Page images

do understand and learn, is the lack of cloth-making in the city as was in old time accustomed, which is now increased and used in the towns of Halifax, Leeds and Wakefield: for that not only the commodity of the water-mills is there nigh [at] hand, but also the poor folk as spinners, carders and other necessary workfolk for the weaving, may there beside their hand-labour have rye, fire[wood] and other relief good cheap, which is in this city very dear and wanting". But it was not only the presence of water-mills and the cheapness of provisions which attracted artisans into the rural districts; even more important was the absence or at any rate the difficulty of supervision. In the villages the weaving industry was left to a large extent unregulated, a circumstance which contributed to the disadvantages to which the older towns were exposed. In Yorkshire, for example, the country weavers made cloth "with woof of flocks", a practice afterwards prohibited by parliament 2. The oppressive ordinances of craft gilds concerning the fees of apprentices and admission to mastership must have operated in the same direction. Under Henry VIII., however, an attempt was made to redress the balance by an act (1543), which gave to York a monopoly of the manufacture of coverlets and conferred upon its gild of coverlet-makers power of search throughout the county3.

The struggle between the established seats of industry Industrial and villages which were growing into towns, constitutes one policy of of the main economic features of the sixteenth century. The former sought by the pressure of legislative action to check the spread of industry, and to repress the activities of the new industrial centres that sprang up around them. In 1534 an act was passed on behalf of Worcestershire, of which the capital town together with four other towns in the county found their prosperity menaced by the growing competition of the country districts. It ordered that no cloth should be made in the county except in the above five towns. The act would seem to have been effective, for

1 York Mun. Rec. xxiii. fol. 20 a; cit. Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, iii. 450. The commonalty of the city, on the other hand, attributed its decay to the lavish hospitality of the civic fathers: English Hist. Review, ix. 296. 2 Statutes, ii. 404. 3 Ibid. iii. 908. 4 Ibid. iii. 459.


Leland-whose Itinerary belongs to the years 1535-1543 -wrote that "the wealth of Worcester standeth most by draping, and no town of England at the present time maketh so many cloths yearly as this town doth "1. In Mary's reign a renewed effort was made to revive the prosperity of the corporate and market towns. In 1554 the government repealed in their favour the clause of an act passed under Edward VI. (1552), by which no one might weave broad woollen cloth in any place without serving an apprenticeship of seven years 2. This repeal was followed by the Weavers' Act in 1555, which extended to most parts of the kingdom the principle embodied in the acts relating to Worcester and York. Henceforth "no person whatsoever, which heretofore hath not used or exercised the feat, mistery or art of cloth-making, shall . . . make or weave . . any kind of broad white woollen cloths but only in a city, borough, town corporate or market town, or else in such place or places where such cloths have been used to be commonly made by the space of ten years This legislation throws a remarkable light upon the efforts of the Tudor government to control the economic life of the country, and determine the direction of its industrial development. At the end of Mary's reign another act was passed, the preamble of which illustrates the nature of the exodus which was taking place from the towns to the villages. "Divers ancient cities . . . hath been in times past well and substantially inhabited", but "divers years past such persons as do use the feat or mistery of cloth-making . . . do daily plant themselves in villages and towns, being no cities, boroughs and towns corporate", and “draw with them out of cities . . . all sorts of artificers" to the decay of the older towns; and moreover "the weavers and workmen of clothiers when they have been traded up in the trade of cloth-making and weaving three or four years do forsake their masters, and do become clothiers and occupiers for themselves without stock, skill or knowledge". The

1 Itinerary, ii. 91.

2 Statutes, iv. part i. 142. Repealed for corporate and market towns: ibid. iv. part i. 232. 3 Ibid. iv. part i. 287.

Ibid. iv. part i. 325.

preamble is again followed by a prohibition against the manufacture of cloth, except in market or corporate towns 1. Here, as in its efforts to check the agrarian revolution, the Tudor monarchy sought to divert the tide of economic change, which was transforming mediaeval conditions and for good or evil ushering in the modern world.

1 How important the cloth trade had become by the reign of Elizabeth is shown by one of the minutes of the privy council, that arrangements for the employment of agricultural labourers were to be made "without annoyance to the good towns . . . and cloth-making" Acts of the Privy Council, 1586-1587, p. 8. Formerly the interests of industry had been subordinated to those of tillage.





IN the latter part of the tenth century merchants from
beyond the sea were already frequenting English shores
in considerable numbers, and had gained a recognized
status in the pursuit of their trade. A document of
Ethelred II. sets forth the tolls charged at Billingsgate,
and enumerates the different bodies of foreign traders
who had obtained a foothold in this country.
men of Rouen, who came with wine or dried fish, gave
a due of six shillings for a great ship and one measure
in twenty of the fish itself. Merchants of Flanders and of
Ponthieu (in Picardy) and of Normandy and of France had
to show their goods and pay full toll. Men of the Hague
and Liége and Nivelles, if they passed through the land,
did scavage and gave tolls. And the Men of the Emperor,
if they came in their own ships, were held worthy of all good
laws equally with ourselves; and besides wool and tallow
in broken bulk, it was lawful for them to buy on board their
own ships three live pigs. And it was not lawful for the
portreeves to put upon them any trading fine; and [they had
to] pay their own toll, and also at Christmas two white loaves,
and one brown, and ten pounds of pepper, and gloves for five
men, and two horse-tanks full of vinegar, and the like at
Easter"1. The existence of some foreign commerce between
England and the continent is shown in the famous letter of
the Emperor Charlemagne to Offa, King of Mercia (796), in
which he promises protection to English merchants: "Con-
cerning the pilgrims who for the love of God and the salvation
1 Liebermann, Gesetze, i. 232 (c. 991-c. 1002). For the Men of the
Emperor, see infra, p. 464.

of their souls desire to visit the precincts of the Apostles, we have granted as of old that they may journey in peace, free from all disturbance, taking with them what they need. But we have discovered in their midst traders who pass themselves off as pilgrims, pursuing gain and not serving religion; if these are found among them, they must pay the fixed tolls in the regular places. You have also written to us about your merchants 1. We would have them enjoy our protection and defence within our realm as we have ordained, according to the ancient custom in commerce, and if in any place they are distressed by unjust oppression let them appeal to us or our judges, and we will order justice to be done to them. Show like favour to our merchants, and if they suffer wrong within your realm let them appeal to your justice, so that disturbance may nowhere arise between us" 2. This letter constitutes our oldest commercial treaty 3, and was intended to place the trading relations between the Empire and England on a sound and friendly footing.


It was not, however, until the coming of the Northmen Enterprise that English foreign trade began to develop. The Scan- of the Scandinavian races at this period were displaying remarkable races. enterprise and activity. The Viking age began in 789, when the Scandinavians discovered the use of sails. Their daring and adventurous spirit is shown by the wide area over which they spread themselves. The Norsemen settled in Scotland. and on the Irish coast, where they introduced the first native coinage; the Danes in Normandy and England; while the Swedes built up the kingdom of Great Sweden, which stretched from Novgorod as far south as the Dnieper. Iceland and Greenland were discovered and settled, the latter by Eric the Red, whose son, Leif, also discovered America, which he named Vinland 5. In England the Northmen occupied

1 The first Saxon traders who fared over the seas are depicted in an Old English Dialogue, the Colloquy of Abbot Ælfric: S. H. Gem, An Anglo-Saxon Abbot, Elfric of Eynsham (1912), 189.

2 The Latin text is printed in Bibliotheca Rerum Germanicarum (ed. P. Jaffé), vi. 286. 3 Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, i. 248.

4 C. F. Keary, Norway and the Norwegians (1892), 74.

5 The sagas dealing with the voyages of the Northmen to Vinland are printed in The Voyages of the Northmen, ed. J. E. Olson (1906).

« PreviousContinue »