English Mariners Trading to Spain and Portugal, 1558–1625

By Pauline Croft, published August 1983

Abstract

Elizabethan and early Jacobeantrading voyages were managed by a triumvirate: the master, responsible for navigation, ship handling and the safe conveyance of cargoes; the agent of the merchants that commissioned the voyage who determined the ship’s itinerary and trading policy; and the purser who managed the ship’s finances for the master. This article illustrates how the system worked in trade with Iberia using anecdotal evidence mainly derived from cases brought before the High Court of Admiralty. It briefly mentions the lot of ordinary seamen and the hazards of the Iberian trade: piracy, inclement weather and the Spanish inquisition.  The dynamics between shipmaster and cape merchant often presents a dichotomy between the handling and safety of ship and crew on one hand versus the handling, safety and destination of the cargo on the other. Examples of disputes between merchants and ships’ masters from the Anglo-Spanish merchant trade of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as brought to the High Court of Admiralty are presented.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Early Modern) | Mediterranean
Subjects include: Administration | Manpower & Life at Sea | Merchant Marines

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