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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Glass Bead Trade and Colonization of the Western Hemisphere

During Pre-Columbian times, the Natives of North and South America made and used beads made of various stones, bones, and shells. Glass making was not known to them. The European explorers, beginning with the Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors, and later the Dutch, French, and English introduced glass beads which were highly prized by the Native Americans. These glass trade beads were used by the Europeans (beginning with Columbus or perhaps even earlier with the Vikings) to purchase various commodities. To the Europeans, the beads were cheap in comparison to the value which the American products brought when imported to Europe. Beads were included in the purchase of the island of Manhattan by the Dutch. The Hudson’ Bay Company used glass beads to buy furs. The demand for beads to trade was important in the growth of the glass bead industry in Europe which was a mainly centered in Venice.
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