Fellowship and Freedom: The Merchant Adventurers and the Restructuring of English Commerce, 1582-1700

ISBN : 9780198794479

Thomas Leng
352 ページ
153 x 234 mm

This is the first modern study of the Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers - England's most important trading company of the sixteenth century - in its final century of existence as a privileged organisation. Over this period, the Company's main trade, the export of cloth to northwest Europe, was overshadowed by rising traffic with the wider world, whilst its privileges were continually criticised in an era of political revolution. But the Company and its membership were not passive victims of these changes; rather, they were active participants in the commercial and political dramas of the century.

Using thousands of neglected private merchant papers, Fellowship and Freedom views the Company from the perspective of its members, in the process bringing to life the complex social worlds of early modern merchants. For members, 'freedom' meant not just the right to access a privileged market, but also to trade independently, which could conflict with the 'fellowship' of corporate affiliation, and the responsibilities to the collective that it entailed. The study's major theme is the challenge of maintaining corporate unity in the face of this and other pressures that the Company faced. It restores the centrality of the Merchant Adventurers within three important historical narratives: England's transition from the margins to the centre of the European, and later global, economy; the rise and fall of the merchant corporation as a major form of commercial government in premodern Europe; and the political history of the corporation in an era of state formation and revolution.


Introduction: The Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers After Antwerp

Part I

1 Becoming a Merchant Adventurer

2 Show Days: The Government of Trade

3 Running on the Exchange

4 Disorderly Brethren?: Merchant Adventurers and the Company

Part II

5 The odious name of a monopolist : From the Imperial Mandate of 1597 to the 1604 Free Trade Bill

6 A new & extraordinary service to be done to the state and Comonwealth of England : The Merchant Adventurers and the Cokayne Project

7 A new spirit of dissention and disturbance : Religious and Political Divisions, c.1630-60

8 That Trade which their Charter reaches not : Contesting the Company from the Restoration to the Glorious Revolution

Conclusion: Merchant Adventurers in an Age of Commercial Revolution


Thomas Leng has worked in the History Department at The University of Sheffield since 2005. His first book, Benjamin Worsley (1618-1677): Trade, Interest, and the Spirit in Revolutionary England (Royal Historical Society Studies in History, 2008), provoked his interest in the social and institutional history of the trading company known as the Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers. He has also published on early modern economic thought, colonization, and the politics of civil war England.