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‘A land so distressed without war’: economic crisis, the commission for trade, and anti-monopoly petitioning in Jacobean England (c. 1622-1624)

In April 1622, the Privy Council ordered the creation of a temporary commission for trade, charged with the task of investigating the causes of, and potential solutions to, the economic depression engulfing the realm. Heretofore overlooked are the range of petitions which were sent to this body from merchants, clothiers, and gentry. This paper will use this episode and the petitions produced to argue for the importance of this commission for offering a new and important ‘point of contact’ for petitioning activity, and one which was encouraged by the state. It will also highlight the ways through which supplications sent to this body were used to express anti-monopoly sentiments, as clothiers and rival companies took advantage of this opportunity to attack one of the realm’s oldest companies: the Merchant Adventurers of London.

Ellen Paterson is a DPhil candidate at Lincoln College, Oxford

Charles I and the Revenue Reform Commission of 1626-7

The abrupt termination of Charles I’s reign has tended to overshadow assessment of its more positive aspects: he was a bold and determined reformer of the system he inherited, even if his innovations were not greeted with universal admiration. Charles’s interest in financial and administrative reform began in 1616, with the Duchy of Cornwall. This was undoubtedly prompted by his advisers, but after Charles’s first two parliaments proved reluctant to grant him taxation without strings attached, in July 1626 he established a commission of Privy Councillors and Exchequer officials to scrutinise revenues and expenditures, and to recommend reforms. The minutes of this commission show a lively debate over a wide range of revenue projects, and also the king’s own interest in its deliberations: at the turn of the year, he spent the better part of a week receiving detailed reports on its findings, personally intervening to shape a range of policies. It can also be discerned that, even where the proposed reforms did not bear immediate fruit, they were often revisited in the 1630s, when fiscal reform became a key aspect of royal policy.

Simon Healy is an independent scholar.

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