Early Modern Studies exhibition

Display case 3: Early Modern Exchange

The tracts displayed in this part of the exhibition are part of the Overstone Library, which was bequeathed to the University College, Reading, in 1920. In line with the banker, Samuel Jones Loyd, Baron Overstone’s (1796-1883) interests, it holds a vast amount of material relating to the commercial relations and competition between England and the Dutch Republic.

Gerard Malynes (fl. 1585-1641) was born in Antwerp and settled in London during the 1580s. He led a life of intrigue in both business and politics, serving as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham, and enduring incarceration due to his sharp commercial practices. Malynes engaged in disputes with contemporary economic theorists, including Edward Misselden (fl. 1615-1654), an English merchant with strong Dutch trading links. The two clashed over whether money should be regarded as a measure of value (Misselden’s view) or a medium of exchange (celebrated by Malynes as a ‘heavenly mystery’).

Sir Josiah Child (1630-99) made his fortune during the English Commonwealth by supplying the navy with timber and beer. During the 1670s he secured a dominant position within the East India Company, bribing both Charles II and James II to secure the Company’s privileges against parliamentary influence. Child was aggressive in his writing style, his business strategies, his colonial policies, his attacks on the Tory party and his personal life. He regarded trade as a form of warfare, and both admired and envied the Dutch for their proficiency in both arenas.

During William III’s Nine Years War (1689-1697), large quantities of English bullion were exported to the continent -- a movement of money that fuelled the illegal practice of coin-clipping. Threatened with the total collapse of public confidence in the currency, the government embarked upon a process of re-coinage in 1696. The ensuing shortage of coins created mass economic hardship and caused political unrest. Recent literary historians have connected the interrogation of monetary value during the re-coinage crisis with emerging ideas about ‘investment’ in fictional forms, such as the early novel.

List of exhibits

A treatise of the canker of Englands common wealth : deuided into three parts : wherein the author imitating the rule of good phisitions, first, declareth the disease. Secondarily, sheweth the efficient cause thereof. Lastly, a remedy for the same, by Gerrard de Malynes. [London] : imprinted at London by Richard Field for William Iohnes printer, 1601. OVERSTONE--SHELF 10A/14

The circle of commerce : or, The ballance of trade in defence of free trade ; opposed to Malynes little fish and his great whale and poized against them in the scale : wherein also, exchanges in generall are considered, and therein the whole trade of this kingdome with forraine countries is digested into a ballance of trade, for the benefite of the publique, necessary for the present and future times, by E[dward].M[isselden]., Merchant. London : Printed by Iohn Dawson for Nicholas Bourne, 1623. OVERSTONE--SHELF 11D/22

The maintenance of free trade, according to the three essentiall parts of traffique : namely, commodities, moneys, and exchange of moneys, by bills of exchanges for other countries. Or, An answer to a treatise of free trade, or The meanes to make trade flourish, lately published, by Gerard Malynes. London : printed by I. L. for William Sheffard ..., 1622. OVERSTONE--SHELF 10A/15

A letter from an English merchant at Amsterdam, to his friend at London, concerning the trade and coin of England. London : printed for S. Crouch..., 1695. OVERSTONE--SHELF 9C/28

A report containing an essay for the amendment of the silver coins. London : printed by Charles Bill, and the executrix of Thomas Newcomb, deceas'd ; printers to the Kings most excellent majesty, 1695. Written by William Lowndes for the Treasury. OVERSTONE--SHELF 9B/11

A new discourse of trade : wherein is recommended several weighty points relating to companies of merchants. The act of navigation. Naturalization of strangers. And our woolen manufactures. The ballance of trade, and the nature of plantations ... by Sir Josiah Child. London : Printed and sold by T. Sowle, 1698. Written by William Lowndes for the Treasury. OVERSTONE--SHELF 11A/21

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