Merchants: The Community That Shaped England's Trade and Empire, 1550-1650 (Hardcover)

Merchants: The Community That Shaped England's Trade and Empire, 1550-1650 By Edmond Smith Cover Image
This title is not currently in stock and is likely unavailable for us to order. For more info, click on Ask A Bookseller.


“A superb book.”—Jerry Brotton
“Wonderfully wide-ranging and deeply-researched.”—William Dalrymple
“Sharply observed, innovatively analysed, and always accessible.”—Nandini Das

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 center 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 behavior, 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.

About the Author

Edmond Smith is a Presidential Fellow in Economic Cultures at the University of Manchester. Formerly a capital markets research manager, Smith now specializes in the histories of capitalism and globalization, having completed his PhD at Cambridge in 2016.

Praise For…

“Wonderfully wide-ranging and deeply-researched.”—William Dalrymple, Financial Times

“An assured study of the merchants who changed England’s relationship with the world in the century after 1550. . . . Edmond Smith’s analysis of merchant activity has clear relevance for contemporary debate about Britain’s role in the world, and how to understand global economic change.”—Times Literary Supplement

“A very welcome book. . . . The argument that merchants’ cooperation, skills, and adaptable corporate structures were essential to England’s global trade and nascent empire is both compelling and important.”—Eleanor Hubbard, Journal of Modern History

“Meticulously researched. . . .A richly detailed portrayal of the inner workings of the great chartered companies.”—Thomas M. Truxes, H-Net

“At last an account of early modern merchant communities that balances the cold, hard reality of profit and investment with the intangible capital of trust, sociability and human connection that drove English trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Sharply observed, innovatively analysed, and always accessible, this is a book that demands the attention of anyone who is interested in the traffic between English trade and imperialism in this early, foundational period.”—Nandini Das, University of Oxford

“A terrific achievement. Written with pace and panache, Merchants shows how in the space of 100 years England’s merchants went from a group of largely irrelevant traders on the fringes of Europe to international empire builders. Managing to combine intricate detail of mercantile innovations within a broad sweep of English commercial relations from the Americas to Japan, Smith is brilliant at recording the credits and debits of this most decisive period in English commercial history. A superb book.”—Jerry Brotton, author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps

“‘Mere merchants’ as individuals, but as a class they shaped modern English history. This is a rich and deeply fascinating account which addresses fundamental questions about England’s rise to commercial power.”—James Evans, author of Merchant Adventurers

Merchants is an important new study of the men who, for better or worse, laid the foundations of England’s first commercial empire. Drawing on impeccable research, Smith shows how it was corporate institutions and collaborative practices that turned England from European backwater into global power.”—Phil Withington, author of Society in Early Modern England

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300257953
ISBN-10: 0300257953
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: October 26th, 2021
Pages: 376
Language: English