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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- The House of Tudor
- Trade and economy during Henry VII’s monarchy
- Trade under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I
KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION
Let’s know more about Tudor Trade!
- The House of Tudor came to power in England after Henry Tudor succeeded in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The 118-year reign of the Tudor dynasty in England began with Henry VII and ended with Elizabeth I. At the beginning of their monarchy, only a few improvements were seen in terms of economy and trade but by the end of their reign, huge changes had been introduced that ultimately transformed the history of England.
The House of Tudor
- The House of Tudor is the royal house that ruled in England from 1485 to 1603. The Tudors were a family of Anglesey, Wales, of no great power but with a long family history. The Tudor monarchs were Henry VII, his son Henry VIII, and the latter’s three children Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.
- A member of the family, Owen Tudor, married the widow of Henry V. Their eldest son, Edmund, Earl of Richmond, married Margaret Beaufort, member of a family which was illegitimately descended from John Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, and which had later been legitimised but excluded from royal succession.
- As the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York drew to a close, Margaret Beaufort came to have the only surviving Lancastrian claim to the throne. The son of her marriage to Edmund Tudor ascended to the throne as Henry VII.
- The Tudor line was one of the most vigorous produced by England. Their greatest achievement was to rally the forces of the English people under a well-organised monarchy so that England was able to take its place as a strong national state.
- The last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, was succeeded by her cousin, James VI of Scotland, who ascended to the English throne as James I and began the reign of the Stuart line.
- The Tudors contributed immensely, making England a powerful nation with commerce carried out worldwide. In the following sections, it will be seen how Tudor monarchs contributed to matters of trade.
Trade and economy during Henry VII’s monarchy
- Despite the fact that the Italian ports (such as Venice) and the Netherlands were powerful in their commerce, during the two centuries preceding Henry VII’s ascension to the throne England’s trade had also greatly improved.
- However, it must be stated that this period was not one of intense change concerning trading. In fact, the monarchy of Henry VII was relatively stable and did not witness any drastic improvement.
- In 1492, Columbus discovered the Americas, and Spain and Portugal (having financed Columbus’ journey), had great interests in these new lands. For this reason, Henry VII ensured good trading links with the two European powers, establishing equal trading privileges and low duties.
- In 1487, Henry VII banned the export of unfinished cloth and wool in order to encourage its finishing process in England.
- He deemed it appropriate to trade with the two powerful Italian cities of Florence and Pisa.
- However, when Venice increased the tariffs imposed on English goods, Henry VII restricted the sale of wool in Italy until the tariff prices changed.
- Henry VII sought to protect British artefacts from the fierce trade policy of other European nations by embarking on a mercantilist policy. In fact, for centuries, England had been exporting wool to Flanders in order to be able to work in manufacturing industries.
- After reaching a great period of economic prosperity in the 13th / 14th century, British businesses declined during the last phase of the Hundred Years War, when relations between England and Burgundy – which controlled Flanders – ended. The War of the Roses then led to a period of political instability that also affected foreign trade.
- When Henry VII ascended to the throne in 1485, he worked to ensure that businesses would prosper and thus bring the Kingdom out of the spiral of economic recession into which it had fallen.
- Thanks to a careful series of negotiations, in 1506 Henry stipulated the Intercursus Magnus with the Flemish cities (called Intercursus Malus by the Flemish as the clauses were preponderantly favourable to the English), with which he guaranteed a reconnection of mercantile relations.
- Other signatories in the Intercursus Magnus included the commercial powers of Venice, Florence, the Netherlands, and the Hanseatic League.
- In 1486, a trade agreement with France cancelled all the restrictions on trade that had been previously made. Henry VII was also intent on expanding the British area of influence on the Italian peninsula, trying to establish excellent relations with the Florentine Republic, governed at the time by the Medici.
Reasons why Henry’s eyes fell on Florence
- English wool was particularly valuable, and the Florentines loved the precious fabrics made with it
- Henry needed a commercial interlocutor powerful enough to counter the commercial dominance of Venice.
- This policy led to a strengthening of ties between London and Florence, but it also led to a deterioration in the commercial ties with the Serenissima that partially damaged the British economy.
- Finally, in 1490 Henry signed a trade agreement with Denmark for fishing in Icelandic waters.
- England thus became competitive with the Flemish and the Germans, who had enjoyed numerous privileges and favours, also because it had equipped itself with a war navy, and then a merchant vessel, which allowed merchant adventurers to sail the seas protected by the privileged companies.
- For reasons of economy, the ships had been sold by Henry VI (Lancaster), but later a new fleet was to be supplied to England.
- Although Henry VII was not directly involved in the Italian question, in 1496 he had participated in the anti-French League of Venice against Charles VIII, who laid claim to the Kingdom of Naples. The league was unable to stop Charles VIII returning to France but was successful in stopping him from further resuming his campaign.
Trade under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I
- Under Henry VIII, England underwent a period of progress.
- In terms of farming, lands were fenced by farmers who sought to maximise their profits through the trade of wool.
- Since the lands were now rationed, many farmers were left without their farm, and due to poverty, they were obliged to work in maritime and industrial activities.
- Following the enterprises of Giovanni Caboto and Richard Chancellor, who discovered new routes to the Americas that were not controlled by the Spaniards and the Portuguese, England created its navy and its commercial fleet, which proved to be indispensable for the Tudors in the second half of the century.
- In fact, England had adventurer-merchants, who were a mixture between pirates and traders. British companies started competing with other continental companies by increasing their traffic and imposing their goods on new markets (such as Russia).
- In 1566, the “Royal Exchange” was established in London, and soon became an alternative to the large Flemish and Hanseatic financial squares and to German and Italian bankers.
- The reign of Elizabeth I developed England in its maritime, commercial, and colonial expansion.
- In 1584, Walter Raleigh founded the first English colony in America, called Virginia in honour of the Virgin Queen.
- Navigators and captains such as Francis Drake and John Hawkins procured immense wealth by taking from the Spanish colonies in the Atlantic and the Pacific, and by trading slaves.
- Demography and internal economy developed thanks to the absence of long and bloody wars, as well as to the purchase of the relevant assets stolen from the Catholic church.
- From an economic perspective, agriculture and farming developed thanks to the support given by Elizabeth I to textile production – in particular to the production of wool – which favoured the increase in exports.
- The queen also favoured the development of the first industries that exploited the natural resources of iron and coal present in the English mines.
- Attention to the spice trade led Queen Elizabeth I to favour the establishment of the British East India Company in the 1600s, which became a powerful tool for economic growth and colonial expansion from the second half of the century.
- Queen Elizabeth I granted a royal charter on 31 December 1600 to the British East India Company, which was first called Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies.
- However, at the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, the English State could count on a fairly low economic autonomy, unlike other European monarchies.
- Most of the resources came from the Church’s assets forfeited after the Protestant Reformation, but there were no public monopolies on economic activities that guaranteed fixed revenues.
- The public power had difficulty controlling the tax levy.