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Emporium of the World: The Merchants of London 1660-1800

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Emporium of the World: The Merchants of London 1660-1800


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This book examines one of the most dynamic groups in early modern Britain, the overseas merchants of the City of London. Historians have increasingly recognized their key contribution to the nation’s emergence as an imperial power and commercial society, but we still lack a clear picture of their activities within their natural City habitat. Rising from the ruins of the Great Fire, the ‘Square Mile’ was the scene of changes of profound significance for society as a whole, and contemporaries recognized the unique qualities of this potent environment. It will be re-created here by studying merchants at home, in the workplace, and through all other arenas of activity and association. These experiences are then linked to their contribution to broader social and political developments, in order to illuminate their response to the challenges and opportunities of the age. The working City has suffered relative neglect compared to the fashionable West End. This book demonstrates that this equally cosmopolitan and competitive arena had just as important an impact on the nation at large. By 1800, London could claim pre-eminence as an international centre of commerce and finance, and its merchants were vital to that achievement. The nineteenth century would see these great traders depart to the suburbs, and the port itself move to the east, but the character of the modern City still owes much to these eighteenth-century commercial leaders.

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