River, inland from the English Channel
   London became England’s financial center as trade expanded with the establishment of joint-stock companies starting in the middle of the 16th century. As the Dutch weakened late in the 17th century, London’s importance grew as a European financial center.
  New Economic Elite
The growth of towns and commerce, or large-scale buying and selling, made merchants and bankers more powerful in some places than nobles who owned land. In some states, rulers granted titles of nobility to the most powerful merchants and bankers, such as the Fuggers in central Europe. Over several generations, the Fuggers rose from the peasantry to the merchant class and eventually made fortunes in goldsmithing, mining, and banking.
In 17th-century Amsterdam, wealthy merchants, manufacturers, and shipyard owners were at the top of the social scale. These elites controlled the city government and the nation’s legislative body. Nobles who owned land were a step below the city’s new economic elite, although there were intermarriages between these groups.
London was similar to Amsterdam in this period, as a small number of wealthy merchants controlled the city. Increase in wealth could improve a person’s rank in society. Despite London’s growing importance in international trade, England was still about 80 percent rural by the early 17th century. The
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