Commercial Crisis and Change in England: 1600-1642

By B. E. Supple | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The present study was to a considerable extent completed in 1955 as a dissertation for the Ph.D. degree at Cambridge University. It was subsequently awarded the Ellen McArthur Prize and revised for publication. Two chapters were eliminated and the arrangement of others altered, the chapter on 'the government and the economy' was added, the introduction was considerably augmented, and extensive stylistic revision was undertaken. The book as it stands is therefore the product of some years of work and has benefited from the help and advice of a considerable number of people.

The original intention was to compare the causes and consequences of commercial depressions in England in the forty years prior to the Civil War. Such a grandiose design might well have been impossible in the time available if the sources of information and statistical series had been as abundant as they are for later periods of English economic history. Even so, it will be apparent that the rich sources of information on local and regional history have largely been ignored. On the other hand, it was found necessary to take into account monetary as well as industrial and commercial questions. To some extent, also, it was inevitable that there should be consideration of economic thought and policy. For the influence of economic crises was widespread, and many aspects of the economic history of seventeenth-century England can be studied only against the background of intermittent commercial fluctuation. Obviously this also applies to England's place in an international economy, and the interrelationship between internal instability and long-term economic development is a crucial one. On these grounds it was necessary to broaden the scope of the book to include economic changes which took place over the whole period. The disadvantages of the selective treatment of such subjects will be only too obvious to the reader, but no such study can hope to satisfy every expectation.

In the main the information used has been derived from contemporary sources and from secondary authorities which are too well known to need constant identification. Most work was done in the British Museum, the Cambridge University Library, the Goldsmiths' Library of the University of London, and the Public Record Office. Two histories, above all others, have dealt at length with the central topic of this work: W. R. Scott, The Constittition and Finance of English, Scottish, and Irish Joint-Stock Companies to 1720 ( 3 volumes, Cambridge, 1910-12), vol. 1, chapters VII to XI; and Astrid Friis, Alderman Cockayne's Project and the Cloth Trade ( 1927). The latter has proved most useful as a source of statistical and documentary

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