Trade and Exchange in Early England - Essay Example

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According to Philip Curtin, trade and exchange represent "the most important external stimuli to change". The country of England, surrounded on three sides by water, can credit its major role in history to this location, and its subsequent reputation as being a global hub for commerce…
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Trade and Exchange in Early England
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Download file to see previous pages By reviewing the history of trade and exchange in England, Curtin's assertion will be proven true.
The River Thames is where England's first foray into trade and exchange began. With its estuary opening out to the North Sea and beyond that the Baltic and the River Rhine leading to continental Europe (Clout, 22), the structural basin rimming its shores provided an ideal location to establish England's biggest city, London. Beginning circa AD 50, Londinium was established by the Romans and populated with citizens who used the River Thames to not only do their laundry and provide their drinking water, but as a thoroughfare which encouraged trade with other countries through its junction of road, river and sea-going traffic (Clout, 22) and even its own mint to create coins. The Roman, Tacitus, in the second century, described Londinium "as a place teeming with businessmen and a famous centre of commerce" (Clout, 25). By the late fifth century, the Romans had abandoned the city but it was their early efforts of building roads, bridges, and houses of commerce, while establishing a busy importing business, which first gave London its reputation as a thriving port. Under Anglo-Saxon rule, London and the country of England continued to be developed specifically for ease of trade with other regions of the empire. Lundenwic was another major city of the period specifically established by the East Saxons as a trading town and river port (Clout, 40).
In the Middle Ages, London continued to grow and prosper while the royal and government offices migrated from other areas in the country to reside in the city proper. The majority of overseas trade was channeled into the Port of London, although the east and south ports remained busy as well. Wool and cloth became the two main exports, while Cornish tin, hides, sheepskins, and foodstuffs were also sent to foreign merchants, although it was London's reputation as a major marketplace for imported goods, in particular wine, which had a greater impact on the Medieval economy. Fleming and Italian merchants use their considerable financial backing to organize this trade (Clout, 52). High demand for imported raw materials and manufactured goods was a boon to merchants and bespoke the higher standard of living many Englanders had come to expect in the fifteenth century.
Icy conditions in the winter, however, precluded far-reaching travel during those months while spring and summer were the busiest periods for cargo ships. Ships of this time period were built with vast holds to carry the maximum of goods (Marshall, 12) for exchange. England lagged behind other countries in exploring across the Atlantic Ocean, however. Consequently the country's major exchanges were made only between European ports of call (Marshall, 33) until viable trade routes were discovered by Portugal, Spain, and France.
During the Tudor and Stuart periods, much of London was rebuilt and its major waterways redirected; the River Walbrook was filled in and the ditch surrounding the city, created by the Romans centuries earlier to stem invasion attacks, also covered over (Clout, 58). London's ports became official quays, confirming the city as the major hub of commerce in England.
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