The Tobacco Adventure to Russia: Enterprise, Politics, and Diplomacy in the Quest for a Northern Market for English Colonial Tobacco, 1676-1722

The Tobacco Adventure to Russia: Enterprise, Politics, and Diplomacy in the Quest for a Northern Market for English Colonial Tobacco, 1676-1722

The Tobacco Adventure to Russia: Enterprise, Politics, and Diplomacy in the Quest for a Northern Market for English Colonial Tobacco, 1676-1722

The Tobacco Adventure to Russia: Enterprise, Politics, and Diplomacy in the Quest for a Northern Market for English Colonial Tobacco, 1676-1722

Excerpt

The years 1688-1720 were hardly a time of stability in English history. Below the visas of war and great dynastic questions existed a realm of seething change, of innovation and of experimentation--constitutional, administrative, economic. The constitutional innovations and experiments of these years have hardly been neglected. The administrative, though, have received less attention. The economic, outside the pages of Scott,1 are perhaps even less appreciated. What is least conveyed, however, even by writers who touch on all the details, is the tone of the age, its atmosphere of expectation, its ponderous consideration of the impossible, its achievement of the next to the impossible.

The innovating character of the economic history of the age is most clearly manifest, to all readers of Scott at least, in the long list of chartered and unchartered company flotations that filled the thirty years before the South Sea Bubble burst. The "three great monied companies" of the next century (Bank, United East India, South Sea) were but the three most lasting monuments of an activity incredibly varied, incredibly extensive. Of these numerous new foundations, some were stillborn, others like the Bank destined for an imposing antiquity and a continuing importance. Still others, like the new East India Company ( 1698-1709), made a tremendous stir at the time but subsequently were all but forgotten for want of Arcots and Plasseys.

A not unimportant example of this last category was the Russian Tobacco Company of 1698--the Tobacco Adventure to Russia--or, more formally, the company of Contractors with the Czar of Muscovy for the Sole Importation of Tobacco into his Dominions. Though it has attracted a few lines in Scott, Lipson and others, it has, by and large, been neglected by historians of England in this period. Owing to the paucity of records, this neglect is most understandable. Nevertheless, the company's brief and inglorious history raised for the governments of the day some of the most fundamental questions of policy: To what extent might a government use diplomacy to open markets for national products and to protect subjects commercially embroiled abroad? To what extent might ancient privileges and property rights be allowed to stand in the way of economic growth? Might monopolies reprehensible at home be justifiable abroad? To what extent might a nation properly go to protect the secrets of national manufactures? etc.

CONTENTS

PAGE

1. The northern market before the Northern War, 1660-1700 5

2. Getting the contract 17

3. Opening the trade, 1696-1699 37

4. Tobacco and hemp--merchants and diplomats 47

5. Treason and retribution: competition, 1705 62

6. The winding up, 1705-1706 68

7. Old battles refought 73

8. Profit and loss 83

9. The northern market in the eighteenth century, 1700-1775 87

Appendix:

A-C. Statistical tables 101

D. Bibliographical note 104

E. The tobacco contractors: a brief directory 105

Index 111

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