Illicit business: accounting for smuggling in mid-sixteenth-century Bristol

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Comparison between customs accounts and private mercantile records reveals that, while Bristol merchants declared most of their trade, they failed to declare a large part of their export cargoes of grain and leather. This was due to the high cost of acquiring licences to export such ‘prohibited’ goods. Further analysis of merchants’ accounts reveals that the smuggling of these products was a carefully organized, widespread and highly profitable business, which constituted a major component of Bristol’s international trade during the period. It seems likely that this was also true of many other early modern English ports
Translated title of the contributionIllicit business: accounting for smuggling in mid-sixteenth century Bristol
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17 - 38
Number of pages22
JournalEconomic History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Blackwell
Rose publication type: Journal article

Terms of use: This is an electronic version of an article published in The Economic History Review, LIV, 1 (2001), pp. 17-38. Copyright, 2001, The Economic History Society


  • smuggling
  • illicit trade
  • Bristol
  • sixteenth century

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