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Supply, demand, prices and profitability

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Chapter Summary

Making profit estimates for an early modern trade with fragmentary information is a tricky business, and this chapter constitutes no more than an informed guess. It focuses on the premium of arbitrage by looking at sugar prices in the various metropoles that imported it. Comparing prices in different markets and gauging the cost of moving sugar is the fundamental starting point to estimate profitability. The other objective of the chapter is to place sugar in a macroeconomic context. The chapter argues that the Brazilian sugar trade was an inter-imperial phenomenon, particularly in its investment structure and in the merchant community that engaged in it. It looks at the value of sugar taxes in the Kingdom of Portugal and the Dutch Republic, offering some comparisons in order to suggest its importance to their respective economies. The chapter also describes the importance of the sugar trade in general to these economies.

Keywords: Brazilian sugar trade; Dutch Republic; early modern trade; Kingdom of Portugal; merchant community; profit estimates; sugar prices



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