'Merely for Money'? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750-1815

'Merely for Money'? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750-1815

'Merely for Money'? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750-1815

'Merely for Money'? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750-1815

Excerpt

To Trade: To traffick, to deal, to hold commerce;
to act merely for money; having a trading wind.

THOMAS SHERIDAN’S COMMENT, insinuating that traders acted ‘merely for money’, encapsulates the premise of this book – or rather, the mirror of it. That is, this book argues that the business culture of the British Atlantic was one which was socially embedded and did not allow for pure profit maximising, at least in the short term – hence the question mark. In fact, Sheridan is more likely commenting on the idea that traders did not produce anything per se, but worked for profit from trade. Indeed, many merchants were successful in making money and were well respected for doing so. By the second half of the eighteenth century a merchant was someone who ‘trafficks to remote countries’, a man of ‘genius’, noble and independent, who employed the poor and encouraged the industrious. Their importance

1 Thomas Sheridan, A General Dictionary of the English Language [1780] (Menston: Scolar Press Limited, 1967).

2 The negative connotation of not producing anything was usually reserved for brokers, and especially stock brokers, who were seen as ‘pests’ who moved the stock of others around without risking their own capital. Huw W. Bowen, ‘“The Pests of Human Society”: Stockbrokers, Jobbers and Speculators in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain’, History, 78:252 (Feb. 1993), 38–53.

3 Sheridan, A General Dictionary; Joshua Montefiore, The Trader’s and Manufacturer’s Compendium; Containing the Laws, Customs, and Regulations, Relative to Trade; Intended for the use of Wholesale and Retail Dealers, 2 vols, Vol. I (London: Printed for the author, 1804), p. 284; The Tradesman: Or, Commercial Magazine (London: Sherwood, Neely & Jones, 1808), p. 66; William Gordon, The Universal Accountant and Complete Merchant. In Two Volumes (Edinburgh: Printed for the Author, and A. Donaldson, and sold by Donaldson at Edinburgh & Strand, London, 1763), Vol. I, p. 1.

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