chapter  III
4 Pages

III.7 Economic records

ByMERRIDEE L . BAILEY

Placing economic practices into the wider world of social-political ideas also requires scholars to consider sources beyond the economic domain such as literature, plays and sermons. English literary sources offer insights into English merchant affairs. The Merchant of Venice (1596-8) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) deals explicitly with usurious transactions, but other works such as Troilus and Cressida (1602) have also been noted for their preoccupation with value and trade. Shakespeare’s contemporaries, such as the playwright Thomas Dekker (c. 1572-1632), explored the value of honest labour, stratification in the mercantile community and mercantile aspirations in creative ways, while the genre of the London city comedy frequently included merchant characters and mercantile preoccupations. Similar Continental literary commentary on economic behaviour exists, such as the Dutch The Great Mirror of Folly (1720), which appeared after the world’s first global stock market collapse and satirized emotions such as greed and competition.