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The scheme to register indentured servants in Bristol was never exactly what it pretended to be. Instead of offering genuine protection for boys, maids, and other persons who might be spirited beyond the seas by the rogues who plied the servant trade, it sought to control the commercial activities of the numerous men and women, some of them religious and political radicals, who pursued profit in the American colonies. The entries in the Register responded as much to the fortunes of politics as to the economics of trade and agriculture. Since Bristol was a commercial city whose very social structure and social geography rested on its role as a major port, its community life was dominated by its connections with distant markets on the continent and in the Atlantic. Its politics and its economy had been inextricably intertwined ever since it received its first grants of privileges in the twelfth century, if not before.[112] This meant that the exercise of power never took a single form. Those who contested for command of the city’s markets also vied for control of its government and of its rituals and symbols, sacred and profane. Political strife centered on the regulation of trade and manufacture, which in turn became the means to enhance economic power and advance an ideology. As Bristol’s commerce with America increased in importance during the middle and late seventeenth century, not surprisingly it became the arena within which these battles for local domination were fought.


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Registering the Pilgrimage
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