Bristol and the Birth of the Atlantic Economy, 1500-1700

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


This book offers the first long-duration study of an early modern English port based on the Port Books. These fantastically detailed customs records have long been thought impenetrable. However, this study uses the latest computer technology to analyse the records and to bring the world of the early modern port city of Bristol to life. The commercial history of Bristol, second only to London in overseas enterprise at this time, is thus completely re-written for the period 1500-1700. Rather than experiencing a ‘dark epoch’ as previously thought, Bristol is shown to have been prospering throughout the late-Tudor and early-Stuart years, thanks to a booming trade with Spain, fuelled by the influx of New World bullion, and an increasingly dynamic market in nearby Ireland. Furthermore, Bristol’s trade with North America and the Caribbean is shown to have developed much faster, and much earlier than previously assumed. Pre-dating the city’s entry into the slave trade by as much as 50 years, colonial commerce grew from nothing to three quarters of Bristol’s imports between the 1630s and 1650s, seeing Bristol’s imports more than triple in value. These findings show the value of conducting long-term detailed analysis of overseas trade, and suggest that the Atlantic Economy should figure much more prominently in assessments of sixteenth and seventeenth century English commerce.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019


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