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No matter how fervently the Common Council sought to restore the old vision of order in this newly purified form, they were bound to have difficulty in doing so. Between the late 1630s and the early 1650s, the economic world in which they lived had undergone a profound and irreversible change. We can get a brief glimpse of that change in the preamble to the ordinances of yet one more new gild founded in 1652, the Company and Fellowship of Tobacco Pipemakers. According to this document, “the Art and Skill of makeing Tobacco Pipes” had now “become a Trade…very usefull and beneficial to the makers of them within this Citty,” one capable of supporting “many Inhabitants and Free Burgesses,” their wives, families, and apprentices. At its foundation there were already twenty-five active masters in the Company, who had “been bread and brought up Apprentices in the same Art.”[79] Tobacco had been a highly valued trading item for decades, of course, but this new industry could never have taken hold in Bristol on this scale during the 1620s or 1630s, when only tiny quantities of Spanish and Virginia tobacco found their way to the city. We have here the first hint that a major new market in American commodities had emerged in Bristol between the granting of the Merchant Venturers’ letters patent in 1639 and the founding of this Company of Tobacco Pipemakers in 1652. In the next section we shall examine the effects of the extraordinarily rapid growth of this market on Bristol’s life in the second half of the seventeenth century. Previously we explored the history of the city from William Smith’s double perspective, laying it in platform, if you will, in its changing landscape of socioeconomic practices and political and ideological structures. Now we shall use a microscope to study the new form of life that emerged in the city after 1650. When we have completed this task we will be in a position to evaluate Bristol’s transition from a medieval commercial center to an entrepôt of early modern capitalism.


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