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The growth of international trade and the establishement of the power of the merchant after the medieval era led to the emergence of a body of thought, between the mid-sixteenth and late seventeenth century, which was primarily concerned with the realtionship between a nations's wealth and its balance of foreing trade. The mercantilist recognized the growing power of the national economy and were in favour of the intervetion of the state in economic activity to maximize national wealth. Partly because the monetary system was very primitimve in realtion to the growing needs of economic expansion, mercantilist writing was often overburdened with the identification of national wealth with precious metals. However, its leading writers did make important progress in developing economic thought and made significant contributions to the analysis of international trade problems,


Reference: The Penguin Business Dictionary, 3rd edt.