London’s Merchant Class of the Second Half of the 14th — 16th Centuries: Evolution of Its Social Image
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London’s Merchant Class of the Second Half of the 14th — 16th Centuries: Evolution of Its Social Image
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Social life of several London merchants of the second half of the 14th — 16th centuries is considered in the article. Adam Fraunceys, John Pyel and brothers Gregory, John and Henry Isham were merchants who sold luxury. Using the material from various sources the author studies their origin, the ways of consolidating their positions in urban society, scales and forms of their involvement in town activities, interest in land purchasing, and social aspirations. She also traces the evolution of the merchants’ social image during 250 years and shows its stable features. It is pointed out that town careers of future merchants, younger children of country gentry, began with apprenticeship in Mercers’ company and primarily were based on family solidarity. Besides, integration of rural inhabitants into merchant society of the capital followed a certain marriage strategy: the heroes of this article married London merchants’ daughters and widows. Matrimonial policy provided not only material security (a big dowry), but also contacts in the London world of business. On the whole it was characteristic of the 14th — 16th century mercers to be engaged in various commercial activities: trade, crediting, crown backing, and investing in property in towns and counts. At the same time the Isham brothers demonstrated a different, in comparison with the previous period, level and organizational forms of their activity setting up a family company within the Merchant Adventurers Company and being closely connected with qualitative changes that took place in production structure and trade in England of the second half of the 16th century. The author also shows that London merchants of the 14th — 16th centuries fully fitted a widely spread behavior pattern. Younger children of country gentry moved to town and very often succeeded in business taking up trade, financial transactions, and entrepreneurship and then came back home having a new status. They joined a wide layer of provincial gentry and participated in forming the local elite.
london merchants, XIV—XVI centuries, social origin, social adaptation, city society, Mercers, The Merchant Adventurers, family business, social ambitions, gentry
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