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statute 1 which promised lavish favours to alien settlers, and must be regarded therefore, not as the product of political exigencies, but as part of a comprehensive design to establish the English cloth trade on a firm footing. They were not, however, permanently enforced; Edward's financial straits cut athwart the adoption of a consistent policy, and the very next year he granted a licence to the merchants of Louvain to export wool and import cloth. In 1347 the export of wool was freely allowed 3, but at the close of the reign the Good Parliament (1376) again renewed the demand that woollen yarn should be employed in cloth-making at home and not sent abroad, while in 1377 it was also ordered that no woollen cloth should be transported before it had been fulled 5. Thus under Edward III. we have all the elements of a protectionist policy which was fitfully maintained throughout the Middle Ages.
Richard II. allowed the export of wool except to France, and his and it was amongst the charges brought against the Lancastrian government by Yorkist partisans that wool had "course and passage out of the realm, wherefore all strangers take but little reward to buy our English cloth but make it themselves". A fifteenth-century writer, George Ashby, urged upon the ill-fated Prince Edward the advice that: "If ye will bring up again cloth-making,
And keep your Commons out of idleness,
And put the poor people in business "8.
1 Statutes, i. 280.
2 Rymer, ii. part ii. 1057. The Flemings were granted a similar licence in 1340 Letter Book F, 50.
4 Ibid. ii. 353 a.
• Statutes, ii. 24.
3 Rot. Parl. ii. 168 a and 201 b.
7 C. L. Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (1913), App. xi.; A Yorkist Collection, Commercial Grievances ", p. 363. For the complaint of the wool merchants, see infra, p. 469.
8 George Ashby's Poems, ed. M. Bateson (1899), 26.
that sufficient plenty of the said wools may continually abide and remain within the realm as may competently and reasonably serve for the occupation of cloth-makers of England, and of all the members and branches of the same", therefore aliens were not to export wool to foreign countries1. The following year (1464) the importation of foreign cloth was also forbidden 2, and in 1467 the series of enactments was completed by a prohibition-afterwards confirmed by Henry VII. and his successors-against the export of raw, unfulled cloth in order that the king's customs might be increased and weavers and fullers of the realm well occupied3. In these various ways, by prohibiting the import of manufactured goods and the export of raw material, the government fostered the growth of the English clothing industry. Its measures, while often merely tentative and sometimes dictated by sheer political considerations, mark nevertheless the definite adoption of an industrial protective policy, which gradually crystallized in the famous mercantile system. This policy of state protection was in essence an extension of the spirit which had led the burghers of each mediaeval town to set up commercial barriers against every other town. The instinct to protection from being civic had become national.
Edward III. had made a strenuous attempt to transform of the cloth England from a land of agricultural labourers into a land of industrial artisans, and his efforts to develop a native cloth manufacture were rewarded with surprising success. One proof of its progress during his reign is that woollen cloth was being exported in sufficient quantity to make it worth while, in 13474, to impose custom duties upon it. The Commons petitioned that "the new custom lately set might be taken away 5. But the reply was unfavourable. "The king, prelates, earls and great men will that this custom should stand; for it is good reason that such a 2 Ibid. ii. 406.
1 Statutes, ii. 392. 3 Ibid. ii. 422. Confirmed 1487 (ibid. ii. 520); and 1512 (ibid. iii. 29). Patent Rolls, 1345-1348, p. 424. The customs imposed on woollen cloths exported from England were (1) 14d. from denizens and 21d. from aliens on every cloth of assize; (2) 1d. and 1d. on worsted cloth. Calais was made the staple for exported cloth in 1348: Rymer, iii. part i. 158. 5 Rot. Parl. ii. 168 b.
profit be taken of cloth wrought within this realm and carried forth out of the land, as a profit is taken of wools that are carried forth". The king could also have added that English cloth had paid export duty in earlier reigns 1. None the less the exporters of cloth had an enormous advantage, for while wool was ultimately burdened with a toll of 33 per cent., cloth paid less than two 2. The evidence of statistics serves to show how abundantly this progress was maintained during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In Edward III.'s reign about thirty thousand sacks of wool would appear to have been sent abroad year by year, but a century and a half later this number so far from increasing had fallen to a quarter, and some years later to a sixth. Nor was this extraordinary shrinkage due to any curtailment of the area devoted to the growth of wool. On the contrary, it was contemporaneous with the great agrarian movement which was covering England with sheep-farms in place of corn-fields. But wool was now being supplied to the home market; it went to meet the demands of the native clothing industry, the growth of which is one of the most striking economic phenomena of the later Middle Ages. The figures which illustrate the expansion of the cloth trade are in remarkable contrast with those of the wool trade. In 1355, according to an old account preserved by Misselden 4, between five and six thousand cloths were exported. At the end of the fifteenth century, the Merchant Adventurers alone were exporting annually some 60,000 cloths; in 1509 the number had risen to 84,789, and in 1547 to 122,3545. These figures afford eloquent testimony to the progress of a revolution which was converting England into an industrial country, whose staple export was no longer raw material but manufactured commodities 6.
1 Supra, p. 396.
3 Ibid. ii. 15.
* Schanz, Englische Handelspolitik, ii. 6.
4 Circle of Commerce, 119. The date is given as 28 Edw. III.; and the figures are as follows: (a) Exports: 31,651 sacks of wool, value £6 per sack; 4774 cloths, value 40s. each; 8061 worsted cloths, value 16s. 8d. each. (b) Imports: 1832 cloths, value £6 each. Schanz, op. cit. ii. 18.
• A financial statement drawn up in 1547, though based on different figures, arrives at a similar conclusion. See the extract from A Remem
Prosperity of the
The advent of a manufacturing class was fraught with untold economic significance. It is reflected especially in the new sense of power and growing wealth of the towns. In 1414 the inhabitants of Rye mustered only a few shillings between them, while before the century had closed the town could boast of no less than five burgesses worth four hundred pounds each. A view of arms was held at Bridport in 1319 and again in 1457, and the contrast between the two periods enables us to measure the marked advance which the town had made in prosperity 2. Of the growing wealth of the country there is striking testimony in the words of a Venetian, who wrote at the end of the fifteenth century. "In one single street named the Strand leading to St. Paul's", he tells us, "there are fifty-two goldsmiths' shops so rich and full of silver vessels, great and small, that in all the shops in Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence put together, I do not think there would be found so many of the magnificence that are to be seen in London "3. Everywhere a class of rich burgesses came into existence, whose houses and plate and tapestry all bore witness to their material progress. In the graduated poll-tax of 1379 the mayor of London was assessed on a level with an earl (four pounds); the aldermen of London and the mayors of large towns like barons (two pounds), great merchants at a pound, and smaller merchants at a mark or less. Their prosperity was evinced also in a display of public spirit such as marked the best days of the Roman Empire, in the foundation of hospitals and schools, the repair of roads and bridges, and many other spheres of public utility. A clothier was the founder of Manchester Grammar School5, while a burgess of Gloucester brance to my Lord Protector's Grace (1547) printed in the Appendix to H. Atton and H. H. Holland, The King's Customs (1908), i. 456. According to the figures here given, the exports in 28 Edw. III. were 34,760 sacks of wool (on which the custom and subsidy amounted to £69,558) and 2483 cloths (on which the custom was £144). In 38 Hen. VIII. denizens exported 1136 sacks (custom, etc., producing £2272), and foreigners exported 419 sacks (producing £1625:3:4); further, 172,017 cloths (producing £10,056:13:2) were exported. 1 Green, Town Life, i. 17.
2 Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. 491, 493. In 1319 the possessions of the richest inhabitant amounted only to £4: 8s. ibid. 491. 3 Italian Relation of England, 42. 4 Rot. Parl. iii. 57 b.
5 Green, Town Life, ii. 17.
in 1451 bequeathed a sum of five hundred pounds to be
as early as 13188, but Edward III. and his successors
Throughout the greater part of the Middle Ages, industry The and commerce were left on the whole in the hands of local aulnage.
4 Letter Book K, 356.
1 Gloucester Corporation Records, 398. 2 Ricart's Kalendar, 53 (1534). 3 Letter Book K, 49, 53. For Whittington's will, see Sharpe, Calendar of Wills, ii. 432. 5 Ibid. 313. • Examples of churches built, or added to, by clothiers are Steeple Ashton (Leland's Itinerary, v. 83), Newbury, Lavenham (infra, pp. 419, 421). 7 Green, Town Life, i. 13. Mrs. Green has painted the history of fifteenth-century towns in glowing colours, but there is also another side to the picture to be taken into account. Many towns appear to have declined in prosperity, judging for example by (a) remissions of the firma burgi (supra, p. 192), and (b) remissions of the tenths (infra, p. 520). 8 Patent Rolls, 1317-1321, p. 110.
• Edward III. borrowed" quinquaginta libras " in 1351 from Hereford : Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. iv. p. 298. In 1376 several towns petitioned for the repayment of their loans to the Crown: Rot. Parl. ii. 347 a. For the list of towns subscribing to loans in 1378, 1386 and 1394, see Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, i. 588, 598, 608. For loans from Bristol, see Pryce, Canynges' Family, 62, 85. For loans from Coventry, see Leet Book, iv. p. xlvii. Also see Abram, Social England, 66-67.