Abstract: Mercantilism is certainly one of the oldest concepts of political economy. However, its use to describe pre-liberal and pre-industrial Western capitalism has been highly disputed due to the apparent vagueness of its definition. This paper tackles this issue by developing a historical vision of mercantilism, which rests on a heuristic ideal-type. My goal is to developed mercantilism as a complementary concept to Kindelberger’s of Hegemonic Stability Theory. The pro-free-trade ‘benevolent hegemon’ goes hand in hand with mercantilist states, which need a high level of good export and capital import. The question is then to understand two forms of mercantilism: I call the first one ‘early capitalism’, which is typical for developing countries, while ‘late mercantilism’ is to be found among aging and developed countries, which maintain a mercantilist policy. Empirically, I focus on Germany’s economy since 1945 to illustrate and test this conceptual distinction. I intend to show that West Germany has been an ‘early mercantilist’ power and benefited from the much-needed help by the USA after WWII, while it appears more and more as ‘late mercantilist’ power since the 2000s. This empirical case shall help illustrate my general framework and shed light on the structural reasons for the disputes over trade between Berlin and Washington under Donald Trump.