Re-investigating coastal trade: the ports of the Bristol Channel and the Severn Estuary, c.1695 - c.1704
AbstractThis thesis provides a fresh perspective on the coastal trade of a major domestic region centred upon the port of Bristol. It acknowledges that coasting formed a vital link in the economy of pre-industrial England and Wales. However, coasting has been seen as the eternally poor relation of international and transoceanic commerce in studies of economic growth, urban development, and industrial diversification. This imbalance is addressed fully. The thesis sheds new light upon the volume, nature, structure and mechanisms of both the coastal and internal trades, and exposes to a more critical analysis the extent to which Bristol, as the major regional centre, acted as a 'quasi-metropolis' in the direction of the internal trade of its hinterland. A central theme is the computerisation, and examination of a wide sample of coastal Port Books for the ports of the Bristol Channel, over a limited but coherent timespan. Port Book data are also integrated with data gleaned from mercantile accounts to enable a thorough reconstruction of the means and motives of regional commerce to be devised. The Introduction discusses the study of internal trade and argues that the lack of sustained research emanates from the absence of accessible and tractable quantitative evidence. With regard to coasting, problems surrounding the interpretation and manipulation of the coastal Port Books have limited many investigations. Similarly, the want of quantitative evidence has led many accounts of the region into repeating uncritically theories of the centrality of Bristol and its perceived metropolitan hegemony over regional patterns of trade. Chapter 1 analyses how Port Books have been utilised to date and provides a detailed methodological overview of the coastal Books for the Bristol Channel ports within the geographical and chronological parameters of the research. The Chapter also outlines the strategies of analysis and computerisation and the technical bases through which Port Books are structured for further study. The following Chapters use the datasets as case studies to shed new light upon the conduct of the coastal trade. Chapter 2 constructs a hierarchy of commercial activity at the regional ports and examines the spatial patterns of trade within the region; Chapter 3 provides an insight into the extent and range of goods carried, arguing that bulk staples did not wholly dominate coasting as is implied by secondary literature; and Chapter 4 analyses the level of mercantile organisation, boat provision and operation. In Chapter 5, Port Book data are combined with the accounts of Hoare and Company and William Alloway, two important Bridgwater merchant houses, to indicate how coastal, river and overland trade provided a complex, highly sophisticated transport system. The Conclusion suggests that the methods and techniques outlined in the thesis provide a basis for the re-interpretation of coastal trade, not only in the relation of Bristol to its nominally subordinate economic hinterland, but also in the wider significance of coasting to the development of the pre-industrial economy.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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