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Title: Bridging the middle Atlantic : the Liverpool-New York Trading Community, 1763-1833
Author: Buchnea, Emily
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2013
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Over the last few decades, a sizable proportion of scholarly attention has focused on trading communities around the Atlantic littoral. While there has been much research conducted regarding these communities, such as the work of Cathy Matson, Bernard Bailyn and Graeme Milne, there is not one study that compares or investigates the connections between Liverpool and New York between 1750 and 1833. The only focused examinations of the Liverpool-New York trade concentrate on the successful cotton trade of the 1820s and 1830s. Yet as two leading ports in Atlantic trade from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, they make for excellent case studies as the trading community and trade grew throughout this period despite being affected by many events occurring within the Atlantic world. Therefore, examining the Liverpool-New York trading community after the end of the Seven Years' War until the Abolition of Slavery in the British West Indies provides an excellent perspective on the transition from colonial to post-colonial Anglo-American commercial activity in the Atlantic world. These two ports expanded at similar rates in the eighteenth century and became linked in a relationship of continual exchange from the middle of this century. The trade between Liverpool and New York was comprised of an array of commodities which demonstrated the extent of the merchants' links to the hinterland and expansive coastal trades. Through the use of newspaper import lists, custom service records, customs bills of entry and the records of the Tontine Coffee House in New York, a new database has been constructed which demonstrates the volume of a wide-range of commodities traded between each port. This data shows the extent to which the trade was transformed over this seventy year period and its increasing diversity and complexity. New York exports to Liverpool were first comprised of raw goods procured from the direct hinterland. However, by the nineteenth century New York merchants spread their connections much further afield. As such, commodities from the southern states such as North Carolina and Georgia, the West Indies, Central and South America became a crucial part of a coastal and re-export trade. The exports from Liverpool to New York also changed through this period as manufacturing expanded in Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands and liverpool extended its connections further into this productive hinterland. Above all, what is most remarkable is the rate at which this trade grew between 1763 and 1833, and the extent to which the merchants involved in this trade were responsible for this growth. Between 1763 and 1833, the larger Liverpool-New York trade network encompassed many dynamic merchants who maintained relationships with trusted correspondents and who were dedicated to the expansion of this trade. These relationships were evident in the collections of personal and business correspondence, chamber of commerce meeting minutes and travel diaries which have been utilised in this study in order to evaluate the efficiency of this network and the success and failings of individual merchant firms. Throughout this period, the network of merchants was transformed as it contracted and expanded in response to changes in trading conditions. This change over time can be divided into three phases (1760s-1780s; 1790s-1815 and 1815-1833). During these phases, merchants relied on chains of commodity and information exchange in order to make informed decisions about their trade. While at times relationships between merchants in Liverpool and New York were problematic, by and large the trade and trading community expanded by virtue of the efforts of these merchants to promote and protect their trade. From the 1760s to the 1830s,this trade network changed from a small group of merchants trading in a few commodities procured from the direct hinterland, to a large community of well-established firms which possessed connections to many trades, industries and locations. This trading community, which started as a small but important part of the Atlantic economy, by the 1830s was at its centre. The central location of both ports meant they were often affected by events occurring in the Atlantic sphere. Firms which possessed numerous reliable contacts and a varied commodity portfolio typically fared well in situations of extreme fluctuation and uncertainty. Smaller firms with limited access to alternative sources for commodities and information were usually less fortunate. Despite the many wars, economic crises, political and environmental changes of this period, the larger Liverpool-New York trade network was resilient. Mapping these networks and how they were affected by events during this transitional period demonstrates the volatility of Atlantic commerce in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the ability of merchants in the Liverpool-New York trading community to cope with consistent uncertainty and flux. By illustrating the growth of this trade and the development of the trading community, this study has made an important contribution to the literature on transatlantic trading communities and the Atlantic economy in general.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HF Commerce ; DA Great Britain