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Feats of Merchandise
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1. Feats of Merchandise

At the end of the seventeenth century Bristol was, after London, the preeminent Atlantic port in England. Two centuries before, it had been the first seafaring town from which Englishmen had sailed in search of the Northwest Passage. These facts make it tempting to think of Bristol as destined by geography and history “for the role of Empire builder.”[1] But such a view obscures more than it explains. It assumes that Bristol’s Atlantic commerce grew steadily and along a predetermined natural course, like a great tree from a seed, when in fact its growth was the result of no single developmental process. As Bristol became increasingly involved in trans-Atlantic enterprise, the world around it also changed. In consequence, the events that account for the city’s rise as a center of exploration at the close of the Middle Ages bear little relation to those that explain its dominant position as a colonial entrepôt at the time of the Glorious Revolution. During these centuries Bristol’s history was, nevertheless, inextricably intertwined with that of the Atlantic world. Most of the tale, however, is of a mundane character, involving the workaday activities of conventional traders engaging in the steady pursuit of profit along well-traveled avenues of commerce on the Atlantic shores of Europe—what early sixteenth-century Bristolians themselves called “feats of marchaundises.”[2] Innovations, when they came, were more often the consequence of makeshift efforts to cope with immediate social and economic problems than the result of heroic actions by seafaring adventurers or bold commercial experiments by rationalizing entrepreneurs. The story begins with the close of the Hundred Years’ War, thirty years before the first voyages in quest of newfound lands, and its opening chapter takes us from the so-called economic depression of the fifteenth century to the tobacco boom of the early seventeenth century.

In the early fifteenth century there was no question of Bristol’s place among English commercial cities.[3] Although it could not hope to match the wealth and distinction of London, it was at the very height of its vigor, as was manifest in the grandeur and elegance of the church of St. Mary, Redcliffe, beautified by William Canynges’s benefactions.[4] Indeed, Canynges, probably the richest Bristolian of this period, easily rivaled any merchant in the realm.[5] Many of his Bristol contemporaries, such as Thomas Strange, Robert Sturmy, or John Jay, though hardly as wealthy, were themselves great merchants capable of risking vast fortunes in ventures into untried waters.[6] But this picture is somewhat false, since from the middle of the century the foundations of this medieval prosperity had been shattered by events the Bristolians could not control.

Throughout the later Middle Ages Gascony was Bristol’s principal market. From the very start the demand for wine was at the heart of this traffic. It was imported through the city at least as early as King John’s reign, when it began to supplant the vintages of Picardy on the English table. During the fourteenth century, the relationship between Gascony and Bristol deepened as Bordeaux and other Gascon ports became major outlets for English cloth, with Bristol responsible for the largest part of this traffic.[7] Indeed, in Gascony cloth and wine stood in symbiotic relation with one another, with the former serving as the principal medium of exchange used in acquiring the latter. In consequence, the trade levels in the two commodities displayed the same rhythm of upward and downward movement.[8] To a large degree this pattern in Bristol’s trade persisted throughout the first half of the fifteenth century.[9] To be sure, Bristolians were rapidly developing new commercial interests in the Iberian peninsula, especially in Portugal,[10] but this expansion rested firmly upon the solid ground provided by the city’s Gascon trade.

The key to this long-term commercial relationship was its security. So long as Bordeaux and its environs remained the possession of the English Crown, English and Gascon merchants were specially protected in each other’s home districts. In peacetime the trade was as certain as the changing of the seasons. Each fall, large convoys of English vessels, sometimes amounting to fifty ships or more, could be expected to arrive for the new vintage. Small communities of Gascon merchants resided in Bristol and nearly every other English port that dealt with the wine districts, while, for their part, the English enjoyed advantageous trading rights in Gascony. At various periods, including most of the first half of the fifteenth century, the English were even able to trade their own wares duty-free in Gascony. In addition, the English king was anxious to sustain close and friendly relations with his prized French dependency. In times of dearth he invariably licensed shipments of English grain, even when supplies were scarce at home. With this guarantee of necessary food supplies, and with the certainty of a large English market in which to sell wine, the Gascons were free to devote nearly every available plot of land to the cultivation of the vine. In turn, the English supplied cloth as well as grain to Bordeaux and its environs.[11] This trade provided the principal market for Bristol’s cloth merchants. Cargoes sent to Gascony consisted almost entirely of woolen fabric, with only small quantities of hides, fish, and coal making up the exports used to purchase wine. At Bordeaux this link between cloth and wine was so intimate that the one was often bartered directly for the other by Bristolians.[12]

In the mid-fifteenth century, these ties were rent asunder by the English defeat in the Hundred Years’ War. The final stages took more than fifteen years to complete. Until 1438, the Bordelais itself had been relatively free of the devastation of war. But the destructive invasion of marauding bands of soldiers in that year ended this period of immunity, and an era of marked instability in trade ensued. In 1449 the battles were renewed almost at the very moment of the vintage. Bordeaux fell to the French in June 1451, only to be recovered in the autumn of the following year. Finally, in July 1453 the French again seized the city, this time for good. Although trade persisted at reduced levels throughout the period of fighting and immediately thereafter, in the fall of 1455 it was almost completely brought to a halt by French cutbacks in the issuance of safe-conducts to the English. The impact of this new policy was devastating. Between 1453 and 1455 Bristol had imported an average of over seventeen hundred tons of wine per year (Table 1). For the six subsequent years, however, imports were only half this figure. The cloth trade suffered the same setback, with an annual average shipment in the 1460s almost 40 percent below what had been common in the first half of the century (Table 2).[13]

1. Nonsweet Wine Trade, 1400-1500
(Five-year Averages to the Nearest Ton)
Mich.–Mich. Bristol London Southampton Devon Ports
Source: M. K. James, Studies in the Medieval Wine Trade, ed. E. M. Veale, with introduction by E. M. Carus-Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 112–15.
1400–1405[a] 1,452 3,853 698 337[b]
1405–1410 1,255 3,788 1,262 682 [c]
1410–1415 1,144 5,646 1,420 621
1415–1420 1,357 5,584 1,692[d] 611
1420–1425[e] 1,940 4,325 831 421
1425–1430[f] 1,129 4,013 665 326
1430–1435 1,258 3,493[g] 532 659
1435–1440[h] 1,255 2,626 332 397[i]
1440–1445 2,411 4,135 997[j] 575
1445–1450 1,915 2,855[k] 723 595
    Annual avg. 1,499 4,098 947 563
1450–1455 1,810 2,520 438 270
1455–1460 814 1,409 340 132
1460–1465 834 2,013 502 240
1465–1470 1,075[l] 1,900 489 300
1470–1475 [m] 1,828 688[n] 193
1475–1480 1,549 [o] 2,592 746 [n] 336 [p]
1480–1485 1,323[q] 3,511[r] 517 458 [s]
1485–1490 1,627 3,359 407 426
1490–1495 2,201 3,567 350 595
1495–1500 2,197 3,621 330[t] 838
     Annual avg. 1,504 2,614 487 377
2. Cloth Exports, 1400-1500
(Decennial Averages to the Nearest Whole Cloth of Assize)
  Bristol London Southampton Exeter
Mich.–Mich. No. cloths (% denizen) No. cloths (% denizen) No. cloths (% denizen) No. cloths (% denizen)
Source: Compiled from E. M. Carus-Wilson and Olive Coleman, England’s Export Trade, 1275–1547 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 97–111.
1400–1410 3,079 (98.7) 13,845[a] (41.9) 5,639[b] (12.8) 307 (85.1)[c]
1410–1420 2,281 (99.1) 13,595 (30.0) 2,284 (34.7) 471 (88.0)  
1420–1430 4,427 (99.3) 17,155 (32.2) 6,154 (27.9) 386 (88.6)  
1430–1440 4,087 (99.8) 17,597 (49.8) 8,414 (15.9) 1,122 (93.3)  
1440–1450 5,106 (98.6) 19,082 (43.0) 9,957 (19.0) 1,875 (96.8)[d]  
Annual avg. 3,796 (99.1) 16,304 (39.8) 6,507 (20.0) 824 (93.1)  
1450–1460 3,355 (98.5) 16,444 (50.1)[e] 7,058 (21.3) 1,256 (98.9)[f]  
1460–1470 2,413 (97.3)[g] 18,308 (61.9)[e] 5,233 (18.9) 946 (93.8)  
1470–1480 5,052 (98.7)[h] 28,886 (57.2) 3,972 (23.4) 1,241 (87.6)[i]  
1480–1490 5,245 (92.4)[j] 35,909 (42.5) 1,345 (38.7) 3,021 (76.1)  
1490–1500 6,515 (95.5) 39,495 (43.0)[k] 3,346 (28.1)[l] 3,893 (87.0)  
Annual avg. 4,522 (95.8) 27,322 (49.5) 4,226 (23.2) 2,124 (85.7)  

These events had profound effects on Bristol’s commerce, making the third quarter of the fifteenth century the low point in Bristol’s late medieval economic history. A stable traffic was replaced by a trade subject to unpredictable interruptions and sharp fluctuations of volume. With the end of the war and the period of reduced commercial exchanges that followed, the change in the framework of Anglo-Gascon relations solidified. Although trade with Gascony did not cease entirely, Bristolians now dealt with it as foreigners in the territories of a former enemy, not as privileged parties in the dominions of their own king. At the same time, the Iberian trades grew in importance. At the end of the century, they easily rivaled commerce with France, taking the bulk of the city’s cloth and other exports and supplying a list of valuable imports, including wax, sugar, spices, fruit, iron, and dyestuffs, as well as wines. On this foundation, the fourth quarter of the fifteenth century witnessed the last flowering of Bristol’s medieval prosperity. After reaching a low ebb in the 1460s, the city’s trade figures bounced back to new heights by the 1490s. In that decade woolen exports achieved an average of sixty-five hundred cloths per annum and wine shipments were significantly higher than they had been in any period except the 1440s (see Tables 1 and 2). Other valuable commodities such as olive oil, woad, sugar, and spices also poured into the port. When judged by customs revenue for this period, Bristol was easily the third most important commercial center in southern England, outranked only by London and Southampton.[14] Following the loss of Gascony, the focus of Bristol’s trade had shifted southward. Although Bordeaux and its environs still remained important to the city’s merchants, the diverse commodities of Spain and Portugal now had a greater attraction than before.

If the closing years of the fifteenth century provided Bristol with a rich harvest, the beginning of the sixteenth century brought the city into a bleak new season in its economic history. Every aspect of commerce suffered in some measure. According to the merchants, the city’s shipping, in which the wealth of its merchant magnates had been heavily invested in the fifteenth century, severely decayed during Henry VIII’s reign. By the 1540s bitter complaints were heard that “where as ther grett shippes haue customably made towe or thre viages in the yere, now by reason of small vtteraunce of their warres & merchantdise the[y] make but one viage in the yere.”[15] Bristol’s drapers also protested a depression in their trade, asserting that in the time span in which two hundred cloths used to be sold, now but twenty could be vented.[16] We should discount the exaggeration of these remarks made by men begging special favors. But the trend they manifest cannot be denied. Bristol’s economy had suffered a sharp blow. It fell further and further behind London in economic position and was rapidly overtaken by Exeter, its chief rival in the western districts, whose access to divers new kinds of woolen fabrics gave it advantages in the French trade, when it revived, that Bristol lacked.[17]

The most severe effects of this early sixteenth-century commercial difficulty were felt by the cloth trade. In the closing years of Henry VII’s reign, its boom in Bristol simply ended. In the first five years of the century, annual average exports were about 30 percent below the figures achieved in the 1490s. The tailspin continued during the next five quinquennial periods, until the averages were barely one-third of those for the last decade of the fifteenth century. Indeed, only in the 1530s and again in the years between 1550 and 1555 were there slight upturns in the trend, but even these were almost immediately halted in the following period. Over the whole first sixty years of the sixteenth century, moreover, the city exported an average of only slightly over twenty-seven hundred cloths per year, a figure rivaling the worst decennial averages of the fifteenth century (Table 3). Bristol’s exports of English woolens had simply stagnated. By the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign they were not only at their lowest ebb but were being traded by higher percentages of alien merchants than ever before.

3. Cloth Exports, 1500-1561
(Five-year Averages to the Nearest Whole Cloth of Assize)
  Bristol London Southampton Exeter
Mich.–Mich. No. cloths (% denizen) No. cloths (% denizen) No. cloths (% denizen) No. cloths (% denizen)
Source: E. M. Carus-Wilson and Olive Coleman, England’s Export Trade, 1275–1547 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 112–19; J. D. Gould, The Great Debasement: Currency and the Economy in Mid-Tudor England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), pp. 173–81.
1500–1505 4,612 (96.8) 46,610 (45.5) 6,851 (20.8)[a] 9,329 (95.1)
1505–1510 3,219 (99.1) 52,390 (52.2) 13,504 (13.1) 7,207 (97.9)
1510–1515 3,140 (97.7) 62,257 (53.8) 10,732 (34.2) 4,840 (93.2)
1515–1520 3,025 (98.8) 63,084 (57.8) 13,428 (17.3) 4,087 (95.1)
1520–1525 2,440 (94.1) 61,854 (57.5) 8,481 (26.2) 3,782 (90.9)
1525–1530 2,176 (96.9) 73,513 (58.7)[b] 6,995 (23.5) 4,533 (93.7)
1530–1535 2,344 (95.8) 75,503 (54.3) 7,482 (37.4) 4,429 (91.4)
1535–1540 2,816 (93.8) 91,731 (50.9) 3,816 (50.9) 5,624 (88.1)
1540–1545 2,191 (82.4) 99,535 (49.9)[c] 3,840 (39.5) 5,064 (79.1)
1545–1550 2,663 (84.5) 123,797 (57.2)[d] 2,285 (58.7)[e] 2,433 (89.8)
1550–1555 3,362 (94.9)[f] 111,091 (69.8)[g] 1,990 (90.7)[h] 3,205 (94.1)[i]
1555–1561 1,176 (71.2)[j] 101,743 (77.9)[k] 1,139 (79.6)[l] 3,005 (97.8)[m]
Annual avg. 2,743 (93.7) 76,331 (57.0) 7,042 (28.2) 4,850 (92.3)

In conjunction with this direct blow to Bristol’s chief export came a more general decline in the city’s commercial well-being. The wine trade, for example, suffered a considerable diminution. As with cloth, the first years of the sixteenth century witnessed a sharp initial contraction, in this case of about 50 percent from the high figures of the 1490s, and even though there was some improvement after 1515, the levels neither returned to the peaks of the last decade of the fifteenth century nor remained consistently strong (Table 4). Only the goods subject to ad valorem duties appear to have escaped this gloomy fate, although here, too, there was a decline from the very high figures reached in the late fifteenth century and an increase in the number of non-denizens engaging in the trade (Table 5). During the last five years of Henry VIII’s reign, the average value of these goods for customs purposes was about 25 percent higher than the average figures at the beginning of his reign. This suggests a double shift away from cloth as an export to other items such as metals, hides, and foodstuffs, which were assessed ad valorem, and a corresponding shift to more expensive imports, also assessed ad valorem, though with many items now brought to Bristol by merchant strangers.[18]

4. Nonsweet Wine Imports to Bristol, 1480-1547
(Five-year Averages to the Nearest Ton)
Mich.–Mich. Tonnage
Source: 1480–1500: M. K. James, Studies in the Medieval Wine Trade, ed. E. M. Veale, introduction by E. M. Carus-Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 114–16. 1509–1547: Georg von Schanz, Englische Handelspolitik gegen Ende des Mittelalters mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Zeitalters der beiden ersten Tudors, Heinrich VII. und Heinrich VIII., 2 vols. (Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1881), vol. 2, pp. 132–33. The format and the gaps are a consequence of the fact that the two sources do not form a completely sequential series.
1480–1485[a] 1,323
1485–1490 1,627
1490–1495 2,201
1495–1500 2,197
Annual avg. 1,864
1509–1514 1,079
1514–1519 1,965
1519–1524 1,624
1524–1529 1,195
1529–1534 1,638
1534–1539 1,629
1539–1544 1,512
(1544–1547) 1,294
Annual avg. 1,503
5. Value of Goods Subject to Ad Valorem Duties
Entered at Bristol in the Reign of Henry VIII
(Three-year Averages to the Nearest £)
Mich.–Mich. Value % Denizen
Source: Georg von Schanz, Englische Handelspolitik gegen Ende des Mittelalters, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Zeitalters der beiden ersten Tudors, Heinrich VII. und Heinrich VIII., 2 vols. (Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1881), vol. 2, p. 64.
1509–1512 11,455 97.1
1512–1515 12,249 91.7
1515–1518 12,584 95.5
1518–1521 13,441 94.3
1521–1524 9,895 93.0
1524–1527 11,163 93.9
1527–1530 9,852 91.9
1530–1533 13,935 87.5
1533–1536 12,728 92.2
1536–1539 14,068 92.5
1539–1542 14,477 94.1
1542–1545 13,427 85.6
(1545–1547) 17,977 79.0
Annual avg. 12,731 91.4

Nevertheless, not all of Bristol’s markets were equally affected by the general collapse of its trade. Ireland and France were the worst hit. There was perhaps a 50 percent fall in cloth exports to the Irish market, and, although commerce in other commodities still remained brisk, there was also a falling away from the high levels achieved in the last years of the fifteenth century.[19] As regards France, not only did shipping between Bristol and the major Atlantic ports decline and then stagnate, but the volume of French wine coming to Bristol was also severely reduced.[20] In these markets, therefore, conditions were especially dark. But Bristol appears to have held its own more successfully in the Iberian peninsula. In Portugal, old commercial ties and a continued demand for English cloth insured a reasonable traffic for the city.[21] In Spain the picture was brighter still. Although there had been a dramatic decline in the number of cloths shipped there from Bristol during the first decade of the sixteenth century, by 1517–18 the figures had risen again almost to equal those from 1485–86. Despite the strained relations between England and Spain after 1527 or so, a steady trade continued throughout the remainder of Henry VIII’s reign and persisted right to the end of the century, though at a somewhat lower volume than in the teens and twenties. Bristol’s import trade from Spain and Portugal also was remarkably healthy. Wine shipments stayed high, and the value of other imports rose to levels substantially in excess of those for the pre-1490 period. Despite diminished totals in Bristol’s cloth exports, the cloth trade still remained important in the Iberian peninsula, where Bristolians exchanged cloth for a wide variety of valuable goods. But cloth was no longer the backbone of Bristol’s commercial activity. Over the first half of the sixteenth century, the fall in its export substantially outstripped the declines experienced in other sectors of the city’s commerce. As a result, Bristol’s ancient connection with the production and distribution of cloth was weakened, and those inhabitants who depended on the cloth trade faced depressed circumstances and disrupted businesses.[22]

To a considerable degree, the movement of the woolen trade away from Bristol was part of a larger process of English economic history, just beginning in this period, which saw a general reordering of the nation’s urban hierarchy as commerce came to be centered upon London. Viewed from the perspective of Bristol’s traditional economy, this story appears as one of straightforward decline, especially for those whose livelihood depended primarily upon the cloth industry. But seen in terms of the emerging national urban system, the tale is rather more complicated, for it involved a recasting of urban functions and not simply a linear descent into long-term depression. Developments of this type almost invariably bring a mood of crisis with them, because they catch particular individuals and groups unable to adapt, economically or intellectually, to the new circumstances. But they sometimes bring new opportunities as well. In examining this era of urban crisis in Bristol, we must keep our eyes open for shifts in function within the larger urban network and the varied effects these changes had on the city’s internal structure and on different groups within it.[23] Nevertheless, taken by themselves, as many of the most hard-hit Bristolians necessarily would have perceived them, the economic conditions revealed by the raw trade statistics for the early sixteenth century show Bristol’s situation vis-à-vis London to have been rather grim.

In the mid-fifteenth century London commanded only something less than 50 percent of cloth exports; a hundred years later the figure was 90 percent. At the same time the traffic in imports concentrated there. Much of this change was due to the growth of the Antwerp mart, through which London’s merchants could readily exchange the vast quantities of cloth at their disposal for the riches of Europe and Asia. But these developments were accomplished primarily at the expense of the outports, whose own growth could not keep pace. Judging from customs revenues collected between 1485 and 1547, London’s share of England’s commerce rose from approximately half to nearly two-thirds of the total, and the proportion of trade in the hands of provincial merchants declined nearly everywhere. When set in the context of national trends these Bristol figures are all the more revealing, since the city’s decline as a center for the cloth trade corresponded to a period of expansion in the export of the same traditional woolen fabrics in which Bristol had previously specialized. Although the rise in these exports may not have been quite so “meteoric” as F. J. Fisher claimed on the basis of London’s figures alone, it is clear that during much of this period shipments of broadcloth from Southampton and Exeter and its member ports remained stronger than from Bristol.[24]

From early in the sixteenth century, outcries against the decay of Bristol’s clothing industry and the intrusion of Londoners into its economic affairs were common among Bristolians. In 1518, for example, Sheriff William Dale complained that

thenhabitauntes of [Bristol] beyng as Cloythers wevers dyers tookers and other sundry Crafty men dayly lak work and runne in Idylnes. And the towne by Reason of the same [is] broughte vnto great desolacion and about viii c howseholdes in the same towne desolate vacante and decayed to the vtter decay and distruccion of the said towne.[25]

Twenty years later the lamentations were even louder. The mayor himself complained that “[m]any tenements are fallen into decay for want of timber and stones, and the quay and town walls are in like ruin.”[26] Much of the blame for this dismal state was placed on London. In the 1540s it was said that Londoners not only had captured the business of Gloucestershire, Somerset, and other counties neighboring Bristol but had invaded the city’s own industrial districts. Redcliffe parish, in which once “spinsters, carders and dyverse substancyall & riche men [made] ther dwelling & levyed well by ther occupacions and occupyeng of clothmakyng,” now would no longer supply the Bristolians with workmen for their cloths. The Londoners, with their large capital resources, were able to give better credit terms than their rivals from the western port.[27]

Although Bristol was well located to tap the cloth production of western England and to travel to and from the Iberian peninsula, its decay in the early sixteenth century made it difficult to acquire the necessary cloth supplies for this commerce. As a result, the city’s wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs had pulled up stakes and reestablished themselves in London, the hub of the cloth trade. These entrepreneurs include such well-known men of affairs as Paul Withypoll, the younger Robert Thorne, and George Monox, each of whom was a leader first of Bristol’s, then London’s, merchant community. Monox and Thorne both served as mayor of Bristol before leaving for London, while Withypoll came on his mother’s side from a family with a long record of similar service.[28] All three primarily traded with Spain and Portugal. From this base, they appear to have been attracted by the riches of the Levant and of the Indies, even to the point of trading directly with those distant places rather than relying on shipments via Iberian ports. Withypoll was among the earliest traders to the Isle of Candy (Crete), and Thorne was not only a depositor in the famous bank of St. George in Genoa and a dealer in Italian and Levantine goods but was also one of the first group of Englishmen to deal regularly with the West Indies.[29] After leaving Bristol, Monox became a leading London Draper and for a time the master of Blackwell Hall; Withypoll and Thorne were Merchant Taylors. As well as holding major posts in London’s government, both Monox and Withypoll acted as master of their livery companies; indeed, Monox served seven times.[30]

That these men made their choice of London over Bristol not without regret is revealed in Robert Thorne’s will, for among his many substantial benefactions he made several for charitable purposes in his home town, including monies to help found a free school and for the care of the city’s poor. He even set aside £200 for the redemption of the fee farm and the prisage of wines collected at the port.[31] Although he may have replanted his roots in London, his ties to his home remained strong.

The way cloth and its availability affected the cloth merchant is made clearer by the career of Thomas Howell. Howell, who traded with Spain and Portugal, was a regular business associate of the various members of the Thorne family. Not only did he have frequent dealings in Seville with Robert Thorne and his brother Nicholas, but at the beginning of his career he was servant or apprentice to Hugh Eliot, the business partner of Robert Thorne the elder, and later as his factor in Seville he used Thomas Maillard, who was a regular business partner of the younger Robert Thorne. Like Withypoll, Monox, and Thorne, Howell was an expatriate Bristolian who settled in London in the midst of his career. Like them, too, he was a cloth trader, undertaking his activities in London as a member of the livery of the Drapers Company. Judging from his commercial records, he was among the foremost of Iberian merchants in the first half of the sixteenth century, trading in Andalusia and in Portugal, and also with the Spanish ports on the Bay of Biscay. Howell must be listed, along with Thorne and Maillard, as among the earliest Englishmen who traded directly with the Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. In 1527, for example, he shipped £50 worth of “Sartane stofe” (i.e., cloth of some type), to John de Morsynes, his factor in Santo Domingo.[32]

Howell’s ledger offers insight into his motive for abandoning residence in Bristol to set up business in London. The book, which gives a full account of Howell’s commercial affairs from 1517 to 1527, reveals his domestic business to have been almost entirely devoted to cloth. Even his imports were largely complementary to these cloth shipments. Apart from the iron that he brought from northern Spain in substantial quantities, his foreign purchases were primarily supplies for the production of cloth, such as oil, alum, woad, and other commodities used in the dyeing and finishing of textiles. The fabrics he shipped, moreover, were of every variety, dyed and undyed, many of them types originating in the manufacturing districts only a short distance from Bristol. The clothiers with whom Howell dealt, however, were residents of East Anglia and the home counties. They came from Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Berkshire, Middlesex, and Kent; one was even a Merchant Tailor in London itself. This fact is especially revealing because Howell, like Thorne and Monox as well as other Bristolians become Londoners, did a good deal of his importing through Bristol as well as London.[33] Hence it seems it was less London’s geographical position than its role in the marketing of cloth that attracted Howell and his fellows to the capital. With tens of thousands of cloths coming into London every year, not only were supplies for export readily available, but the skilled craftsmen necessary to support the industry, especially dyers and shearmen, were concentrated there as well. As Howell’s ledger shows, he frequently bought unfinished cloths and put them out himself to be barbed, folded, pressed, sheared, and dyed by London specialists, sometimes even paying them in woad, alum, soap, or other raw materials that he imported from the continent. The volume of his trade permitted him to combine his disparate dealings into a single orbit of commerce in which each element complemented the others.[34] As Bristol’s merchants eventually came to recognize, this capacity for integration in London’s cloth industry neutralized their own city’s geographical advantages in trade with the Iberian peninsula and left them unable to compete effectively with their rivals in the capital. In the face of this hard fact, ambitious Bristolians sought a foothold in London.

This transfer of many of Bristol’s leading merchants to London was not only a symptom of their city’s economic crisis but a cause in its own right. Their departures represented more than a choice based on London’s comparative economic advantage. Unlike young apprentices who came to the capital without wives and children and usually with little more than a small stake or the hope of an inheritance, these established Bristolians had substantial personal fortunes as well as deeply rooted personal connections in their home city. Withdrawal of their wealth was itself a significant blow to the city’s prosperity, further reducing its attractiveness as a theater for the ambitions of others.[35] Even though by the second half of the sixteenth century London’s own cloth-finishing industry was in decline, the changes wrought in the overall character of English economic life by London’s domination of these crafts in the first half of the century proved irreversible.[36]

The earliest signs of change in the direction of Bristol’s commerce are to be found in Robert Sturmy’s ventures into the Mediterranean in the mid-fifteenth century, even though they proved unsuccessful. Trade with this region had long held a special fascination for the merchants of Bristol. Its products—sweets and spices, rich and delicate textiles, and other finery of the luxury trade—were highly valued and highly profitable. But in the fifteenth century this traffic was a monopoly of the Italians, who frequented London and Southampton but rarely ventured to Bristol. Still, Bristolians traded regularly in Eastern luxuries, shipping cloth and other wares by road to Southampton to be exchanged with the Venetians and Genoese for silks and spices.[37] But it was not until the trouble in Gascony that the Bristolians were willing to risk the ire of the Italians by passing through the Straits of Gibraltar on their own.

Two separate voyages were attempted. The first took place in 1446–47 when Sturmy sent the Coq Anne to Pisa and thence to Jaffa, carrying one hundred and sixty pilgrims probably laden with cloth, tin, and wool. Although the occasion for this voyage was the ouster of the Venetians from Egypt, which opened the Levant to English enterprise, the altered conditions in Gascony also provided a stimulus in this search for quick profits and a new market. Unfortunately, on its return the Coq Anne, sailing off the island of Modon, was struck by a fierce storm that destroyed the ship with its crew of thirty-seven Bristolians. The second of Sturmy’s adventures into the Levant dates from ten years later, when Gascony was already lost and the Bristolians undoubtedly were left with great quantities of cloth on their hands. In late winter 1457, Sturmy was licensed to ship in three vessels large quantities of tin, lead, wool, cloth, and grain “beyond the mountains by the Straits of Marrock.” But once again hopes of high profits were foiled. After a successful journey purchasing pepper and other spices in the Levant, Sturmy’s small fleet was met off Malta by several Genoese ships that spoiled two vessels. In all, some £6,000 damage was done to Sturmy and his associates, and it appears that Sturmy himself died in the engagement.[38]

Remarking upon these events, Fernand Braudel insists that they do not “necessarily signify the beginning of an enterprise that was spread over a period of centuries.”[39] But these voyages nevertheless represent a new mode of commercial thinking in Bristol. What Sturmy and his fellow merchants were after was both an outlet for their surplus cloth and an opportunity to tap the riches of the East for their own gain. If cloth could no longer be sold in its former quantities in Gascony, it was necessary either to find another market for it, or to increase the return from each transaction, or to find new products in which to deal. Trade to the Levant, if established on a regular basis, satisfied all these criteria. It not only provided a good outlet for cloth, but the import of pepper, spices, rich fabrics, and other luxuries made an especially attractive substitute for wine. The large returns on the sale of these goods in England meant that dealings in cloth might proceed at reduced levels without adversely affecting the income of the merchants. If the market for exports had decayed, greater stress must be laid upon imports; if risks increased, so must the prospects of gain.

Similar considerations stimulated the Bristolians’ search for markets and trade routes in other parts of the world. The history of Bristol’s dealings in the southern Atlantic, for example, also began in the period following the loss of Gascony. From the mid-fifteenth century Madeira sugar regularly found its way into the city via Lisbon.[40] By May 1480 there was a direct trade, with Bristolians shipping cloth and no doubt seeking the valuable sugars of the island at their source. The earliest recorded inward voyage dates from September 1486, when Portuguese merchants carried sugar and bowstaves to Bristol. There appears to have been some dealing with the Azores as well.[41] And North Africa was visited by Bristolians in the latter half of the fifteenth century.[42]

More dramatic than these ventures in the southern Atlantic and North Africa was Bristol’s search in the 1480s for the mythical Isle of Brasil in the western Atlantic, which was reputed to lie somewhere in the temperate zone to the north of Madeira or west of the Azores.[43] Two Bristol voyages in search of Brasil are definitely known, one in 1480 and another in the following year. Both appear to have been the result of licenses granted to Thomas Croft, King’s Customer in Bristol, and William Spencer, Robert Straunge, and William de la Fount, merchants of the city, to trade to any parts for three years with any goods save staple goods, in two or three ships of sixty tons or less. The first voyage sailed in a single vessel on the fifteenth of July 1480, from Kingroad toward “the Island of Brasylle on the west part of Ireland,” but was turned back by storms and forced to put into harbor along the Irish coast, probably sometime in September of the same year. The following July, two other ships, an eighth part of each being owned by Thomas Croft, set forth “not by cause of merchaundise but thentent to serce and fynd a certain Ile callid the Isle of Brasile.” The vessels were each supplied with forty bushels of salt “for the repacion and sustenacions of the said shippys.”[44]

What did these venturesome Bristolians hope to find? One possibility is that they were searching for new fishing grounds. During most of the fifteenth century they had regularly fished for cod on the banks near Iceland, but contact with this northern island was already in decline by 1480. The lading of large quantities of salt on each of the vessels suggests a cod-fishing venture employing the stockfish technique. In itself this offers a significant clue to the economic goals of the Bristolians. Salt fish were in high demand in the Iberian peninsula, especially in Portugal and Andalusia. Discovery of a new source of supply would have provided a good means to secure the highly valued imports Bristolians sought in these markets.[45] But the Isle of Brasil may have held out other prospects as well. If it was situated in the vicinity of Madeira and the Azores, the newfound island might be expected to yield riches similar to those of its near neighbors. More than simply finding new fishing grounds, then, the Bristolians might have been hoping to discover their own Madeira, on which sugar and other valuable subtropical crops could be planted.

The exact purpose of Bristol’s earliest Atlantic explorations remains uncertain, but the same cannot be said of the projects of John Cabot. Arriving in Bristol sometime in 1495 or 1496, he persuaded a group of Bristolians, several of whom had previously been interested in the quest for the Isle of Brasil, to help finance yet another voyage across the Atlantic. Like Columbus, Cabot believed in a western route to the riches of Asia, and he was determined to find it in northern waters. In March 1496 he acquired a royal patent on behalf of himself and his three sons that permitted him to sail westward with up to five ships “to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world places, which before this time were unknown to all Christians.” The role of Bristol in this was to be paramount, for all ships in the venture were “bound and holden only to arrive” there.[46] If this project had been fully successful, Bristol would have become the major entrepôt of the spice trade, bypassing the Levant and thereby supplanting Southampton, London, and even Antwerp and rivaling and probably surpassing Lisbon as well. All that Robert Sturmy had hoped for and more would have been gained.[47]

John Cabot, of course, never found the Northwest Passage. His first voyage, in 1496, was abortive. But the second, in 1497, met with success; after thirty-three days at sea his little ship, the Matthew, made landfall at Belle Isle off Newfoundland.[48] Cabot was convinced that he had struck northeastern Asia and that by following the coast he would inevitably reach “an island which he calls Cipango, situated on the equinoctal region, where he believes that all the spices of the world have their origin, as well as the jewels.”[49] According to a contemporary observer, those who had participated in the voyage also reported the new lands to be “excellent and temperate” and believed “that Brizil wood and silk are native there.” In addition, “they asserted that the sea there is swarming with fish, which can be taken not only with the net, but in baskets let down with a stone, so that it sinks in the water.” “These same English,” he went on, “say that they could bring so many fish that [England] would have no further need of Iceland, from which place there comes a very great quantity of the fish called stockfish.”[50] On the basis of this exciting news a third expedition was mounted by Cabot in 1498, this time consisting of five vessels laden with coarse cloth, caps, laces, and other small wares, one fitted out by the king himself and four by merchants of Bristol and London. Although fishing may also have been intended, trade was clearly the principal aim.[51] This venture ended in disaster, but it reveals the interest of Cabot and his investors in a new world of trade beyond the established continental centers. As far as the Bristolians were concerned, it suggests that the quest for imports, which would characterize their trade for the next two centuries or more, had begun.

By the middle of Elizabeth’s reign this new import-driven pattern of commerce was firmly established. At a time when English overseas traffic was focused primarily on the Netherlands, Bristol specialized as a center for the Spanish and Portuguese trades, assembling diverse cargoes of exports in order to supply England with this market’s lucrative wares. In later years this same interest in highly profitable commodities became the foundation for extending trade beyond the Iberian peninsula into the Mediterranean and to the New World. Before proceeding to a description and analysis of this expansion, let us look at the overall structure of Bristol’s trade as it had formed by the second half of the sixteenth century, examining the commerce of a single trading year to get a snapshot view. This technique is somewhat problematic, since the evidence of a single year hardly guarantees a general trend, any more, as Aristotle said, than a single swallow makes a summer. Each trading year has its peculiarities caused as much by chance events—of wind, weather, war, and international politics—as by underlying features of the trade cycle. But we need a clear picture of the interrelationships existing among the various elements of Bristol’s commerce and, given the spottiness of the surviving customs records, the only way we can draw it is by looking at a single complete year, focusing primarily on the structure of trade and checking our findings against related records for different years. The year chosen runs from Michaelmas 1575 to Michaelmas 1576, the first year for which Bristol was treated separately from Gloucester in the customs.[52]

When we compare Bristol’s trade for this year with annual shipments in the fifteenth century, it seems extremely meager. In all, only a little over six hundred tons of wine and seven hundred and forty-nine cloths were shipped—hundreds, even thousands, less than were traded in the best periods of the previous century.[53] Nor had much happened to take up the slack. Lead and coal were being exported, but not in large amounts. In addition, a trade developed in cheap-quality “cottons” and friezes, both of which were coarse woolen fabrics, and in lightweight half-worsteds. But these were not exported in large enough quantities to counterbalance the diminished shipments of traditional woolens. For imports the picture is much the same. Salt, a relatively cheap commodity, was shipped in substantial amounts, and olive oil, train oil, woad, and spices also were brought to Bristol. It is doubtful, however, that they made up for the decay in the wine trade.[54]

Nevertheless, Bristol’s character as a port specializing in trade with southern Europe gave it a commercial strength that belies these dismal figures. If we concentrate on the grand totals for shipping for 1575–76, Bristol’s trade seems remarkably in balance, with ninety vessels of just over four thousand tons burden departing the port and eighty-two vessels, also totaling just over four thousand tons, entering during these twelve months. But analysis of the various geographical components of Bristol’s trade shows this image of commercial equilibrium to be illusory. Comparing voyages to and from the continent or the Atlantic islands belonging to Portugal and Spain reveals inbound traffic to have been one-tenth greater in tonnage than the outbound and one-sixth greater in the number of vessels involved. Even more startling is the distribution of shipping. In the northern trades, nearly equal numbers of vessels were used in the inbound and outbound traffic, but almost 40 percent more tonnage left the city than entered. In the south, however there were about 40 percent more inbound ships, totaling about 50 percent more tonnage. In other words, import trade from the south dominated the picture. Almost equal tonnage departed Bristol for northern and for southern ports, but about twice as much arrived from the latter as the former. The tonnage of all southern voyages, moreover, exceeded the figure for northern voyages by over 40 percent, even though the number of ships used in the north was almost 70 percent greater than in the south.[55]

But tonnages alone do not tell very much, since often the largest vessels did not carry the most valuable goods.[56] To understand the relative importance of the various aspects of Bristol’s commerce, we must study the goods in which the city traded. The northern trades were dominated by imports of salt and iron, and exports of lead, coal, and cheap textiles. Only relatively meager shipments of wine and citrus fruit break the monotony of this workaday traffic. By using the customs rates to determine the value of the city’s dealings in the north, we can see that the trade was heavily concentrated around La Rochelle and the Bay of Biscay, largely bypassing Bordeaux. Assuming that the customs rates for goods taxed ad valorem varied roughly in proportion to their market value—admittedly, a somewhat risky assumption—the figures also suggest, very tentatively, a trade imbalance in favor of imports of at least 60 and perhaps as much as 100 percent, since on a conservative estimate the woolen fabric shipped to this region was worth perhaps £8 per whole cloth, whereas the wine imported was worth between £10 and £15 per ton.[57]

As we move south, however, we enter a different world, one in which subtropical and tropical wares were preeminent. Seventeen ships totaling about sixteen hundred and fifty tons left Bristol for markets in this region during 1575–76, and twenty-four vessels totaling some twenty-five hundred tons returned thence. But trade in this market was richer and more vibrant, focused primarily on high-priced wares, some of them necessary raw materials such as olive oil and dyestuffs and most of the remainder luxury items such as fruits, spices, sugars, and fine wines. The only bulky cheap commodity in the traffic was salt. The city’s exports to the south consisted largely of textiles, although lead also played an important role. The picture is of a commerce in which Bristol sought to tap the riches of the southern trades with outgoing cargoes assembled for their barter value from its own hinterland in south Wales, the Severn valley, and the west Midlands, within which it in turn distributed the fruits of its foreign enterprises. The key was the value of the imports, not the worth of the exports. As measured by value, the import trade exceeded exports by an even larger percentage than was true in the north. Using the same tentative wholesale prices for cloth and wine we just employed in estimating the value of the northern trades, imports from Bristol’s southern markets were worth anywhere from 120 to 150 percent more than its exports to that region (Table 6).[58]

6. Value of Bristol’s European Trade, 1575-76
  Outward Inward  
  Goods[a] Cloth
(cloths of assize)
Goods[a] Wine
Source: Public Record Office, E 190/1129/11, 1129/12. Value estimated using £10 per whole cloth and £15 per ton of wine, to the nearest £.
Northern £1,151 87 £ 1,171 190 £6,042
Southern £1,527 662 £10,861 415 £25,233
Total £2,678 749 £12,032 605 £31,275

Comparing the estimated values of the northern and the southern trades leads to two firm conclusions. First, for the European trade as a whole, Bristol’s imports were worth between two and two and a half times the value of its exports. Second, the southern trades, concentrated primarily in the Iberian peninsula, overwhelmed the northern. Bristol’s European trade was largely focused on its highly valued riches, particularly of the southern trades, which the city purchased primarily with less expensive English goods. Although the prices of Bristol’s imports and exports were no doubt lower at their sources, where they were in relatively good supply, than in their final markets, where they were scarce, this trade pattern implies regular deficits which had to be made up in coin or by bills of exchange. In addition, since the textile and mining industries, which provided the bulk of Bristol’s exports, were highly labor-intensive, Bristol was acquiring the high-priced commodities of Europe not only with the resources of its hinterland in the Severn valley, the Midlands, and the West Country, but indirectly with the plentiful labor of the region as well.

The Irish trade was the other major component of Bristol’s commercial economy. It accounted for almost 40 percent of the ships entering and leaving Bristol in 1575–76 and for about 13 percent of the tonnage. Virtually all of this traffic was in the hands of the Irish themselves.[59] In terms of goods shipped, this trade had the classic form of colonial commerce. Ireland sent its English customers basic foods, industrial raw materials—particularly agricultural products such as wool—and cheap manufactures, in return for which it received better-quality manufactures, reexports of luxury wares from Europe, and some essential agricultural commodities, such as hops, that it did not produce itself.[60] The most striking feature of this trade is the large quantities of small wares that made their way to Ireland through Bristol. These were acquired at the two Bristol fairs, one in January and one in July, to which great throngs of Irish merchants and tradesmen came each year in their small vessels.[61] But the Irish trade only complemented Bristol’s traffic with its European markets. In terms of value, Ireland accounted for probably less than 10 percent of the total trade of the city.

It might be protested that too much attention is paid in studies of sixteenth-century trade to high-price, high-profit goods, since these commodities were usually sold only in small quantities. In 1575–76, for example, Bristol imported only eighty hundredweight of sugar, while salt, which was much more useful, was carried in far greater quantity. But the customs value of sugar was thirty-three times higher than salt, while retail prices for sugar were on the order of three thousand times higher than for salt. For the same volume of trade, then, the profits were much higher for sugar than for salt.[62] From the point of view of the merchant, as Fernand Braudel has observed, what mattered most was not the tonnage shipped but “the rate and facility of gain, the accumulation of capital.”[63] Because the Bristolians followed this precept, by the middle of Elizabeth’s reign their trade had become settled primarily on the southern routes, with the Iberian coast from Lisbon to Puerta Santa Maria absorbing the bulk of the trade. The shift away from the city’s old market in Gascony had now firmly established Bristol as an Iberian port. At the same time, the emphasis on imports begun in Henry VII’s reign was continued. Bristol, once a great exporter of cloth and outlet for commerce with Bordeaux, had become primarily a trader of foreign wares drawn from the subtropical regions of the known world.

A similar pattern is discernible in the customs accounts for the rest of Elizabeth’s reign and for the early Stuart period.[64] The southern trades remained the most important part of the city’s traffic, providing the richest returns and commanding the greatest attention from the Bristol merchants. But there were significant changes within this structure of commerce. Activity increased and new markets were opened up with the addition of trades to the Netherlands, the Baltic, and the western Atlantic, while interest in the Atlantic islands and the Mediterranean was strengthened. Bristol’s old haunts on the Iberian peninsula came to play a smaller role as a more complex trading system emerged. This expansion, moreover, helped to stimulate a number of developments in the domestic economy, including the growth of the mining, shipping, cloth, and other industries. But throughout the period the underlying theme was the quest for imports, which yielded the highest profits and therefore encouraged the undertaking of risky new ventures. We can see the persistence of this pattern if we look closely at trade in 1624–25, fifty years after the annual trade cycle we have just studied. Again, this procedure has obvious shortcomings, but employed with appropriate caution it allows us to see in some measure how the overall structure of Bristol’s trade evolved during this period.[65]

Again, a conservative estimate, using tentative wholesale prices for cloth and wine as well as the totals for goods paying customs ad valorem, suggests that import value was at least double that of exports (Table 7).[66] In addition, whereas the outward trade for the year is almost equally divided between the northern and the southern region, with the south having a slight edge, for the inbound trade the southern region shows a marked advantage. But the great strength of the southern trades now lay away from the Iberian peninsula. On the inward leg, Marseilles, together with Toulon, accounted for 40 percent of the goods paying ad valorem duties, while Marseilles alone accounted for the bulk of exports to the southern region in this year. In part this was a consequence of the impending war with Spain, which caused Bristolians to bring back their investments from the Iberian peninsula as quickly as they could and prompted them to invest their profits in southern France and Italy. But, as we shall see, the main reason behind this pattern is that the Mediterranean and other southern markets were playing a greater role in Bristol’s trade in the early seventeenth century than they had in the previous period. The wine trade also showed dramatic improvement in 1624–25. The total shipments for this year are almost three times greater than they were in 1575–76, with the traffic in French wine more than five times what it had been fifty years before. This, too, is part of a general pattern of trade in the early seventeenth century. French wines led the recovery, with Bordeaux’s position as the queen of the trade restored, if not to glory, at least to respectability. In addition, wines from the Iberian peninsula, the Atlantic islands, and the Mediterranean were gaining in significance, with direct shipments from Málaga and the Canaries now playing a major role. The picture for the Irish trade is virtually the same as in 1575–76. The general impression is that by the mid-1620s the value of Bristol’s trade had grown considerably from its level in the middle of Elizabeth’s reign.[67]

7. Bristol’s Customs Payments, 1624-25
  Outward Inward
Ports Subsidy (£-s-d) No. cloths[a] Subsidy (£-s-d) Wine
Source: Public Record Office, E 190/1135/6.
A. Northern European:
Norway     9-13-03  
Amsterdam 9-11-03   39-00-08  
Le Havre 18-14-00      
St. Malo, St. Briac-sur-mer 35-10-07 56-04-04 9 tons 1 butt[b]
Le Croisic 1-02-04   5-01-00 9 tons
Le Pouliguen     15-00-00  
Nantes 13-12-00   5-00-00  
Lucon 0-10-00      
Bourgneuf Bay 7-05-08   1-10-08  
St. Martin 1-05-00   1-15-00  
La Rochelle 30-12-01   30-08-04 9 tons 1 pipe
Bordeaux 141-08-02 103 5/12 34-14-05 986 tons 1 terce
Bayonne 4-03-00      
St. Jean de Luz 42-12-00 2⅙ 10-01-00  
San Sebastian     8-19-06  
Bilbao 24-11-06   10-01-00  
   Customs A 330-17-07 109⅚ 227-09-02 1,014 tons 1 terce
   Value A 6,617-11-08   4,549-03-04  
B. Southern European:
Oporto     83-06-08  
Lisbon     77-05-10  
San Lucar     10-18-00 18 tons 1 butt
Cáadiz 8-10-00   38-06-10 444 tons
Máalaga 40-12-00 11 123-11-10 138 tons 1 pipe 1 hhd
Madeira 3-01-00 16⅔ 49-08-04 2 tons
Canaries 30-18-07 20 36-13-08 78 tons 1 pipe
São Miguel 15-00-06 23¾ 25-12-06  
Marseilles 251-12-04 50⅔ 222-03-10  
Toulon     76-19-06  
Leghorn 1-13-10 2⅔    
Candia (Crete)       100 tons muscadels
   Customs B 351-08-03 124¾ 744-07-10 781 tons 1 butt 1 hhd
   Value B 7,028-05-00   14,887-00-00  
   Customs A–B 682-05-10 234 7/12 971-17-00 1,795 tons 1 butt 1 hhd 1 terce
   Value A–B 13,645-16-08   19,436-03-04  
C. Atlantic:
Newfoundland 2-00-00   45-01-01  
New England 1-16-00   0-18-00  
Somers Islands     57-10-00  
   Customs C 3-16-00   103-09-01  
   Value C 76-00-00   2,069-01-08  
D. British Isles:
Scotland     2-04-08  
Ireland 384-01-04 14⅔ 617-06-06  
   Customs D 384-01-04 14⅔ 619-11-02  
   Value D 7,681-06-08   12,391-03-04  
   Customs A–D 1,070-02-02 249¼ 1,694-17-03 1,795 tons 1 butt 1 hhd 1 terce
   Value A–D 21,403-03-04   33,896-08-04  

Even though Bristol’s trade in the early seventeenth century showed the same interest in southern wares as in Elizabeth’s reign, there were several important new developments. Markets in the Netherlands and Norway, in North Africa, and in the eastern Mediterranean grew, while in the Iberian peninsula itself there was a shift in Bristol’s trade away from the Bay of Biscay, Lisbon, and the Guadalquivir valley to new centers of trade on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. There were also important developments in exports as Bristol’s merchants sought to find new commodities to sell to their foreign customers. Calfskins, butter, lead, iron, and coal all played an increasingly significant role in the city’s trade, and textile shipments became much more varied as cheap “cottons” and friezes and expensive worsteds joined the older varieties of broadcloth in the holds of Bristol ships. The cheaper fabrics found a good market in the north, and the lighter-weight and finer-quality goods were in high demand on the southern routes.[68] At the same time, a whole new world of trade opened across the Atlantic. In general, then, the early Stuart period witnessed the emergence of a more widespread and complex system of commerce, knitting together a greater diversity of commodities and overseas ports than in the sixteenth century.

Amsterdam provides the key to understanding the changes in the northern trades. In the course of the later sixteenth century it had become the principal emporium of Baltic and Scandinavian wares. With the wealth accumulated by the city’s traders and the low freight charges on their shipping, the merchants of Amsterdam were able to enter the Mediterranean markets themselves, acting as carriers for its commerce and bringing wealth to their home city. Bristol’s trade with Amsterdam reflects the historic rise of the Dutch city in the early seventeenth century. The Bristolians shipped such goods as coal, lead, some iron, Welsh butter, Welsh cottons, and molasses, produced from imported Madeira sugar.[69] The return shipments were divided in origin. The bulk came from Scandinavia and the Baltic, but some Mediterranean goods were also purchased in Amsterdam. Grain from the Baltic was an especially important commodity in times of dearth.[70] Other northern wares shipped in this year included tar, pitch, Norway deal boards, cable yarn, rough hemp, battery, old iron, rod iron, steel, frying pans, hops, and shellfish. Occasional additions were made in the form of such southern items as madder and cinnamon.[71]

But the more interesting changes in the overall pattern of Bristol’s trade occurred in the southern markets. In 1575–76, southern commercial routes had focused on Lisbon and the Guadalquivir valley ports of San Lucar de Barrameda, Cádiz, and Puerta Santa Maria. During the late sixteenth century these together accounted for over 80 percent of the tonnage in the southern trades. The seventeenth century, however, saw a significant shift; trade with Lisbon remained strong, but Oporto was added as a stopping place for the Bristolians. Bristol’s contacts with southern Spain also moved eastward. San Lucar and Cádiz continued to claim a significant share of the trade, but Málaga became a major center of Bristol’s dealings in the Iberian peninsula, and Almería and Alicante, east of the Straits of Gibraltar, were also frequented upon occasion. Trade in Spain beyond Gibraltar was not entirely new to the seventeenth century,[72] of course, but it had been only intermittent in the mid-sixteenth century and, despite the English reentry into the Mediterranean after 1573, seems to have remained so down to 1600.[73] Hence the growth of commercial dealings inside the Pillars of Hercules in the early seventeenth century represents something of a new development in Bristol’s trade.

What attracted the Bristolians to this market? The customs evidence suggests that it was a fine outlet for exports, particularly lightweight worsteds, traditional broadcloths, and calfskins. But the heart of this commerce, as with all the southern trades, was the imports, which included sugar, white soap, olive oil, dried fruit, and wine, all highly profitable, high-priced wares. These were commodities that in the sixteenth century Bristolians had acquired almost exclusively in San Lucar and Cádiz, even though in many instances they were produced elsewhere in Spain. In this period, then, the Bristolians were content to deal in these wares through intermediary markets and middlemen. But after 1600 they were more anxious to buy “at the first hand,” as the saying went, where the goods were produced.[74]

One possible reason for the move to Málaga and Alicante was that these ports, serving a region new to market agriculture, offered better prices or better-quality commodities than were available in Guadalquivir ports.[75] But a more fundamental development was at work as well. Throughout the sixteenth century, commercial exchange with Spain had operated under the stimulus of the American trade. Although Bristolians participated to a degree in this colonial commerce through Seville, it was not so much the presence of American products such as tobacco that excited their interest as the buoyancy of the market created by Spanish involvement in the New World. The resulting inflation and generally high demand for consumer products encouraged trade in English wares. At the same time, Spanish wage levels ran well ahead of English in the sixteenth century, growing between 1520 and 1620 by more than 200 percent, whereas English wages rose only 44 percent; real wages fell in England during this period, but they remained high in Spain. This meant not only that English manufactures were relatively cheap in Spanish terms, but that there was a large Iberian market with cash to pay for these English wares.[76] The Spanish importation of New World gold and silver also encouraged trade, by helping to ease credit in the Iberian peninsula.[77] Since Seville, by virtue of its privileged position in the colonial trade, was the financial center through which Bristolians raised capital, made exchanges, and settled accounts, it kept Bristol’s trade focused on the Guadalquivir valley throughout the sixteenth century.[78]

But the boom in Spain’s American commerce ended early in the seventeenth century. Silver imports peaked in the decade between 1600 and 1610. At about the same time, real wages in Spain rose sharply, reflecting the movement of capital from overseas ventures to domestic production. Wages stayed high throughout most of the first forty years of the seventeenth century.[79] In the early 1620s, after a thirty-year period of stagnation, Spain’s economic relations with the New World entered a long period described by Pierre Chaunu as “la grande dépression.” This extended depression began in 1620–1622 with a sharp decline in traffic, particularly outbound traffic, from which Spain’s American trade never recovered. These troubles had a direct impact on the main Spanish centers of the colonial traffic. By 1624–1626, Andalusian prices were depressed, and investment in New World activities slowed in Seville and other Guadalquivir ports. The buoyancy of the Guadalquivir market was lost, and the Bristolians and their English compatriots were encouraged to seek further afield for trading partners.[80] The change in the southern trades, however, was not confined to the growth of new commercial relationships with Málaga and Alicante. There was also significant growth in Bristol’s dealings with Madeira and other Atlantic islands and with ports in southern France, Italy, and the eastern Mediterranean. By the mid-1630s, this non-Iberian portion of the southern commerce accounted for half the inbound and more than half the outbound traffic. Bristol, while continuing to maintain its firm foothold in Spain and Portugal, more and more was reaching beyond the Iberian peninsula in search of the high-valued commodities that they had long purchased only there.[81]

These developments conditioned Bristol’s activities in nearly every other part of its southern market. Commerce with North Africa illustrates the pattern. This trade, as we know, has a history dating to at least the 1480s,[82] but a regular English traffic along the Barbary Coast of Morocco probably did not begin until 1551.[83] Even then contacts remained intermittent and of very low volume until the 1590s, when the Spanish war helped deflect a portion of the Iberian commerce onto the North African coast. By the early seventeenth century Bristol’s dealings in Barbary both became more regular and increased in volume.[84] The Barbary trade proved to be exceptionally lucrative. Sugar, molasses, dates, oranges and lemons, figs, raisins, marmalade, candied fruit, almonds, capers, aniseed, cumin, indigo, saltpeter, gum arabic, raw silk, ostrich feathers, and even gold could be obtained there. In return, it was a brilliant market for fine English cloth, for lead and tin, for manufactured items, for European reexports, and for timber.[85]

Along with trading to Barbary, Bristolians also frequented other ports in the Mediterranean, although a large and steady traffic began only in the early seventeenth century. Between 1573 and 1593, for example, among the vessels recorded as arriving at Leghorn only three are specified as originating at Bristol. Still, Bristol’s interest was an early one; for example, the Swallow of Bristol sailed for the Mediterranean in 1576.[86] Leghorn and Marseilles were the keys to the traffic, but by the 1630s Toulon also played an important part. Leghorn was a well-established entrepôt for commerce with the entire eastern Mediterranean, a place where credit or coin might be found and from which it was possible to mount trading expeditions throughout the Mediterranean basin. It dominated Bristol’s interest in the Mediterranean during the later sixteenth century. Marseilles entered the picture only after 1600. As the chief port of Provence, through which the trade of much of southern France passed, it was a close cousin of Leghorn, linked to the Iberian peninsula by regular trade routes and serving as a center for commerce in North African and Levantine wares. In the 1630s Lewes Robertes called it “[t]he principall seate of Trade in Provence…famous for the great concourse of Merchants, and for the commerce that it maintaineth with Turkie, Barbarie, Spain, France, Italy, Flanders and England.” Its own commodities, as Robertes tells us, were only “Oyles, Wines, Wools, Almonds, and Verdigrace.” It was much the same with Toulon, which lay ten leagues from Marseilles. Toulon, according to Robertes, “aboundeth onely in Oyles, which hence is laden in great aboundance.” But, unlike Toulon, Marseilles was also an entrepôt for wares “from other Countries, such as Alexandria, Aleppo, Acria, Constantinople, Naples, Leghorne, or the coasts of Spaine doth yield.” Equally important, it was a financial capital where coin, particularly Spanish reals, could be acquired and licensed for exportation, which, as Robertes says, “is the onely meanes whereby the trade of Turkie is preserved.”[87] Marseilles, then, was a place, like Leghorn, for mounting ventures further to the east where currency was absolutely essential. When we examine Bristol’s trade with the Proven;accal ports, however, we observe little of these more exotic trades. In both exports and imports, Bristol’s commerce there resembled that with the Iberian peninsula. Lead and lead ore were the most important exports. Calfskins and tanned Irish hides came second. Other goods traded included “cottons,” short jersey stockings, linsey-woolsey, and some woolen cloths. Little distinguishes this list from that of the cargoes sent to the Iberian peninsula in the same year. In return for these wares, the goods the Bristolians brought back directly from Marseilles and Toulon consisted primarily of olive oil, though, in addition, there was white soap, similar to the well-known product of Castile, as well as capers from Marseilles and rice from Toulon. Nevertheless, trade in Levantine wares through these southern French ports was fairly common in the first forty years of the seventeenth century, primarily because the monopoly of the Levant Company made it necessary. In these years Bristolians regularly returned from the Mediterranean with substantial shipments of currants and muscadel wine, as well as Egyptian cottons, mohair, dyestuffs such as galles, and aniseed and wormseed, both Levantine drugs. Some of these goods undoubtedly were purchased in Marseilles or in Leghorn from local middlemen, but some probably came directly from the Levant Company’s privileged markets, within which Bristolians had a special license to buy currants.[88]

Closely tied to the expansion of Bristol’s European trades was the evolution of commercial interests in the New World. Three main lines of development may be distinguished. The North Atlantic had the great fisheries off Newfoundland and New England. Further south there was traffic in the commodities of Virginia and the West Indies. Finally, the search for a Northwest Passage remained a recurring theme in Bristol’s history. Each in its way was related to the older southern trades; the fishery provided a highly marketable commodity to sell in the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean, while the other ventures sought “at the first hand” the same type of profitable imports that Bristolians commonly acquired on the southern routes.

Bristol’s knowledge of the Newfoundland fishery was already well established by the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. Following Cabot’s discovery, during the early sixteenth century the Bristolians maintained a steady interest in Newfoundland cod.[89] The midcentury ushered in a period of reduced English presence on the Grand Banks: by 1570 the entire English fishing fleet amounted, according to the Bristolian Anthony Parkhurst, to no more than “iiii sayle of small barkes.”[90] The English returned in force to Newfoundland, however, in the mid-1570s, with a doubling or even quadrupling in the number of English on the Grand Banks. But Bristol became involved in a large way only in the 1590s. There were three returning ships in 1591–92, ten in 1594–95, twelve in 1598–99, and sixteen between 1600 and 1602. In the 1610s and 1620s eight to sixteen vessels made the journey each year, and in the 1630s, when Bristol’s American interests had become more widely diversified, about half that number made a direct return to the city from Newfoundland and New England.[91] The stimulus for this turnabout was undoubtedly Elizabeth I’s war with Spain, which disrupted the settled patterns of Bristol’s trade in the sixteenth century. The war left much shipping idle; if not employed in privateering, these ships were available for the time-consuming enterprise of fishing or trading for fish across the Atlantic. In the same years, rich new fishing grounds were discovered in American waters off Ramea.[92] And, finally, the Spanish conflict stimulated aggressive new enterprises in the Mediterranean, where salt fish were in high demand.[93]

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Bristol’s interest in the New World was largely one of trade. For most of the period little thought was given to colonial settlement, although in Elizabeth’s reign Anthony Parkhurst of Bristol lobbied for it. But even he was concerned with founding a permanent establishment primarily in order to sustain the fishery. Better facilities, he argued, would improve the catch by permitting salt to be produced on the spot, thus lowering costs, and by enabling the residents to fish beyond the early fall, when the prospect of winter storms forced the fleets to sail homeward.[94] The joint London-Bristol Newfoundland Company, founded in 1610, which managed to plant a colony at Conception Bay, conformed closely to this scheme. The Newfoundland colony established in James I’s reign was very much a Bristol venture. Eleven residents of the city, ten of them leading merchants, were charter members. Trade in fish was the principal aim. Although no outright monopoly was claimed, the settlement was intended primarily to give its backers special advantages in the fishery, particularly by permitting a longer fishing season and by offering the settlers opportunity to monopolize the best fishing grounds. The proximity of the settlement to the fishing grounds, moreover, placed the Company’s agents in an exceptionally good position to buy the catches of non-Company fishermen and transport them to the continent. The Company also hoped to sell fishermen pine boards and timber for barrel hoops and staves.[95]

Since, throughout the early seventeenth century, it was the fishery and the prospects of trade rather than the idea of a colony in its own right that attracted the Bristolians, when this interest was outweighed by other pressures they avoided participation. Above all, they sought independence for their own enterprises. By 1614, John Guy, their leader in Newfoundland, had fallen out with the Londoners of the Company over administrative policy and had withdrawn from membership, probably taking the other Bristolians with him. Still, the advantages of a settlement near the fishing grounds remained, and in 1617 a group of city merchants, possibly including some of the original members, formed their own settlement at Bristol’s Hope on Conception Bay. Richard Hayman, an Exeter man but brother-in-law to the Bristolian John Barker, styled it “Bristol’s Hope of Wealth.”[96]

This same desire for independence and commercial gain conditioned Bristolians’ responses to other colonial ventures. When in 1621 Sir Ferdinando Gorges attempted to bring them into a joint stock venture for planting New England they vigorously resisted the idea, although by this time they were interested in fishing off the New England coast, “in regard that the Newfoundland fishing hath fayled of late years.” They were willing, however, to seek a license from Gorges to maintain their fishery there.[97] During the later 1620s and the 1630s, however, the reluctance of at least some Bristolians to hold land in New England was eased, but, as in Newfoundland in 1610 and 1617–18, fish remained the foundation of these settlements. In 1626 Robert Aldworth, who had previously invested in Martin Pring’s 1602–03 and 1606 explorations of the New England coast and in the Newfoundland Company of 1610, bought Monhegan Island from Abraham Jennings of Plymouth, another Newfoundland Company investor. In 1630–31, moreover, Aldworth and his son-in-law Giles Elbridge acquired twelve thousand acres on the Pemaquid peninsula. Both Monhegan and Pemaquid were used regularly by the English in the early seventeenth century as bases for fishing ventures. Thus, for Aldworth, perhaps the greatest Iberian and Mediterranean trader of his day, the hope for gain was much the same as it had been in Newfoundland. Whatever other benefits might follow from his enterprise, they began with the acquisition of fish to sell in European markets.[98]

Just as Bristol’s activities in Newfoundland and New England helped the city’s merchants acquire the high-value commodities upon which their commerce depended, traffic to and from the West Indies and Virginia was also tied to Bristol’s southern trade routes. The commodities they sought there substituted for the profitable wares they purchased in their commerce with the Iberian peninsula, the Atlantic islands, and the Mediterranean. And they were used in the Mediterranean trade in just the way fish were. We have already seen that Bristol’s ties to the West Indies extend back into the early sixteenth century, when such men as Robert Thorne and Thomas Tison of Bristol maintained a direct trade through Seville with the Spanish possessions in the region.[99] As Anglo-Spanish relations soured in the mid-sixteenth century, however, this open and legitimate traffic came to an end and was replaced by a long period of commercial warfare in which Bristol played its share. In 1576, for example, John and Andrew Barker, in reprisal for the loss of their goods in the Canaries to the Inquisition the previous year, mounted an expedition of two ships, the Ragged Staff and the Beare, “to the coast of Terra Firma and the Bay of Honduras in the West Indies,” which, unfortunately for the Barkers, ended in disaster. Despite this outcome, at least one Bristol ship was privateering in the West Indies in the 1590s. Caribbean and South American waters exerted a powerful attraction for the Bristolians. Even the Barkers maintained an interest. In 1612–13, John Barker, nephew of Andrew and son of Andrew’s partner John, mounted an expedition to the Marowijne River in Guyana. The voyage was aboard the Sea Bright of Bristol, with Martin Pring as master.[100]

If fishing and the tobacco trade were both aspects of Bristol’s quest for the highly profitable wares of the southern trades, the epitome of this mode of commerce was the city’s recurring search for a short route to the riches of the Orient, the search for the Northwest Passage. As we have seen, Bristol had conceived of such a westerly route with John Cabot’s voyages in the 1490s. From then on, it was a continuing theme of commercial life in the city, lying dormant for a time only to be excited by some new prospect of discovery. About the year 1508, for example, Bristolians aided Sebastian Cabot in an exploration of the American coast in search of a southwestern passage to the Orient. In 1521, they were involved with Cabot’s proposals for a venture to find the Northwest Passage. In Elizabeth’s reign they aided Frobisher, at least indirectly, on his second voyage, in which the suspected discovery of gold and the prospect of the city as the site of a smelting works tantalized them as much as the Northwest Passage itself. They were even more intimately involved in Humphrey Gilbert’s 1583 voyage, when Richard Hakluyt the Younger, who was prebend of Bristol Cathedral, approached the merchant community there about a venture, and Walsingham wrote them directly endorsing Gilbert’s plan. The sum they eventually invested came to £1,000. Finally, in 1631, their appetite was whetted again: a large group of Bristol merchants financed the voyage of Thomas James of Bristol in search of the Northwest Passage. James himself says he was encouraged by the merchants who furnished him his ship, which seems to have been mounted to insure that a London-based voyage by Luke Foxe did not capture all the wealth and glory.[101]

There is no mystery about the aims of these voyages. They were intended to find an easy way to the Orient and thereby convert Bristol, already interested in the spice trade, into a major entrepôt in its own right. This heady dream manifested itself in a variety of other ways during this period. Edward Pryn of Bristol, for example, was a member of the Muscovy Company, hoping, with the rest of its members, to find a Northeast Passage and settling, as the others did, for a route to the wealth of Persia that bypassed the Levant. About the year 1611, Thomas Aldworth, brother of Robert, joined the service of the East India Company as an agent. Perhaps through his agency, Martin Pring entered the same service about 1614. Other Bristolians also found the power of the East irresistible in this period. James Oliver, for example, sailed to Mokha in 1625 and established a factory there. These Bristolians wanted a direct trade to the East that would permit them to bypass Lisbon and the Levant and bring home pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and the rest without having to deal through middlemen. To have accomplished this would have converted the port from a significant provincial center to a boomtown such as Leghorn had been earlier in the sixteenth century. Whether they pointed their vessels west or east, these venturesome Bristolians sought to become the intermediaries in the spice traffic and in dealing in other Eastern riches. It was a vain hope, as Thomas James, locked in ice and in fear for his life, discovered, but to the heroes of commerce engaged in these feats of merchandise the prospect of success made it worth the risk and the investment.[102]

In the aftermath of the Hundred Years’ War Bristol’s place in the English commercial economy had been transformed as its dependence on the manufacture and export of traditional kinds of woolen cloth and the import of French wines diminished and it became a major redistribution point for foreign wares to the Severn valley, South Wales, and the west Midlands, on whose products—raw materials and agricultural commodities as well as manufactures—it relied for its exports. Hence, as London grew in population and economic power, coming to dominate and give order to England’s urban hierarchy, Bristol gradually settled into its niche as “the metropolis of the west,” a role it would play with increasing definition in the later seventeenth and the eighteenth century.[103] What drove Bristol’s trade in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries was the pursuit of high margins of profit and quick gain, rather than economic concentration and expanding control over capital resources. The entrepreneur’s object was to multiply small investments into large returns by understanding and playing the market, not by efficiently converting raw materials into salable manufactured wares. Small reliance was put upon fixed capital assets. The emphasis was on distribution, not production, and on imports that could be marketed after little or no investment in labor. But there was an elusiveness to the Bristolians’ quest. The more successful the pursuit of scarce and much-prized wares, the greater the supply; the greater the supply, the lower the unit price and profits. The problem of the southern trades, then, was the problem of a traffic in luxuries and other scarce commodities gradually becoming a trade in staples. In the long run this outcome was inescapable. In the short run, however, it was possible to resolve the dilemma by pushing beyond the established trading centers to markets with more plentiful supplies or less competition and by trading whenever possible at the first, not the second, hand. The expansion of Bristol’s commerce in the early seventeenth century was guided by these considerations, which help to account for the movement of the city’s trade into the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and for the continuing search for the Northwest Passage.


1. Charles M. MacInnes, A Gateway of Empire (Bristol: J. W. Arrowsmith, 1939), p. 9. [BACK]

2. Latimer, Merchant Venturers, p. 27. [BACK]

3. For a brief overview, see E. M. Carus-Wilson, The Merchant Adventurers of Bristol in the Fifteenth Century (Historical Association, Bristol Branch, Pamphlet 4, 1962). [BACK]

4. See H. R. Fox Bourne, English Merchants: Memoirs in Illustration of the Progress of British Commerce, 2 vols. (London: R. Bentley, 1866), vol. 1, p. 106; Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958), p. 403. [BACK]

5. E. M. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, 2d ed. (London: Methuen, 1967), pp. 72, 75, 79, 89–90; see also William Worcestre, Itineraries, ed. John Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), pp. 130–33. [BACK]

6. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 67–73. [BACK]

7. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 248, 257; Y. Renouard, “Les Relations de Bordeaux et de Bristol au Moyen Age,” Revue Historique de Bordeaux n.s. 6 (1957), pp. 105–6; M. K. James, Studies in the Medieval Wine Trade, ed. E. M. Veale with introduction by E. M. Carus-Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 93–108. [BACK]

8. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 269–71; James, Medieval Wine Trade, pp. 1–37; Renouard, “Les Relations de Bordeaux et de Bristol,” pp. 106–8; J. W. Sherborne, The Port of Bristol in the Later Middle Ages (Historical Association, Bristol Branch, Pamphlet 13, 1965), pp. 9–13; Théophile Malvezin, Histoire du Commerce de Bordeaux depuis les Origines jusqu’à nos Jours, 2 vols. (Bordeaux: A. Bellier, 1892), vol. 2, p. 199. [BACK]

9. James, Medieval Wine Trade, pp. 38–42; Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 40–43; Sherborne, Port of Bristol, pp. 21–22; Renouard, “Les Relations de Bordeaux et de Bristol,” pp. 109–10, 111; see below, Tables 1 and 2. [BACK]

10. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 50, 58–59, 257; V. M. Shillington and A. B. Wallis Chapman, The Commercial Relations of England and Portugal (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1907), pp. 13, 14, 18, 49, 56, 68; Sherborne, Port of Bristol, p. 11. [BACK]

11. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 28–40, 246–48, 269–71; Y. Renouard, “Les Conséquences de la Conquête de la Guienne par le Roi de France pour le Commerce de Vins de Gascoigne,” Annales du Midi 61 (1948–49): 16–18; Renouard, “Les Relations de Bordeaux et de Bristol, ” pp. 104–5; M. G. A. Vale, English Gascony, 1399–1453: A Study of War, Government and Politics during the Later Stages of the Hundred Years War (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 11–26; Robert Boutruche, La Crise d’un Société: Seigneurs et Paysans du Bordelais pendant la Guerre de Cents Ans (Paris: Belles Lettres, 1947), pp. 141–65. [BACK]

12. Malvezin, Histoire du Commerce de Bordeaux, vol. 2, p. 199. [BACK]

13. The history of Bristol’s trade just before and just after the English loss of Bordeaux shows how precipitous was the decline in both cloth exports and wine imports. Between 1440 and 1460 an average of 4,231 whole cloths were exported annually from Bristol; in the same period an average of 1,738 tons of wine were imported annually. But during the first five years of this period, from 1440 to 1445, the annual averages were 5,427 whole cloths and 2,411 tons of wine. In the last five years, the annual averages were 2,943 whole cloths and 814 tons of wine. In three years in this half-decade, wine shipments were under 800 tons for the year. For detailed figures see E. M. Carus-Wilson and Olive Coleman, eds., England’s Export Trade, 1275–1547 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. 95–100. See also Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 41–45, 265–78; James, Medieval Wine Trade, pp. 40–45, 111–12; Renouard, “Conquête de la Guienne,” pp. 18–24; Boutruche, La Crise d’un Société, pp. 170–71, 219–31, 399–411. [BACK]

14. Bristol produced about £1,450 of customs revenue per year in the 1490s. In the same period London produced about £8,520 per year, Southampton about £6,365 per year, and Exeter about £1,000 per year; see Georg von Schanz, Englische Handelspolitike gegen Ende des Mittelalters mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Zeitalters der beiden ersten Tudors, Heinrich VII. und Heinrich VIII., 2 vols. (Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1881), vol. 2, pp. 37–46; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, p. 284. Note, however, that the ratio between customs rates and market prices varied somewhat from item to item, so port totals never reflect the volume of trade in exactly the same way for each port. These totals also vary according to the proportion of denizen, alien, and Hanseatic merchants in each port’s trade, since these groups paid customs on different scales, with foreigners paying higher rates. In the case of Bristol and its near neighbor and rival Exeter, 90 to 95 percent of trade was consistently in the hands of denizens. For London, however, the figure was approximately 50 percent, and for Southampton, 25–30 percent. Finally, those totals apply properly to customs jurisdictions, not just to one port. In the fifteenth century, Bristol did include some adjacent ports in Wales and in the Severn River valley, but with Bridgewater under a separate jurisdiction, Bristol’s totals are for a relatively well-defined area. Indeed, most of the traffic from the minor ports associated with it passed through Bristol both to and from overseas. London was perhaps even better defined, extending only to Gravesend and Tilbury. With Southampton and Exeter, however, the areas covered by the above customs totals are larger and more diffuse. Southampton included Portsmouth, and Exeter included Dartmouth. Hence the figures represent the significance of each port in the system of customs collection better than their actual place in the hierarchy of port cities. Nevertheless, they undoubtedly give us the right order of precedence and suggest in terms of order of magnitude something of the differences among these ports. [BACK]

15. I. S. Leadam, ed., Select Cases before the King’s Council in the Star Chamber commonly called the Court of Star Chamber, II: 1509–1544 (Selden Society 25, 1911), p. 266. [BACK]

16. Ibid., p. 268. [BACK]

17. See Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, p. 284; E. M. Carus-Wilson, The Expansion of Exeter at the Close of the Middle Ages: The Harte Memorial Lecture in Local History, University of Exeter, 12 May 1961 (Exeter: University of Exeter, 1963). [BACK]

18. See G. D. Ramsay, English Overseas Trade during the Centuries of Emergence: Studies in Some Modern Origins of the English Speaking World (London: Macmillan, 1957), pp. 134–38; D. Burwash, English Merchant Shipping, 1460–1540 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1947), pp. 161–63, 234. [BACK]

19. A. K. Longfield, Anglo-Irish Trade in the Sixteenth Century (London: G. Routledge and Sons, 1929), p. 216. [BACK]

20. On Anglo-French commercial relations in the early sixteenth century, see P. Boissonade, “Le Mouvement Commercial entre la France et les Iles Brittaniques au XVIe Siècle,” Revue Historique 134 (1920): 192–228, and 135 (1921): 1–27; Robert Boutruche, ed., Bordeaux de 1453 à 1715 (Bordeaux: Fédération Historique du Sudouest, 1966), p. 93; M. Mollat, Le Commerce Maritime Normand à la Fin du Moyen Age: Etude d’Histoire Economique et Sociale (Paris: Plon, 1952), pp. 139–45; Gordon Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake: A Study of English Trade with Spain in the Early Tudor Period (London: Longmans, Green, 1954), pp. 41, 60–61; Burwash, English Merchant Shipping, pp. 163, 235–36; Jacques Bernard, Navires et Gens de Mer à Bordeaux (vers 1400–1550), 3 vols. (Paris: SEVPEN, 1968), vol. 2, p. 508; vol. 3, Appendices. [BACK]

21. Shillington and Chapman, Commercial Relations of England and Portugal, pp. 133–34. [BACK]

22. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 34, 41, 54, 60–62, 105–6, 124, 207–12; T. S. Willan, Studies in Elizabethan Foreign Trade (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959), pp. 84–85; D. M. Woodward, The Trade of Elizabethan Chester (Hull: University of Hull Publications, 1970), p. 40n. [BACK]

23. For discussion of the idea of an urban crisis in the later Middle Ages see Charles Phythian-Adams, “Urban Decay in the Later Middle Ages,” in Philip Abrams and E. A. Wrigley, eds., Towns and Societies: Essays in Economic History and Historical Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), pp. 159–85. For a general overview of the concepts of urban function, urban network, urban system, and urban hierarchy, see Jan de Vries, European Urbanization, 1500–1800 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), esp. pp. 118, 167–68, 171; E. A. Wrigley, “Urban Growth and Agricultural Change: England and the Continent in the Early Modern Period,” in E. A. Wrigley, People, Cities and Wealth: The Transformation of Traditional Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), pp. 157–93. For additional discussions, see Alan Dyer, “Growth and Decay in English Towns, 1500–1700,” in Urban History Yearbook, 1979 (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1979), pp. 60–72; Charles Phythian-Adams, “Dr Dyer’s Urban Undulations,” ibid., pp. 73–76; S. Rigby, “Urban Decline in the Later Middle Ages,” ibid., pp. 46–59; A. R. Bridbury, “English Provincial Towns in the Later Middle Ages,” EcHR, 2d ser., 34 (1981): 1–24; R. B. Dobson, “Urban Decline in Late Medieval England,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 27 (1977): 1–22; N. R. Goose, “In Search of the Urban Variable: Towns, 1500–1650,” EcHR, 2d ser., 39 (1986): 165–86; D. M. Palliser, “A Crisis in English Towns? The Case of York, 1480–1640,” Northern History 14 (1978): 108–25; Charles Phythian-Adams and Paul Slack, “Urban Decay or Urban Change?” in Charles Phythian-Adams et al., The Traditional Community under Stress (Milton Keynes, England: Open University Press, 1977), pp. 5–29. [BACK]

24. See Tables 3 and 4, above; C. G. A. Clay, Economic Expansion and Social Change: England, 1500–1700, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), vol. 2, pp. 108ff.; Steve Rappaport, Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 87–96; D. M. Palliser, The Age of Elizabeth: England under the Later Tudors, 1547–1603 (London: Longman, 1983), pp. 278–91; D. C. Coleman, The Economy of England, 1450–1750 (London: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 51; W. G. Hoskins, The Age of Plunder: King Henry’s England, 1500–1547 (London: Longman, 1976), pp. 178–80; Ramsay, English Overseas Trade, pp. 1–33; F. J. Fisher, “Commercial Trends and Policy in Sixteenth Century England,” in E. M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, 3 vols. (London: Edward Arnold, 1954–1962), vol. 1, pp. 153–55; Lawrence Stone, “State Control in Sixteenth-Century England,” EcHR 17 (1947): 104 ff.; J. D. Gould, The Great Debasement: Currency and the Economy in Mid-Tudor England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), pp. 115ff.; Carus-Wilson, The Expansion of Exeter. [BACK]

25. Leadam, ed., Select Cases before the Star Chamber, II, p. 146. [BACK]

26. L. and P. 13, part 2, p. 322; Stat. Realm 32 Hen. VIII, c. 18, lists Bristol in 1540 among the thirty-six English towns which “nowe are fallen downe decayed and at this day remaine unreedified and doo lye as desolate and vacante groundes”; see also Jean Vanes, ed., Documents Illustrating the Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Sixteenth Century (BRS 31, 1979), pp. 28–31. [BACK]

27. Leadam, ed., Select Cases before the Star Chamber, II, p. 250; SMV, Book of Trade, p. 36; BL, Lands. MS 86/13; Ramsay, English Overseas Trade, p. 137. [BACK]

28. G. C. Moore Smith and P. H. Reaney, The Family of Withypoll, with Special Reference to the Manor of Christchurch, Ipswich, and Some Notes on the Allied Families of Thorne, Harper, Lucar and Devereaux (Walthamstow Antiquarian Society Official Publication 34, 1936); George F. Bosworth, George Monoux: The Story of a Waltamstow Worthy—His Foundations and Benefactions (Walthamstow Antiquarian Society Official Publication 3, 1916); George F. Bosworth, George Monoux: The Man and His Work (Walthamstow Antiquarian Society Official Publication 17, 1927); George S. Fry, Abstract of Wills Relating to Walthamstow, co. Essex (1335–1559) (Walthamstow Antiquarian Society Official Publication 9, 1921), pp. 20–46; A. H. Johnson, The History of the Worshipful Company of Drapers of London: Preceded by an Introduction on London and Her Gilds up to the Close of the XVth Century, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914–1922), vol. 2, pp. 14–15, 21, 79, 136; Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 8–10, 19–20, 60–65; Ramsay, English Overseas Trade, pp. 135–36. [BACK]

29. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. xii–xiv, 9–19; Gordon Connell-Smith, “English Merchants Trading to the New World in the Early Sixteenth Century,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 23 (1950): 53–67. [BACK]

30. Johnson, Drapers of London, vol. 2, p. 79; Smith and Reaney, Family of Withypoll, pp. 14–23. Withypoll was a Merchant Adventurer and even governor of the Company. [BACK]

31. PRO, PROB 5/18 Thrower; a copy appears in E. W. W. Veale, ed., The Great Red Book of Bristol, 5 vols. (BRS 2, 4, 8, 16, 18, 1931–1953), vol. 16, pp. 124–29. [BACK]

32. Gordon Connell-Smith, “The Ledger of Thomas Howell,” EcHR, 2nd ser., 3 (1950–51): 365–66, 368–69; Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 10, 19–21, 24, 67, 69, 75–76; Connell-Smith, “English Merchants Trading to the New World,” p. 61; Johnson, Drapers of London, vol. 2, pp. 251, 252–54; PRO, PROB 5/24 Alen. [BACK]

33. Johnson, Drapers of London, vol. 2, pp. 252, 253; Connell-Smith, “Ledger of Thomas Howell,” p. 365; Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 61–65, 69. [BACK]

34. Johnson, Drapers of London, vol. 2, pp. 252–54. [BACK]

35. SMV, Book of Trade, p. 36. On Bristolians becoming non-resident members of the London Drapers’ Company, see Johnson, Drapers of London, vol. 2, pp. 258–59, 261; Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 35, 61. [BACK]

36. See Rappaport, Worlds within Worlds, pp. 96ff. [BACK]

37. E. M. Carus-Wilson, ed., The Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Later Middle Ages, 2d ed. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1967), pp. 37–39, 70–71, 83–85, 101–2, 104–5; Veale, ed., Great Red Book of Bristol, vol. 8, p. 1; Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 9–10, 64–65; A. A. Ruddock, Italian Merchants and Shipping in Southampton, 1270–1600 (Southampton, England: University College, 1951), pp. 18, 41, 44–45, 115, 188, 265; Olive Coleman, “Trade and Prosperity in the Fifteenth Century: Some Aspects of the Trade of Southampton,” EcHR, 2d ser., 16 (1963–64): 11–12. [BACK]

38. Carus-Wilson, ed., Overseas Trade of Bristol, pp. 84–85, 113–15, 117–18; Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 67–68, 70, 71–73; James Dallaway, Antiquities of Bristow in the Middle Centuries Including the Topography by William Wyrcestre and the Life of William Cannynges (Bristol: Mirror Office, 1834), pp. 78, 109; Robert Fabyan, The New Chronicles of England and France in Two Parts, ed. Henry Ellis (London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1811), p. 633; Robert Ricart, The Maire of Bristowe Is Kalendar, ed. Lucy Toulmin Smith (Camden Society n.s. 5, 1872), p. 41; Calendar of the Patent Rolls (1452–1461), p. 517; see also Jacques Heers, “Les Genois en Angleterre: La Crise de 1458–1466,” in Studi in Onore de Armando Sapori, 2 vols. (Milan: Instituto Editoriale Cisalpino, 1957), vol. 2, p. 810. [BACK]

39. Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, 2 vols., 2d ed. trans. Siân Reynolds (London: Collins, 1972–73), vol. 1, p. 612. [BACK]

40. Carus-Wilson, ed., Overseas Trade of Bristol, pp. 234–35, 260–64; Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 60, 92. A similar relation probably also existed with the Canary Islands, with trade proceeding through Cádiz, Puerta Santa Maria, San Lucar de Barremeda, and Seville: J. A. Williamson, The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery under Henry VII (Hakluyt Society, 2d ser., 120, 1962), pp. 14–15; J. A. Williamson, Hawkins of Plymouth: A New History of Sir John Hawkins and the Other Members of His Family Prominent in New England (London: Argonaut Press, 1949), pp. 16–17; Carus-Wilson, ed., Overseas Trade of Bristol, p. 267. [BACK]

41. J. A. Williamson, The Voyages of the Cabots and the English Discovery of North America under Henry VII and Henry VIII (London: A. and C. Black, 1929), pp. 18, 128; Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, pp. 14–15; D. B. Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, 1481–1620, From the Bristol Voyages of the Fifteenth Century to the Pilgrim Settlement at Plymouth: The Exploration, Exploitation and Trial-and-Error Colonization of North America by the English (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974) p. 57. [BACK]

42. See T. E. Reddaway and A. A. Ruddock, The Accounts of John Balsall, Purser of the Trinity of Bristol, 1480–1, Camden Miscellany 23 (Camden Society, 4th ser., 7, 1969). [BACK]

43. There were two Brasil traditions of the Middle Ages. One was the product of Celtic legend, which spoke of a Land of the Blest (Hy-Brasil, in Gaelic). Maps of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries usually depicted it as a round or semicircular island located near the west coast of Ireland. The second tradition was Italian and Portuguese in origin. It postulated an Isle of Brasil in the mid-Atlantic, southwest of the Iberian peninsula. Usually maps depict it, together with several larger land masses which were identified as the Island of the Seven Cities and Antilla, somewhere in the mid-Atlantic along the tropic of Cancer. It was almost certainly this Brasil that the Bristolians were seeking in the 1480s; see Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, A.D. 500–1600 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 102–4; Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, pp. 59–60; Williamson, Voyages of the Cabots, pp. 125–26, 132–33; Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, p. 21; see also Kenneth R. Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480–1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 41–43. [BACK]

44. Carus-Wilson, ed., Overseas Trade of Bristol, pp. 157, 161–65; Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, pp. 20, 188–89; Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, pp. 8–10, 72–73; Worcestre, Itineraries, pp. 308–9; W. E. C. Harrison, “An Early Voyage of Discovery,” Mariner’s Mirror 16 (1930): 198–99; D. B. Quinn, “Edward IV and Exploration,” Mariner’s Mirror 21 (1935): 283–84. For evidence of other voyages in the 1480s and 1490s see CSP (Spanish) (1485–1509), p. 177; H. P. Biggar, The Precursors of Jacques Cartier, 1497–1534 (Ottawa: Government Printing Office, 1911), pp. 27–30; L. A. Vigneras, “New Light on the 1497 Cabot Voyage to America,” Hispanic American Historical Review 36 (1956): 506–9; L. A. Vigneras, “The Cape Breton Landfall, 1494 or 1497?” Canadian Historical Review 38 (1957): 219–28; Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, part 1; Williamson, Voyages of the Cabots, pp. 23–24, 149–52; Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, pp. 19–32, 210–12, 310–14; A. A. Ruddock, “John Day of Bristol and the English Voyages Across the Atlantic before 1497,” Geographical Journal 132 (1962): 225–33; Morison, European Discovery of America, pp. 166, 205–9, 220; Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, pp. 43–44, 46–47. Quinn provides a strong circumstantial case for a Bristol discovery of America predating 1497; Morison has firmly questioned several of the assumptions upon which Quinn’s case is built. Andrews cuts to the heart of the matter by arguing that the Bristolians’ quest for Brasil “led to the discovery of North America” whether the actual landfall occurred in 1497 or before. [BACK]

45. Morison, European Discovery of America, p. 166; Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, pp. 30, 47–54; Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 129–30; Williamson, Voyages of the Cabots, pp. 8–10, 128–30; Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, pp. 13–14, 23, 175–77; Harold A. Innes, The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), p. 11n.; C. B. Judah, The North American Fisheries and British Policy to 1713, Illinois Studies in the Social Sciences 18, nos. 3–4 (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1933), p. 13. [BACK]

46. Biggar, Precursors of Jacques Cartier, pp. 7–10. [BACK]

47. Williamson, Voyages of the Cabots, pp. 24–32, 144, 148, 149–58; J. A. Williamson, Maritime Enterprise, 1485–1558 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), ch. 3; Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, pp. 33–53, 201–14; Morison, European Discovery of America, pp. 159, 165–66; Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, pp. 14–17; Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, pp. 50ff. [BACK]

48. Vigneras, “New Light on the 1497 Cabot Voyage,” pp. 507–8; Vigneras, “Cape Breton Landfall,” pp. 226–28; Morison, European Discovery of America, pp. 170–72, 178–79, 209; Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, pp. 44–46, 47. [BACK]

49. CSP (Milan), vol. 1, no. 552, see also no. 535. [BACK]

50. Biggar, Precursors of Jacques Cartier, pp. 13–15. [BACK]

51. The Great Chronicle of London, ed. A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley (London: George W. Jones at the Sign of the Dolphin, 1939), pp. 287–88; introduction to Williamson, Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery, pp. 93, 101–15; Morison, European Discovery of America, pp. 189–91; Polydore Vergil, The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil, ed. and trans. Denys Hay (Camden Society, 3d ser., 74, 1950), pp. 116–17; Biggar, Precursors of Jacques Cartier, pp. 27–29. [BACK]

52. Based on analysis of PRO, E 190/1129/11 and 1129/12. For a full discussion of the reasons for using this method and some remarks on trade conditions in 1575–6 and the limitations of the Port Books as a source, see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 309–14; vol. 2, Appendix 1 (pp. 723–44), and p. 846n.1. [BACK]

53. See Table 6 below. The figure of seven hundred and forty-nine cloths refers only to exports to the Continent. A bit less than twenty-eight cloths plus a small quantity of new draperies were shipped to Ireland in this year. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, p. 351. [BACK]

54. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 322–46. [BACK]

55. Ibid., pp. 314–22. [BACK]

56. Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, p. 298; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 321–22. [BACK]

57. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 322–28. [BACK]

58. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 329–45. [BACK]

59. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 356–57; vol. 2, pp. 745, 749. About 80 percent of the inward and 95 percent of the outward trade was in the hands of the Irish. [BACK]

60. Woodward, Trade of Elizabethan Chester, p. 5; Longfield, Anglo-Irish Trade, chap. 2. [BACK]

61. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 351–54. [BACK]

62. J. E. Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England from the Year after the Oxford Parliament (1259) to the Commencement of the Continental War (1793), 7 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1882–1887), vol. 4, pp. 409, 689; William Beveridge, Prices and Wages in England from the Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century (London: Frank Cass, 1939), pp. 36, 75. [BACK]

63. Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, pp. 442–43; see also Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, vol. 2, chap. 4. [BACK]

64. The discussion in this and the following section is based on analysis of PRO, E 190/1129/11, 1129/12, 1130/5, 1131/5, 1131/10, 1132/8, 1132/12, 1133/1, 1133/8, 1133/11, 1134/3, 1134/7, 1134/10, 1135/6, 1136/3, 1136/1, 1136/8, 1139/10. The results are tabulated and explained in Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chaps. 8 and 9, and in Appendix 2 (vol. 2, pp. 745–51). [BACK]

65. The following account is based on analysis of PRO, E 190/1135/6. This year is the best available in this period, in part because we have a complete set of Port Books on which to base our analysis. For discussion of trade conditions in this year, see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 372–73. [BACK]

66. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 373, 377, 380. [BACK]

67. But definite conclusions as to the scale of the increase cannot be reached, because the rates upon which the Port Books relied were twice revised upward early in James I’s reign: see T. S. Willan, ed., A Tudor Book of Rates (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1962), p. xlii. Still, the increase in wine shipments suggests considerable growth in the size of Bristol’s trade, even if the improvement in ad valorem duties is only illusory. [BACK]

68. See Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 429–54. [BACK]

69. PRO, E 190/1134/7. [BACK]

70. See, e.g., Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 185–86; Latimer, Annals, p. 34. [BACK]

71. PRO, E 190/1134/3, 1134/10, 1135/6. For evidence of Bristol’s trade elsewhere in this region, see PRO, E 190/1134/3, 1136/8, 1136/10; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 384–85. [BACK]

72. Reddaway and Ruddock, eds., Accounts of John Balsall, pp. 1–29; Antonio de Capmany Sur;aa fis y de Montpalau, Memorias Históricas sobre la marina commercio y artes de la antigua ciudad de Barcelona, 2 vols. (Madrid: A. de Sancha, 1779–1792), vol. 1, part 2, p. 137; Jean Vanes, ed., The Ledger of John Smythe, 1538–1550 (BRS 28, 1974), pp. 97, 106–7, 154, 158, 188, 217, 233, 235, 253, 262. [BACK]

73. The Bristol merchant John Browne makes no mention in his Marchants Avizo of ports beyond Gibraltar. On Gibraltar as a barrier to shipping see Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, pp. 117–20, 609–10, 622–23. [BACK]

74. See, e.g., PRO, E 190/1134/3, 1134/7. [BACK]

75. Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, pp. 587ff. [BACK]

76. Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, p. 523; Earl J. Hamilton, American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, 1501–1650 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1934), pp. 262–82; E. H. Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins, “Seven Centuries of Building Wages,” in Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, vol. 2, pp. 168–78; E. H. Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins, “Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables, Compared with Builders’ Wage-Rates,” in Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, vol. 2, pp. 179–96. [BACK]

77. See, e.g., Vanes, ed., Ledger of John Smythe, pp. 4, 13, 20, 89, 169, 287, 295. [BACK]

78. Marchants Avizo, pp. 16–17; Ruth Pike, Enterprise and Adventure: The Genoese in Seville and the Opening of the New World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966), chap. 4; Henri Lapeyre, Une Famille des Marchands: Les Ruiz (Paris: A. Colin, 1955), pp. 113, 120, 122–23, 146. [BACK]

79. Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, p. 536; Hamilton, American Treasure, pp. 33ff., 278–81; Pierre Chaunu, Séville et l’Atlantique (1504–1650), 8 vols. in 11 (Paris: SEVPEN, 1959), vol. 8, part 2, section 2, pp. 1263–64. [BACK]

80. Chaunu, Séville et l’Atlantique, vol. 8, part 2, section 2, pp. 1158–87, 1458–1569. [BACK]

81. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 394–95. [BACK]

82. Reddaway and Ruddock, Accounts of John Balsall, pp. 1–29; Roger Barlow, A Brief Summe of Geography, ed. E. G. R. Taylor (Hakluyt Society, 2d ser., 69, 1931), p. 100. [BACK]

83. Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation, Made by Sea or Over-land to the Remote and Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth at any Time within the Compasse of These 1600 Yeeres (Hakluyt Society, extra ser., 12 vols., 1903–1905), vol. 6, pp. 136, 138–39; Willan, Elizabethan Foreign Trade, pp. 92ff. [BACK]

84. See, e.g., PRO, E 190/1133/1, 1133/8; Willan, Elizabethan Foreign Trade, pp. 163–87, 279ff. [BACK]

85. See, e.g., PRO, E 190/1134/3, 1134/10; “Special Direction for Divers Trades,” in R. H. Tawney and E. Power, eds., Tudor Economic Documents, Being Select Documents Illustrating the Economic and Social History of Tudor England, 3 vols. (London: Longmans, 1924), vol. 3, p. 202; Willan, Elizabethan Foreign Trade, pp. 104, 107–14, 240–68. [BACK]

86. PRO, E 190/1129/11; Braudel, Mediterranean, vol. 1, pp. 555, 606–42, and vol. 2, 1139–42; Fernand Braudel and R. Romano, Navires et Marchandises à l’Entrée du Port de Livorne (1547–1611) (Paris: A. Colin, 1951), pp. 50–51; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 311, 342–43. [BACK]

87. Lewes Robertes, The Marchants Mappe of Commerce wherein the Universal Manner and Matter of Trade is compendiously Handled (London, 1638), pp. 40, 42. [BACK]

88. See, e.g., PRO, E 190/1135/6; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 389–92. [BACK]

89. Innis, Cod Fisheries, pp. 12–13; Biggar, Precursors of Jacques Cartier, pp. 134ff.; Williamson, Voyages of the Cabots, ch. 8; Judah, North American Fisheries, pp. 11–17; Gillian T. Cell, English Enterprise in Newfoundland, 1577–1660 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), p. 3. [BACK]

90. E. G. R. Taylor, ed., The Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts, 2 vols. (Hakluyt Society, 2d ser., 76, 1935), vol. 1, p. 123; see also Cell, English Enterprise, pp. 22–23; Innis, Cod Fisheries, pp. 30–33; R. G. Loundsbury, The British Fishery at Newfoundland, 1634–1763 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), pp. 22–23; D. W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial and Foreign Records (London: Macmillan, 1895), pp. 31–50; Judah, North American Fisheries, pp. 17–23. [BACK]

91. Taylor, ed., Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts, vol. 1, pp. 123, 128; Cell, English Enterprise, pp. 23–25, 78, 132, 135; Innis, Cod Fisheries, pp. 33ff.; Judah, North American Fisheries, pp. 24ff.; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, p. 403. [BACK]

92. Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, vol. 8, p. 155; Pauline Croft, “Free Trade and the House of Commons, 1605–6,” EcHR, 2d ser., 28 (1975): 21. [BACK]

93. See PRO, E 190/1131/3; Cell, English Enterprise, pp. 24, 31–33, 47–52, 134; Innis, Cod Fisheries, pp. 39, 50, 52; Judah, North American Fisheries, pp. 31–39; Prowse, History of Newfoundland, pp. 79–84; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 404–6. [BACK]

94. Taylor, ed., Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts, vol. 1, pp. 123–34. [BACK]

95. Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrims Contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Lande Travells by Englishmen and Others, 20 vols. (Glasgow: J. MacLehose and Sons, 1905–1907), vol. 19, pp. 405–24; C. T. Carr, ed., Select Charters of Trading Companies, A.D. 1530–1707 (Selden Society 28, 1913), pp. 51–62; J. W. Damer Powell, “The Explorations of John Guy in Newfoundland,” Geographical Journal 86 (1930): 512–18; Cell, English Enterprise, pp. 53–61; Gillian T. Cell, “The Newfoundland Company: A Study of Subscribers to a Colonizing Venture,” WMQ, 3d ser., 23 (1966): 611–25; Innis, Cod Fisheries, pp. 53–56. [BACK]

96. SMV, Book of Charters, vol. 1, p. 57; McGrath, ed., Records, p. 200; Cell, English Enterprise, pp. 87–88. [BACK]

97. SMV, Book of Trade, pp. 104–11, 123, 141–45; Miller Christy, “Attempts toward Colonization: The Council for New England and the Merchant Venturers of Bristol, 1621–23,” AHR 4 (1898–99): 678–702; Henry S. Burrage, The Beginnings of Colonial Maine, 1602–1658 (Portland, Maine: Printed for the State, 1914), pp. 142–43, 144–59; R. A. Preston, “Fishing and Plantation: New England in the Parliament of 1621,” AHR 46 (1939–40): 29–43; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, p. 408. [BACK]

98. Burrage, Beginnings of Colonial Maine, pp. 26, 142–43, 143n., 180n., 217–19. [BACK]

99. Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, vol. 9, pp. 338ff., and vol. 10, p. 6; Connell-Smith, “English Merchants Trading to the New World,” pp. 57–60. [BACK]

100. Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, vol. 10, pp. 82–88, 193; I. A. Wright, ed., Documents Concerning English Voyages to the Spanish Main, 1569–1580 (Hakluyt Society, 2d ser., 71, 1932), pp. 102–8, 187–88, 192–93, 196–99, 204, 208–10; PRO, E 190/1134/3; Sacks, Trade, Society, and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 412–13. [BACK]

101. Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, pp. 139, 143–47; G. P. Winship, Cabot Bibliography, with an Introductory Essay on the Careers of the Cabots (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1900), pp. xvii–xviii; Biggar, Precursors of Jacques Cartier, pp. 134–42; PRO, SP 12/115/35, 122/62; George Best, The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher in Search of a Passage to Cathay and India by the North-west, A.D. 1576–8, 2 vols., ed. Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Eloise E. McCaskill (London: Argonaut Press, 1938), vol. 2, pp. 109–10, 123–26; David B. Quinn, ed., The Voyages and Colonizing Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 2 vols. (Hakluyt Society, 2d ser., 83–84, 1940), vol. 2, pp. 347, 350–51; Miller Christy, ed., The Voyages of Captain Luke Foxe of Hull and Captain Thomas James of Bristol in 1631–32, 2 vols. (Hakluyt Society, 88–89, 1894), vol. 1, pp. cxxxiv–clxviii, 455, 456, 594. [BACK]

102. T. S. Willan, The Moscovy Merchants of 1555 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1953), p. 118; T. S. Willan, The Early History of the Russia Company, 1553–1603 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956); Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 735–37; MacInnes, Gateway of Empire, pp. 74–86; McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 51n.; Alfred Lewis Pinneo Dennis, “Captain Martin Pring: Last of the Elizabethan Seamen,” in Tercentennary of Martin Pring’s First Voyage to the Coast of Maine, 1603–1903 (Portland, Maine: Maine Historical Society, 1905), pp. 24ff. [BACK]

103. See W. E. Minchinton, “Bristol—Metropolis of the West in the Eighteenth Century,” TRHS, 5th ser., 4 (1954): 69–85. [BACK]

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