The merchants of York, Beverley and Hull in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
This thesis examines three main aspects of the merchant class of York, Beverley, and Hull: their economic activities, political dominance and social and religious concerns. It argues that in each town, merchants played a significant role, and as their commercial fortunes were affected by endogenous factors, so was their position within each town. Chapter 1 gives a brief historical outline of each town's development, up to and including the period under study. Chapter 2 offers an overview of the fluctuating patterns of international trade, and of the changing fortunes of each town's investment in overseas trade. Within that context, chapter 4 focuses on individual merchant's business 'biographies', using them as a basis for a general discussion of the range and quality of the involvement of each town's merchant class in overseas trade. The second part of the chapter explores the evidence of capital accumulation by individuals, assessing the role of real estate, cash and credit in their enterprises. This analysis reveals the wide range in levels of commercial success to be found within the merchant class. Chapter 5 looks at the degree to which merchants dominated the government of each town, highlighting the notable differences between them. It concludes that the merchant oligarchs of each were tenacious in defending their position, until their commercial failure inexorably lead to their political demise. Chapter 6 offers insights into the ways in which merchants underpinned their commercial and political association through social networks. Inter-marriage, the poor survival rate of male heirs, household structure and family provision, all reflect a high degree of interdependence. The second section of the chapter concentrates on merchant benevolence and piety, concluding that their priorities were similar to those of other townsfolk and their religious beliefs as conservative.