Merchants: The Community That Shaped England’s Trade and Empire, 1550-1650

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A new history of English trade and empire—revealing how a tightly woven community of merchants was the true origin of globalized Britain

In the century following Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne, English trade blossomed as thousands of merchants launched ventures across the globe. Through the efforts of these "mere merchants," England developed from a peripheral power on the fringes of Europe to a country at the centre of a global commercial web, with interests stretching from Virginia to Ahmadabad and Arkhangelsk to Benin.

Edmond Smith traces the lives of English merchants from their earliest steps into business to the heights of their successes. Smith unpicks their behaviour, relationships, and experiences, from exporting wool to Russia, importing exotic luxuries from India, and building plantations in America. He reveals that the origins of "global" Britain are found in the stories of these men whose livelihoods depended on their skills, entrepreneurship, and ability to work together to compete in cutthroat international markets. As a community, their efforts would come to revolutionize Britain’s relationship with the world.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherYale University Press
Number of pages336
ISBN (Print)9780300257953
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2021


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  • Ralph Gomory Prize

    Smith, Edmond (Recipient), 2023

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

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