Chester, Liverpool and the Basque Region in the Sixteenth Century

By Janet E. Hollinshead, published November 1999


The reign of Elizabeth I saw increased commercial hostilities between England and Spain. The Basque region offered trading opportunities remote from the control of Spanish and French monarchs. Chester and Liverpool were similarly distant from the Tudor court. These North Western ports developed trade with the Basque region. Liverpool and Chester merchants struggled to maintain this Basque commerce when Anglo-Iberian relations deteriorated. In 1585 war led to the collapse of the Iberian trade but the lucrative Basque trade in whale oil and iron continued despite the risk of reprisal.As friction developed between Spain and England during the 1500s, commercial relations deteriorated. Yet regions remote from close scrutiny by state monarchies were able to devise strategies which allowed trade to persist. Although the trading interests of Chester and Liverpool lay predominantly across the Irish Sea, this period saw merchants of those communities develop and maintain an attractive supplemental commerce with the Basque region of Spain and France, exchanging iron, whale oil and wine for English fabrics and other cargoes. Only as European trade contracted towards the end of the sixteenth century did the Basque connection with North-Western England disappear.

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Filed under: Tudors | Irish Sea | Antarctic
Subjects include: Merchant Marines

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