Values and Social Ambitions of London’s Merchants of the 15th — 16th Centuries
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Values and Social Ambitions of London’s Merchants of the 15th — 16th Centuries
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The article studies the social and value orientations of the London merchants in the 15th — 16th centuries, when the English society was on its difficult way of transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period. Using, first of all, the sources of personal origin (The Cely Letters, “The Life of John Isham”) the author indicates new features of the merchants’ self-conscience and social aspirations. Professionalism, wealth and respect in society are mentioned as the dominant parameters that determined the life of the London merchants. The fact that they intended to become famous and started to take care of their reputation is a vivid proof of a person’s self-conscience awakening, never noticed before. Now a merchant’s ideal is a “self-made” person, who came up in the world due to his diligence, prudence, business vitality, the ability to act in difficult situations and the art of learning on the experience of others. The author comes to the conclusion that the scale of the value priorities of the merchants met the demands of the spirit of renewal. It was clearly expressed in the humanist principles, supplemented by the Calvinist ethics, which meant the advocacy of active way of life (though within a strictly set frame), the justification of worldliness, purely secular ambitions and occupations. The article also shows that the richest merchants, being aware of their public significance, aspired to the level of the nobility, adhering to it in everyday life. The merchant community was distinguished for its sufficient mobility, due to which the sons’ way of life could differ considerably from the fathers’ occupations. A previous yeoman farmer or his descendants, having raised their position in town during several centuries (or even decades) could return to the rural scene, now as the representatives of the nobility.
Transitional Epoch, London of the XV—XVI centuries, merchants, trade, humanistic principles, the Protestant ethic, ennoblement
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