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The Forgotten Majority

The Forgotten Majority: German Merchants in London, Naturalization, and Global Trade 1660-1815

Margrit Schulte Beerbühl
Translated by Cynthia Klohr
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    The Forgotten Majority
    Book Description:

    The "forgotten majority" of German merchants in London between the end of the Hanseatic League and the end of the Napoleonic Wars became the largest mercantile Christian immigrant group in the eighteenth century. Using previously neglected and little used evidence, this book assesses the causes of their migration, the establishment of their businesses in the capital, and the global reach of the enterprises. As the acquisition of British nationality was the admission ticket to Britain's commercial empire, it investigates the commercial function of British naturalization policy in the early modern period, while also considering the risks of failure and chance for a new beginning in a foreign environment. As more German merchants integrated into British commercial society, they contributed to London becoming the leading place of exchange between the European continent, Russia, and the New World.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-448-9
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Margrit Schulte Beerbühl
  5. Note on the Text
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Between 1688 and 1815, England became a major world power in trade and industry. To this day, historians from highly diverse backgrounds are still asking how it was done. All agree that no monocausal explanation will suffice and that various coinciding economic, political, military, and fiscal factors contributed to the process.

    Recent Anglo-Saxon research into early imperialism and economic history has yielded new approaches and perspectives for investigating historical phenomena. These point to a need to study the conditions and factors involved in bringing Great Britain’s distant possessions together to form a consolidated empire. Whereas previous research into imperialism focused...

  7. Chapter 1 Naturalizing Newcomers for Prosperity, 1660–1818
    (pp. 13-27)

    The 1660 Restoration of the English monarchy marked a turning point in Britain’s political and economic history,¹ ushering in an age of commercial revolution and a new economic ethos.² Especially after 1688, public debate shifted from the religious disputes that had crippled the country to novel theories about the economy. Navigation law enacted between 1651 and 1695 came to characterize British mercantilism, setting the bearings for the expansion of overseas trade and colonization by stipulating that all exchange of commodities between England and its colonies must be done on English ships with English captains and through English ports. It prohibited...

  8. Chapter 2 Promoting Anglo-German Trade in the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 28-85)

    Both contemporaries and historians found explanations for foreign merchants’ share in English trade. Some believed that exemption from guild membership and from the acquisition of Freedom of the City, which gave free status, the right to vote in the city, and other local privileges, spared newcomers the expense and toil of the civil duties imposed on native-born subjects. Others bemoaned the competition: outsiders allegedly undersold locals, forcing them out of their own market.¹ Contemporary reasoning, however, may not have been sound. Dwyryd W. Jones has argued that England’s long wars may have drained local business communities of leadership, a situation...

  9. Chapter 3 Eighteenth-Century German Houses and Trade
    (pp. 86-128)

    By the eighteenth century, England had laid a foundation for its world-spanning network of trade and an epoch of distant war and conquest had begun. Though it successfully subdued Dutch competition early in the century, the country did not entirely oust French competition to become the world’s leading imperial and industrial power until 1815. As Paul Langford said, “Every war during [that] period was in essence a commercial war, and to a marked extent a colonial war…. Every peace was the continuation of war by economic means.”¹ In times of war and peace alike, nations contended for resources, colonial goods,...

  10. Chapter 4 German Merchants in the Levant and Russia Companies
    (pp. 129-169)

    Trade companies monopolized Britain’s trade with Russia and the Levant until the early nineteenth century. But after the “Act to Enlarge the Trade to Russia” of 1699 forced the Russia Company to reform, all Britons were permitted to become members for an entrance fee of just £5. Some decades later, the Levant Company followed suit, reducing admission fees from £50 to £20. Foreigners, Catholics, and Jews remained excluded from membership. Although the Naturalization Act did grant foreigners the right to membership in the trade companies, the combination of its clause barring non-Protestants from naturalization and the requirement that they possess...

  11. Chapter 5 Boom and Bankruptcy
    (pp. 170-247)

    In Europe, the introduction of colonial goods revolutionized consumption habits and marked the onset of the transition from subsistence to consumer economy. British merchants made huge profits trading with America and Asia, where–in contrast to Russia and India–trade was not monopolized by trade companies but was private enterprise instead. Most merchants had a loose network of reliable partners on both sides of the Atlantic.¹

    This chapter deals with the Atlantic trade of German merchants in London, focusing not only on successful merchants but on those who were less successful as well. Success and failure were tightly intertwined. Worldwide...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 248-256)

    Research into English naturalization law and practices produced surprising findings about the economic function behind them. This led in turn to the discovery of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’ forgotten majority of German merchants in London. Traces began to emerge of just how closely immigration, naturalization, and individual merchant interests were linked to Britain’s imperial and hegemonic ends. National goals and immigrant aspirations converged to contribute to Britain’s rise.

    The English Navigation Acts passed in the mid-seventeenth century barred foreigners from participating in profitable trade with the colonies. At the same time, the country aimed to attract qualified immigrants with...

  13. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 257-258)
  14. Historical Sources
    (pp. 259-271)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 272-299)
  16. Index
    (pp. 300-313)