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The history of capitalism is diverse and has many debated roots, but fully fledged capitalism is generally thought to have emerged in Northwestern Europe , especially in the Low Countries mainly present-day Flanders and Netherlands and Great Britain , in the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. Over the following centuries, capital has accumulated by a variety of different methods, in a variety of scales, and associated with a great deal of variation in the concentration of economic power and wealth. Capitalism has gradually become the dominant economic system throughout the world.