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Introduction: The Closed Arena and the Open Gate
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Introduction: The Closed Arena and the Open Gate

The sixteenth century was a great age of mapmaking, and among the many surviving examples, city maps are especially common. An aerial view shows us a city, usually fortified, with high church steeples rising majestically above the rooftops and numerous houses crowded tightly together along narrow streets. Around it are hills and forests and fields, in which few buildings or other marks of human settlement can be seen. The city appears as a bounded world, an artifact of man rising up out of the order of nature, rather like the megaliths of the ancient Britons that rise up as from nowhere on the Salisbury plain. These maps seem to show us, in the words of Oscar Handlin, “self-contained entities walled off from their surroundings, each one a separate universe…whole and entire of itself.”[1]

Among the city maps drawn in the sixteenth century is one of Bristol dating from 1568 (Figure 1).[2] It depicts just such a compact place. Although some churches and dwellings are to be observed in the suburbs, its medieval walls and its powerful castle, protected by a moat, still dominate it and define its form. Its stone churches and red-roofed houses show us an environment created by human hands, standing apart from the green fields and woodlands of the nearby countryside. It appears very much its own world.

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Fig. 1. William Smith’s View of Bristol, 1568. (British Library, Sloane MS 2596, f. 77. By permission of the British Library.)
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But we also see two other characteristic, if sometimes neglected, features of this geography: its highways and its waterways. Moving out from the city are roads to Wales and the city of Gloucester to the north, to the cities of Wells and Bath to the south, and to the great metropolis of London to the east, linking Bristol with the rest of the kingdom. Even more prominent are the rivers Avon and Frome, on which the city is situated. Together they form the city’s harbor, as we can see from the tall-masted ships docked along the Back and Key. These rivers were as much a part of Bristol’s human geography as were its walls, buildings, and roads. The Frome, as we find it here, was itself the handiwork of man, its channel having been remade by the citizens of the thirteenth century in order to expand the number of docking places near the city center.[3] The Avon with its enormous tides, which emptied the channel twice a day, was the principal avenue of communication for the city, leading through Hungroad and Kingroad, at which ships docked as they waited for wind and tide, to the Severn and the Bristol Channel, and thence to the wider world of commerce beyond the seas.

The draftsman of this first authentic map of Bristol was William Smith, a scholar primarily devoted to heraldry, an art of symbols, not to mapmaking.[4] In the upper right-hand corner of his carefully “measured & laid in Platforme” view of Bristol, he gives us an example of this other talent. There, in what would be the northeast quadrant of the map, we find tricked out the arms of the city of Bristol. These arms, which also appeared on Bristol’s common seal, were very much the mark of the city’s status as a corporation, a union of head and body for common action in pursuit of common interests and goals made possible by the express grant of liberties and franchises from the Crown.[5] They signaled at one and the same time the city’s life as an independent community and its subordination to the authority of the king and the law. In their modern form, these arms show us a fortress upon a hill near a riverbank or seashore with a ship in full sail passing by. However, the version in use in medieval and early modern times depicts the ship sailing through the gates of a great castle (Figure 2). Both images have resonance for us; they symbolize a community that lived by trade and was thus connected to the wider world. But the latter with its gate is the better emblem. It stresses that a late medieval and early modern English city was not only a stronghold, marked by a jurisdictional as well as a physical boundary that distinguished its inhabitants from their fellow Englishmen, but a passage point for people and commodities. Depicting a castle gate with a ship sailing through juxtaposed strength of community with successful enterprise as if to say, as the poet Thomas Churchyard in fact did say for Bristol,

Our traed doth stand on Siuill lief
    And thear our glory lies.[6]
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Fig. 2. Early Modern Bristol’s Coat of Arms. (Detail from James Millerd’s View of Bristol, 1673.)
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Any inquiry into the history of an early modern English city must come to terms with this reciprocal relationship between its political and its economic life. Urban society is characterized primarily by the concentration of diverse socioeconomic functions in a densely built-up center of population, which is dependent on markets located outside the authority of its own government. Urban social order, then, is always vulnerable to regional, national, and even international economic developments beyond the political control of its inhabitants. But an English city of the fifteenth, the sixteenth, or the seventeenth century was primarily a legal and political unit, defined by precise jurisdictional boundaries that offered no real barrier to economic and social change. What held it together were its corporate existence and its sense of community, which separated its freemen and their dependents from their surroundings and gave them a unity and a capacity for collective action they would not otherwise have possessed. This combination of openness to the world of commerce and industry and closeness behind protective walls was the energizing force in city life. It meant that civic society was never at rest, but was always acting on its environment and adapting itself to any changes in it. The town was not a closed arena which drew in upon itself and made of the connections and rivalries of its inhabitants the sole source of local life, but an open gate in which the larger world penetrated into the community and helped shape it.

In modern historiography, the prevailing view of English urban life from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century has been closer to Handlin’s than to the one implicit in Bristol’s coat of arms. Until recently most writers have considered the typical English town of the period not as part of an integrated realm but as a “self-conscious and coherent community with a distinct life of its own,” separate from that of the kingdom at large.[7] Or in the words of Mrs. J. R. Green, it was “a free self-governing community, a state within the state…a little principality” carrying on an “isolated self-dependent life.”[8] At the heart of this understanding is a vision, familiar enough to anyone who has read Thomas Hobbes, that juxtaposes the state to society and its constituent communities. Hobbes saw all corporate bodies, the towns included, “as many lesser Common-wealths in the bowels of a greater, like wormes in the entrayles of a naturall man,” and thought the state could not tolerate them. “For what is it to divide the Power of a Common-wealth, but to Dissolve it,” he says, “for powers divided mutually destroy each other.”[9] Hence for him, and for those historians who follow his model, the existence of independent, self-standing communities that command the primary loyalties of their members implies the absence of a strong state, just as the rise of the state entails their disappearance.

At its inception this idea focused on politics. According to Green, a town’s autonomy consisted in its freedom to arm its own soldiers and defend its own territory; elect its own rulers and officials; draw up its own constitutions and ordinances; assess, levy, and raise its own taxes; settle its own trading relations; and administer the law through its own courts. But more recent scholarship has added an emphasis upon sociology, as revealed by the use of the term “community.” In everyday language the word can mean no more than a collectivity of people having common interests and sharing common activities. It need not imply competition with the larger social organisms of which it may be a part. In this sense the village or neighborhood, the county or town, the district or region, and the kingdom or nation can each be called a community in its own right. Localists following Green’s lead, however, consider the community more narrowly, as a bounded social system of a particular type, or, in Alan Everitt’s words, “a little self-centered kingdom on its own.”[10] The type is what sociologists sometimes call a Gemeinschaft, a small community characterized by multifaceted, face-to-face, and permanent social relationships in contrast to the partial, impersonal, and transitory relationships found in the larger society. According to theory, such communities are homogeneous, self-sufficient, and slow-changing, marked by a continuous corporate existence and a high degree of interaction and common endeavor among their members. Typically they are dominated by the institution of the extended family, which through patriarchal authority and close ties of affinity provides the community with a strong bond of social solidarity.[11]

Most of the sociologists of the small community have found a particular place for it in a broad view of social history. According to their model, the earliest societies were simple, undifferentiated, tiny social organisms of men and women living in isolation, close to nature and bound by tradition. More intricately organized forms of social existence, marked by a highly articulated division of labor and governed by rational principles, developed only in the modern world. As this evolutionary process unfolds, the world changes from a place in which social cohesion is the dominant motif to one where competition and the rational pursuit of self-interest hold supreme sway. In the course of the history, small communities gradually disappear as meaningful entities because their members become integrated into larger and larger social organizations.

Similar ideas, amounting to a theory of modernization, are deeply embedded in the approach of localist historians of English rural and urban life. H. P. R. Finberg, for example, tells us that the self-conscious local communities in which he is interested are “not much in evidence today.” Rather, they—or most of them, at any rate—have undergone a strict course of development from birth, often in the distant past, to death “the day before yesterday.” The archetypical local history, then, tells the story of “the Origin, Growth, Decline and Fall of a Local Community,” emphasizing that present-day towns and rural districts lack “the old degree of social cohesion” that characterized communities of the past.[12] Finberg also suggests some reasons for this change. “A railwayman or a mill-owner today,” he says,

pretty certainly feels himself more closely linked in sympathies and interests and aspirations with his fellow-railwaymen or fellow manufacturers up and down the country than with the majority of his fellow townsmen. Moreover Leviathan, as we all know, looks with no friendly eye upon allegiances that are not centered on its omnicompetent self. It may be that just as the family, once so powerful a unit, has withered into social impotence, so the local community is destined to wither in its turn. But while it flourished it yielded only to the nation, and not always even to the nation, in its hold over men’s loyalties.[13]

Thus the local community is a form of social life peculiar to a particular phase of history. With the growth of the modern economy and the rise of the state, its existence becomes increasingly problematic and it gradually disappears from view.

This theory of localism has had its uses. By reminding us that state and society have not always existed in their present forms, it has helped us to break new ground in urban history and to reveal much that we did not know about the fabric of social and cultural life in early modern England. Where history once was little more than the study of grand politics, political institutions, and constitutional ideas, it has become all-encompassing, covering everything from architecture to xenophobia, each understood in the context of lives lived by ordinary men and women at home. Nothing human—or inhuman, for that matter—is alien to us anymore. Nevertheless, there is something anachronistic in the approach of the localists, since it relies upon an understanding of political and social reality that emerged only at the end of the early modern period and did not become widely held until very much later. The views of those living through this era usually depended upon different premises, ones that accepted a dimension of communal autonomy without also implying a rivalry with the nation or the central authorities.

According to the Elizabethan civil lawyer Thomas Wilson, early modern English cities were highly independent places. “They are not taxed,” he says, “but by their owne officers of the[ir] owne brotherhoodes,” and “no other officer of the Queen nor other” possessed “authority to entermeddle amongst them.” The queen, indeed, placed no “governor in any Towne through out the whole Realme”; rather, a city’s mayor, chosen locally without reference to royal nomination, served in the capacity of “Queens Lieftenant.” It was his duty “to governe the Citty in good order,” and, with the consent of the Common Council, “to make lawe and constitutions for the benifitt of the Citty.” In addition, Wilson points out, “every citty hath a peculier jurisdiction among themselves…by which jurisdiction…they have the authority to Judge all matters Criminell and Cyvill.” For these reasons, Wilson thought of cities as privileged enclaves within the structure of government and society. “Every citty,” he said, has “as it were, a Comon Wealth among themselves.”[14]

But despite this use of the term “commonwealth,” Wilson recognized—as Green did not—that at no time were English cities entirely free from the fabric of royal rule. Their privileges did not completely liberate them from the system of royal justice or from the obligation to pay taxes. Nor did city governments exercise jurisdiction over wide territories as did some of their continental counterparts. In no sense, therefore, were they classical city-states, radically separated from the hierarchy of rights and obligations that shaped neighboring communities. Wilson stresses that a city’s “peculier jurisdiction” was the consequence of individual and explicit grants “by the King in divers times…confirmed by letters patent under the great seale,” and operated under the important “restraynt that still all Civill causes may be removed from theirs to the highest Courts at Westminster.” Cities, then, were effectively subordinated to both the will and the jurisdiction of the Crown. Although they enjoyed a great deal of self-government, they were not completely self-contained worlds, whole unto themselves.[15]

This conclusion is carried even further by early modern London’s great antiquary, John Stowe. He refrains from using the word “commonwealth” in discussing his city, but instead conceives of a more encompassing commonwealth of which London was but a part. At the conclusion of his Survey of London Stowe prints a long “Apologie” for his city, written probably by the lawyer James Dalton. It argues that

[i]t is besides the purpose to dispute, whether the estate of the gouernement here bee a Democratie, or Aristocracie, for whatsoeuer it bee, being considered in it selfe, certayne it is, that in respect of the whole Realme, London is but a Citizen, and no Citie, a subiect and no free estate, an obendienciarie, and no place indowed with any distinct or absolute power.

Not only are its citizens governed by the same law as “the rest of the Realme…a few customes onely excepted,” but in Parliament

they are but a member of the Comminaltie…and are as straightly bound by such lawes as any part of the Realme is, for if a contribution in subsidie of money to the Prince bee decreed, the Londoners haue none exemption, no not so much as to assesse themselues: for the prince doth appoint the Commissioners. If Souldiers must be mustered, Londoners haue no law to keepe themselues at home, if prouision for the Princes housholde bee to bee made, their goods are not priuileged. In summe, therefore, the gouernment of London differeth not in substance, but in ceremonie from the rest of the realm.[16]

London was without doubt the most highly privileged and independent city in England. If Stowe could agree to this view of its participation in the life of the kingdom, he surely would have said at least as much about the provincial towns.

This model, however, offers a dual vision of urban life. For within its boundaries a city may be said to have a community of its own, existing for the fellowship and mutual aid and affection that citizens give to one another. “[W]hereas commonwealthes and kingdomes cannot haue, next after God, any surer foundation than the loue and goodwill of one man towardes another,” Stowe’s apologist says, the same is “also closely bred and maintayned in Citties, where men by mutual societie and companying together, doe grow to alliances, comminalties and corporations.”[17] Such a community could be a democracy or an aristocracy, since as a corporate body it must consist of a head to lead and members to obey, whether the head be selected by a free vote, co-optation, or inheritance.

Neither this approach nor Wilson’s leads us inevitably to a localist interpretation of city life, since neither begins with a vision of the state or society as the necessary enemy of community or the individual. Each focuses our attention on different issues: Wilson’s on the relation of civic to national institutions; Stowe’s on the relation of the civic to the national community. The former stresses civic autonomy but recognizes the city’s dependency on the nation for its freedoms. The latter offers a more complex view. On the one hand, the city is seen as part of a larger polity—a subsidiary body of the commonwealth of England. On the other, it is said to have its own communal integrity and common purposes. From this second viewpoint, the essence of urban society is the fellowship that citizens have with one another. Put in other words, from the perspective of the national polity a city is an organization with important functions to perform; from the perspective of the inhabitants it is a moral community in which head and body work together for common ends. Or, as F. W. Maitland says, it is “both organ and organism.”[18]

These more complex approaches to early modern urban history have important consequences for research strategy and interpretation. One of the advantages of the localist’s stress on communal solidarity is that the supposed compactness and distinctiveness of each community make it possible to study any particular county or town as a complete social organism having its own interlocking system of social relations. As Alan Everitt puts it, local history is the study of “some particular local community as a whole, as a complete society or organism, with a more or less distinct and continuous life of its own.”[19] Hence it is a field concerned primarily with “structure,” and above all with “social structure,” understood as a systematic arrangement of interconnected parts.[20] In other words, this approach owes a heavy debt to the structural-functionalism of British social anthropology, in the sense that all the elements of the social order are seen to fit together to form a single, integrated system.[21] Such studies begin by assuming the existence of an autonomous collectivity of men and women, the boundaries of which mark the limits of a self-standing society and so help us to restrict the range of our inquiries to sources concerned primarily with relations within those boundaries.

But both Thomas Wilson and John Stowe force us to cast our nets more widely, to consider the community in its context and hence to devote as much attention to events and developments outside its boundaries as to those within them. The members of every society ordinarily are aware of qualitative differences in their degree of personal involvement with others, their formal rights and obligations, and their more informal moral responsibilities and social duties. They commonly recognize a division between Them and Us. But when a community is contained within a larger polity, as were the English towns, the lines of demarcation are often unclear. For there are overlapping levels of authority and overlapping markets, and the community’s boundary is rather more like an open border than a guarded frontier. Men and materials, ideas and influences can pass through in either direction without passport or visa. This means, in turn, that groups within the town were free to form differing relationships to this wider context of action. Hence along with examining the ways the various components of urban society held together among themselves, we shall also have to explore how the city held together with the larger social order of which it was a part, and to look for breakdowns in internal and external relations and for conflicts within the community and between it and the wider world.

This emphasis on the way cities like Bristol were open to the world also has important consequences for the story we shall tell. The structural-functional model employed by localist historians is essentially static. It treats the ways social institutions fit together to make working mechanisms and how social actions promote social cohesion. In this view, conflict is seen as reinforcing the structure of society, because the parties engaged in it compete in the same arena and for the same ends. The theory leaves little room for self-generating change. Studies written according to this model do not completely exclude consideration of change, of course. But change, when it does occur, is understood to come from outside forces. The consequent imbalances in the local social order are then treated as working toward a new equilibrium.[22] But if the inhabitants of a city live in a setting of open relationships, in which different groups could form different connections with their surroundings, change is not the exclusive product either of external forces affecting the stable structures of tradition or of internal contradictions. Instead it must be the consequence of a counterpoint between internal and external developments, in which the processes of change are neither accidental nor inevitable, but the outcome of human intelligences addressing the world as they find it. As Marx says, “men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered.” For Marx this confrontation could be a nightmare, but we must also recognize that it could be the wellspring of creativity, as human beings shape and reshape the world “given and transmitted” to them “from the past.”[23]

Finally, our focus on the city’s openness requires us to study social meanings. For structural-functionalists, and for many Marxists as well, only social uses are important. Functionalism begins with the concept of social structure as its foundation; it assumes the existence of a single fabric of social relations to which all action and thought are directed. Ideas have a place in the story only as they reflect society and reinforce it. But if the members of a community live within open borders and participate, through their choices, in the processes of historical change, we can expect to find among them more than one understanding of how society works and more than one set of goals for it. Society can no longer be thought of as a single system which we can observe in its entirety from on high. It becomes instead the product of different and competing viewpoints, which we must understand both jointly and severally if we are ever to put together a coherent story. This can be accomplished only if we take meanings seriously by placing people’s words and gestures in the context of their thought and values as well as of their needs and interests.

In Bristol’s coat of arms the controlling feature is the gate; it makes the connection between the city and the world. But “gate” in early English usage meant not only an opening or passing place in a wall, but sometimes also a way. It could be a road or path—a way to distant places; or it could be a manner or method—a way of doing or living. The word “trade” has a similarly complex meaning. At its root it refers to a course trodden by a person, but by extension it becomes a way or manner of life, a course of action, a mode of procedure or method, the practice or habit of doing something. Hence it is synonymous on the one hand with “craft” or “occupation,” and on the other with “commerce” or “the buying and selling of commodities for a profit.” To trade is both to follow a course and to traffic in goods. Bristol’s life in the late medieval and early modern period was founded on trade understood in both these senses. Its citizens looked for their sustenance to the pathways that led beyond its boundaries, and in doing so they developed a distinctive outlook and pattern of action in the pursuit of their ends.

At the outset of our period, the trade of Bristolians depended upon the annual exchange of English woolens for French wines at Bordeaux. This traffic set the pace of life for the entire city, determining its social structure and its relations with its own hinterland and with the institutions of the English state. Two and a half centuries later, Bristol’s trade touched nearly every important international market, and Bristol itself was an entrepôt of the Atlantic economy. From the fifteenth century, then, Bristol was more and more an open city with wider gateways bringing the world economy into closer relation with the local community. There was also a widening gate as its economy and its social and political structure were transformed. More and more of its inhabitants became engaged in the city’s expanding Atlantic commerce, the networks of trade and credit deepened and broadened, and politics and religion converged with this new economic order. Out of this conjunction emerged new habits and action in society that were the beginnings of a modern form of capitalism, focused on credit and commerce.

For many scholars it may seem inappropriate to study the rise of modern capitalism in this fashion. If, as Eric Wolf says, “the world of humankind constitutes…a totality of interconnected processes” and capitalism touches “the four corners of the globe,” no single case could ever be thought complete enough to serve as an illustrative example, and the only way to study the subject would be encyclopedically, “as a whole, a totality, a system.”[24] But this conclusion depends on how the genre of local history is understood. Among English historians in recent years two main approaches have prevailed. The first involves the search for representative examples of general types. Here the historian, anxious to avoid the pitfalls of antiquarianism, focuses on themes typical of all similar places, not on local peculiarities, and his work aims to illuminate our understanding of broad developments in the same fashion as experimental results in the sciences are supposed to exemplify the truth of general laws. The second form of local study emphasizes the particular, even the unique, rather than the typical or universal. In these works the historian is interested in revealing the diversity of life in a society as it was lived away from the centers of action. Such a history tells us stories that “enlighten us about the common run of chaps” as they lived “at their home address[es].”[25] But neither type suits the study of a large-scale historical process like the growth of capitalism, for the former focuses on the part, not the whole, whereas the latter treats only the variegated periphery, not the unifying core.

There is a third kind of local history, one that searches for the paradigmatic rather than the typical or the unique. Paradigms have achieved a certain currency in recent historical studies. Usually the word means a conceptual model or frame of reference, but as employed in the history of science, it can also refer to a transforming experiment, a procedure and result that change the way problems are viewed and become a pattern for further experimentation. It is a term that implies a relationship between an experiment and its context and that treats the two as integral parts of a process of change.[26] Local history can be like this as well: it can concentrate on the ways a particular place and its inhabitants participated in and contributed to the transformation of an established pattern of thought and action.

In the great revolution in historical learning that accompanied the English Renaissance, local history of this kind was among the first subjects to be extensively studied. Edmund Gibson’s 1695 edition of Camden’s Britannia, for example, lists in its bibliography 162 separate items of local scholarship for England alone, and more still for Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Channel Islands.[27] Most of these were works in which the author sought to establish the standing of his town or county in the grand history of the kingdom; they were local in their outlook only in that they told the story of a particular place, not in the themes they treated. The purpose of this kind of history was to show the beauties and antiquities of a place and the greatness and virtue of those who peopled it, so that both place and people could become exemplars of the good life and of right action. But this period also witnessed two other momentous developments in the study of society, namely, the rise of “political arithmetic” and of “Whig” history. Both have made genuine contributions to our understanding, the former by showing us that we can measure the dimensions of human life and the latter by showing us that we can see the present emerge from the past. But both accomplished their work by enormous feats of abstraction. To do political arithmetic requires concentration on a limited range of questions and sources and a disregard of those many aspects of society that cannot be quantified.[28] Similarly, to do Whig history demands a neglect of past events, ideas, and social structures that have no demonstrable link to the present.[29] These features have perhaps nowhere been more evident than in the study of early modern capitalism, where various forms of cliometrics, rooted in neoclassical economic theories, often compete with various kinds of teleology in shaping interpretation.

The paradigmatic approach employed in the following chapters pursues a different line in attempting to put both economy and society back into the life of a particular place at a particular time. These chapters treat Bristol as simultaneously typical, in that it helped set a pattern for all who related to it, and unique, in that its history depends on its particular relationship to the world, which changes as its story unfolds. In periods of rapid change, the existence of such places marks the transition from one form of life to another. At those times, when the old rules no longer apply and new ones have not yet come to dominate, the world is made up of a rich array of community types, each combining in its own fashion new ideas and social arrangements with fragments of the old order. Each type, then, can reveal something important about the underlying patterns of change in thought and social interaction.[30]

In many studies of the growth of modern capitalism, however, it has become commonplace to think of the newly emerging world economy as a single structure, in which each region or place has its particular niche either at the core or at the margins.[31] For those who use this model, the perspective is that of an omniscient observer looking down upon the globe from distant space. At that altitude everything appears in an ordered hierarchy, with economic surpluses flowing to the dominating center and new ideas and values flowing to the outlying dependencies. But from such an elevated viewpoint neither the fine details that distinguish place from place nor the everyday comings and goings of individuals will be discernible. The risk is that the structures we see will be rather like the canals of Mars, creations of our eye and brain. These problems disappear if we cease to think of capitalism as a universal structure—a single system or organization—and view it instead as a way of thinking and acting, a form of life. A form of life can exist alongside other forms. It can take shape slowly, emerging in one place and then another until it widens its range sufficiently to link these places together. It can broaden its reach, setting rules for more and more kinds of behavior, and it can deepen in the ways it commits the people living under it to following those rules. Moreover, just as the emergence of a new species of animal will force all other creatures in the environment to adjust their relations to it, the development of a form of life can effect changes in the habits of thought and action of those living according to a different set of rules. The result, however, will be a new pattern of diversity, not a modernized unity produced by the extinction of all but one form.

Capitalism conceived in this way is the joint product of a distinctive point of view and a particular context. It is, then, rather like a language—a set of gestures, signs, and meanings linked together by grammar, syntax, and logic. To comprehend what is said and how its significance has changed over time, however, we need to attend not only to the general rules of usage being followed but, as Hilary Putnam argues, to what the speaker “wants or intends,” which is relative to “the nature of the environment” in which he finds himself.[32] This will be the subject of our history of early modern Bristol, whose Atlantic perspective gives us an excellent vantage point from which to see an urban form of modern capitalism emerge as the fragments of an older social and cultural order combined and recombined with new ideas and social arrangements.

Notes

1. Oscar Handlin, “The Modern City as a Field of Historical Study,” in Oscar Handlin and John Burchard, eds., The Historian and the City (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1963), p. 2. [BACK]

2. BL, Sloane MS 2596, f. 77: William Smith, The Particular Description of England. With the Portraitures of Certaine of the Cheiffest Citties & Townes, 1588, f. 77; a facsimile appears in William Smith, The Particular Description of England, 1588; with views of some of the chief towns and armorial bearings of nobles and bishops, ed. Henry B. Wheatley and Edmund W. Ashbee (London: privately printed, 1879), plate 25; see also William George, “The Date of the First Authentic Plan of Bristol,” BGAS 4 (1879–80): 296–300. [BACK]

3. H. A. Cronne, ed., Bristol Charters, 1378–1499 (BRS 11, 1945), pp. 33, 37, 38. [BACK]

4. Smith, The Particular Description of England, 1588, pp. vi ff.; DNB, “William Smith.” [BACK]

5. On the history of Bristol’s common seal, see James Dallaway, “Observations on the First Common Seal Used by the Burgesses of Bristol,” Archaeologia 21 (1827): 79–87; J. R. Planché, “On the Municipal Seals and Armorial Ensigns of the City of Bristol,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 31 (1875): 180–89. [BACK]

6. Thomas Churchyard, The Firste Parte of Churchyardes Chippes, contayning twelue severall Labours (London, 1575), f. 118r. [BACK]

7. Alan Everitt, “ The County Community,” in E. W. Ives, ed., The English Revolution, 1600–1660 (London: Edward Arnold, 1968), p. 49. [BACK]

8. Mrs. J. R. Green, Town Life in the Fifteenth Century, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1894), vol. 1, pp. 1–2. [BACK]

9. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-wealth, Ecclesiaticall and Civill, ed. C. B. MacPherson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), pp. 368, 375. [BACK]

10. Everitt, “County Community,” p. 48. [BACK]

11. The classic account of Gemeinschaft is to be found in Ferdinand Tönnies’s seminal work of 1887, Community and Society, ed. and trans. Charles P. Loomis (New York: Harper and Row, 1963). See also Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, ed. Talcott Parsons (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), pp. 136–39; and Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, trans. George Simpson (New York: Macmillan, 1933). By the Second World War the idea of community as a special kind of social form had reached general currency in English usage: Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 65–66. Cf. H. P. R. Finberg, The Local Historian and His Theme (Leicester University, Dept. of English Local Hist., Occasional Papers 1, 1952), pp. 5–8; Alan Everitt, “The Local Community and the Great Rebellion,” reprinted in K. H. D. Haley, ed., The Historical Association Book of the Stuarts (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1973), p. 76; Alan Everitt, New Avenues in English Local History (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1970), p. 6; Alan Everitt, Ways and Means in Local History (London: National Council of Social Service for the Standing Conference for Local History, 1971), p. 6. [BACK]

12. Finberg, The Local Historian and His Theme, pp. 5, 6, 7, 9, 15. [BACK]

13. Ibid., pp. 7–8. [BACK]

14. Thomas Wilson, The State of England, 1600, ed. F. J. Fisher, in Camden Miscellany 16 (Camden Society, 3d ser., 52, 1936), pp. 20–21. [BACK]

15. Ibid., p. 21. [BACK]

16. John Stowe, A Survey of London, Reprinted from the Text of 1603, ed. C. L. Kingsford, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908), vol. 2, pp. 206–7. [BACK]

17. Ibid., p. 198. [BACK]

18. Frederick Pollock and F. W. Maitland, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2 vols., 2d ed., rev. by S. F. C. Milsom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), vol. 1, pp. 635–36. For Maitland’s more general statement of this view, see pp. 687–88. For later statements along these same lines, see Wallace T. MacCaffrey, Exeter, 1540–1640, 2d ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976), ch. 9; Clive Holmes, “The County Community in Stuart Historiography,” JBS 19 (1980): 54–73; see also David Harris Sacks, “The Corporate Town and the English State: Bristol’s ‘Little Businesses,’ 1625–1641,” Past and Present 110 (February 1986): 69–75. [BACK]

19. Everitt, Ways and Means in Local History, p. 6. [BACK]

20. See, e.g., Everitt, New Avenues in English Local History, p. 6. [BACK]

21. For a classic statement of this social theory by a British social anthropologist, see A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Structure and Function in Primitive Society: Essays and Addresses, foreword by E. E. Evans-Pritchard and Fred Eggan (London: Cohen and West, 1952). [BACK]

22. See, e.g., Alan Everitt, Change in the Provinces: The Seventeenth Century (Leicester University, Department of English Local History, Occasional Papers, 2d ser., 1, 1969), pp. 35ff.; Charles Phythian-Adams, Desolation of a City: Coventry and the Urban Crisis of the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 249ff. [BACK]

23. Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in David McLellan, ed., Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 300. [BACK]

24. Eric Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 3, 385. [BACK]

25. Finberg, The Local Historian and His Theme, p. 11. [BACK]

26. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. 174–210. [BACK]

27. “A Catalogue of Some Books and Treatises Relating to the Antiquities of England,” in William Camden, Camden’s Britannia, Newly Translated into English, with Large Additions and Improvements, ed. Edmund Gibson (London, 1695), unpaginated. [BACK]

28. See, e.g., [John Graunt], Natural and Political Observations mentioned in a following Index, and made upon the Bills of Mortality by John Graunt (London, 1662; 5th ed. 1676), ed. W. F. Willcox (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1939); Gregory King, Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England, reprinted in G. E. Barnett, ed., Two Tracts by Gregory King (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1936); William Petty, The Economic Writings of William Petty, 2 vols., ed. C. H. Hull (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1899); Karl Pearson, The History of Statistics in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries against the Changing Background of Intellectual, Scientific and Religious Thought: Lectures by Karl Pearson Given at University College London during the Academic Sessions 1921–1933, ed. E. S. Pearson (London: C. Griffin, 1978), pp. 1–140; William Letwin, The Origins of Scientific Economics: English Economic Thought, 1660–1776 (London: Methuen, 1963), pp. 79–146; Ian Hacking, The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 92–121; Barbara Shapiro, Probability and Certainty in Seventeenth-Century England: A Study of the Relationships between Natural Science, Religion, History, Law and Literature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 129–30; Lorraine Daston, Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 127–29; Lorraine Daston, “The Domestication of Risk: Mathematical Probability and Insurance, 1650–1830,” in Lorenz Krüger, Lorraine Daston, and Michael Heidelberger, eds., The Probabilistic Revolution, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987), vol. 1, pp. 237–60. [BACK]

29. See Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1951). [BACK]

30. For a view of evolutionary biology as historical narrative which has much in common with the approach followed here, see Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1989). [BACK]

31. See, e.g., Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Academic Press, 1974); Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600–1750 (New York: Academic Press, 1980); see also Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, 3 vols., trans. Siân Reynolds (New York: Harper and Row, 1979–1982), vol. 3, esp. chap. 1; Fernand Braudel, Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism, trans. Patricia M. Ranum (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), esp. chap. 3; Wolf, Europe and the People Without History, esp. chap. 1. [BACK]

32. Hilary Putnam, Meaning and the Moral Sciences (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), p. 42; for a fuller discussion of this point see below, chap. 4. [BACK]


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