Commercial Crisis and Change in England: 1600-1642

Commercial Crisis and Change in England: 1600-1642

Commercial Crisis and Change in England: 1600-1642

Commercial Crisis and Change in England: 1600-1642

Excerpt

The decay of merchandizing or vent abroad of our home-bred wares must needs hinder the employment of the makers thereof and so consequently increase great numbers of the poor, and be the ruin of all the inland trades, for that they depend one upon another; and the decay of either is very prejudicious to this State.

WILLIAM SANDERSON, 'A Treatise of the State Merchant' (1629), in Cambridge University Library, MS. Gg. v. 8, fol. 227.

Perhaps more than any other field of study in the economic history of seventeenth-century England, that which concerns the development and changing fortunes of commerce lends itself to descriptive and analytical treatment. For one thing, it provides many convenient foci around which a story may be constructed. For another, its surviving records exemplify a dynamism which sets it apart from the history of agriculture. It is indeed difficult not to adopt the prejudices of the majority of contemporary observers -- in whose eyes trade was the main prop of the economy, and from whose pens, consequently, there flowed an abundance of illuminating documentation. Yet it is not alone the conveniences of economic historiography nor the chance survival of one type of source material which justify a careful study of the commerce of the period. Even the existence of extreme naïvety in official circles would not have entirely explained the careful and detailed administrative attention devoted to trade and the classes dependent upon it. And no degree of misplaced enthusiasm for purely academic exercises could have produced a situation where the significant advances in economic thought were so much confined to matters of commerce and currency. Clearly, England's relationships with the economies of other lands had a crucial role to play in her own internal prosperity. Perhaps the most rewarding way to investigate the implications of this proposition is to concentrate largely upon periods of economic crisis. As long as we retain the knowledge that there were good times as well as bad, an economy suffering from extreme dislocation can tell us much concerning its own structure. When we have compared one crisis with another we can hope to know far more about the stability of the economy, and even its course of development.

The modern approach to the study of economic fluctuations and economic growth has been both facilitated and conditioned by a sharpening of the tools of statistical analysis and by the accumulation of statistical . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.