chapter  25
11 Pages

Shaping London Merchant Identities

Emotions, Reputation and Power in the Court of Chancery
WithMerridee L. Bailey

This chapter investigates occasions in the court of Chancery in which emotional strategies were used by members of London's mercantile community to scrutinize, dispute and draw attention to one matter: reputation. It argues that the court of Chancery assisted some merchants, including young male apprentices, to navigate and present valuable information about their position within society. London's early modern merchant community had enormous social complexity. It comprised men and women, young people and adults, English-born 'foreigners' and 'strangers' from other countries, small-scale traders and the wealthiest merchants. It can be tempting to see the traces of emotion in the historical record as offering insight into the core of someone's authentic self, but the construction of legal records belies that interpretation. In the medieval and early modern economy, a good reputation was a mechanism for gauging a trader's reliability, character and credit. John Webbe explains his own motivations and how he has himself suffered from Colman's malice.