The importation of Asian and American luxury goods had a profound impact on European society from the seventeenth century onward. Indian cottons and tea, Asian and American coffee, sugar and American tobacco all were introduced as elite luxury goods and slowly became mass consumption items. For this to occur, the major European overseas traders had to change basic mercantile and even medieval ideas about luxury consumption and had to modernize their commercial relations. This was especially the case for the three leading import nations, England, Holland, and France, all of whom had to learn the importance of reexporting their goods to other European nations and had to develop sophisticated credit mechanisms to deal with long-distance trade. It also meant that governments had to reorganize their tax systems to allow Asian and American goods to be reexported. This trade became more intense over...

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