Why Profit and Loss Didn’t Matter: The Historicized Rationality of Early Modern Merchant Accounting
This chapter presents some closing thoughts of the key concepts covered in this book. Profit was earned by systematic application of lessons learned from carefully calculated rates of return in the past as deduced from the study of account books. Scholars of the age of commerce emphasize that merchant networks focused on goods and markets rather than specific empires or regions. The age of commerce holds the promise of elucidating the operations and the contours of the merchant economy. The merchant economy implies that traders defined and directed the entire economy, and certainly urbanization, industrial change and colonial development made merchants ever more vital intermediaries between producers and consumers. The book offers a good sense of where to begin to consolidate understanding of the merchant economy, to uncover the reasons for its disappearance and to account for the emergence of its successor to explain the transition from the 'old' to the 'new', from the merchant to the industrial economy.