The Merchant Taylors Company of London 1580-1645 : with special reference to government and politics
During the period 1580-1645, the Merchant Taylors Company, one of the twelve major livery companies of London, assumed a central place in the social, financial, and political affairs of the capital. The archives of the Company, more varied and extensive than is often assumed, have allowed a detailed study of the nature and organisation of one of early modern London's major social organisations. That organisation embraced two highly distinct and autonomous bodies. The livery was closely-knit, select and oligarchic in its government, dominated by an elite of leading citizens and merchants devoted to the affairs of the livery company. The yeomanry was an organisation of immense social and industrial importance, responsible for the regulation and representation of a high proportion of all of London's freemen. Its parallel government was dominated by members of the handicraft, and investigation into the yeomanry's role and the attitudes of the livery governors allows critical reappraisal of the phenomenon known as the 'decline of the guilds', and an assessment of the role of the livery companies in promoting social stability in later Elizabethan and Early Stuart London. The sixty-six years to 1645 represent a period of increasing corporate wealth, membership and influence, and the detailed examination of Company government and structure, coupled with a portrait of the livery company leadership from 1630, facilitates a reappraisal of political and religious developments in the capital. The Merchant Taylors Company is shown to be closely-tied to the royal government and in particular to William Laud, a pattern of loyalties which survived the municipal revolution of 1642 and the outbreak of Civil War in England.