chapter  14
34 Pages

‘The present understanding of the feat of the merchant adventurer’: Overseas Trade, 1520s–80s

The period from 1520 to the crisis year 1550 was arguably the high point of the mercers’ fortunes, if their share of the adventurers’ cloth exports be taken as the main criterion. The wealth of the merchants of London impressed Giovanni Michiel, past ambassador to Queen Mary, in 1557; his account has no value in terms of accurate figures, but as an ‘impression’ it bears repetition. In his report to the Venetian Senate, he admired London, its wealth, handsome buildings and autonomous government, and then he remarked that the two trading companies of Adventurers and Staplers contained ‘many individuals possessed of from fifty to sixty thousand pounds sterling, all or the greater part in ready money, which according to the present course of exchange, makes more than 200,000 gold ducats’.1