Merchants & empire : trading in colonial New York /
Cathy Matson.
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
x, 458 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
0801856027 (acid-free paper)
More Details
series title
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
0801856027 (acid-free paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [439]-441) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1998-07:
Matson's lengthy history of the merchants of New York City displays commendable chronological and topical breadth, yet contains lavish detail. It begins with the Dutch regime and continues into the 1770s, explains the dissimilarity among merchants and interests as it progresses, and avoids oversimplification at every turn. Matson addresses recurrent topics in economics such as mercantilism versus free markets, the moral dimensions and arguments over commerce and consumption, Colonial development as a threat to the metropolis, the advance of the market economy, and more. The reader will also find treatment of comparatively minor topics like smuggling, paper money, fur trade, coastal commerce, local production, the impact of wars, and much more. Every subject is profusely annotated or documented. The author's singular interest is the middling merchants; typically, this group has been overlooked by historians, who focused on the elite few. Matson's characterization of the merchants on the eve of the Revolution serves to describe them through most of this work: they "still understood their economy only imperfectly, had contradictory ideas about market behavior, and promoted a patchwork quilt of policies aimed at satisfying the interests of shifting commercial coalitions." Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. D. Marietta; University of Arizona
Review Quotes
"Merchants and Empire is a very solid study of New York merchants and a valuable addition to the literature of Anglo-American Atlantic commerce." -- Carl E. Swanson, Mariner's Mirror
"The book is a major new contribution to New York and colonial economic and commercial history..[It] has readability and interest for anyone with a taste for American History."--Alan Cameron, Lloyds List
"Matson offers a very detailed view of the growth of the New York mercantile community..backed by extensive documentation." -- James F. Shepherd, Journal of Economic History
"Matson's book not only makes an important contribution to scholarship on the economic history of New York and the Middle colonies but also provides a comprehensive analysis of developments in Anglo-American economic discourse between 1620 and 1770." -- Deborah A. Rosen, American Historical Review
"Matson's subject is a hsitorically important phenomenon, her agenda significant, and her presentation a potentially powerful explication of merchant ideology." -- David Hancock, William and Mary Quarterly
"Merchants and Empire capably shows how New York became a great port..[It] is a valuable addition to historical literature on the commercial development of American colonies and on the economic growth of American Cities." -- Condrad Edick Wright, H-Urban, H-Net Reviews
"In this important new book, Cathy Matson breaks the mold by examining the entire New York merchant community across the entire colonial period. This inclusiveness yields good results; it provides a better understanding of New York's success as an American port city... Matson constructs her story out of careful research in the extensive correspondence and account books left by New York merchants and tells her story in rich and compelling detail, along the way constructing a new standard and a new paradigm for scholarship on colonial merchants." -- Russell Menard, Journal of American History
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, July 1998
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Unpaid Annotation
Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the port of New Amsterdam-later New York-bustled with all the activity associated with emergent capitalism: shipping, trading, and coffeehouse speculation. But how, exactly, did this leading port work? How did merchants below the top tier adjust to changing markets? How did British trade policy affect them, their politics, and the prospects for American independence?In Merchants and Empire Cathy Matson examines the attitudes and practices of New York's wholesale merchants, a group that operated beneath the gaze of imperial traders yet made up as much as eighty percent of the mercantile community. She finds them an interesting, if opportunistic, lot-quick to flout authority to their own advantage, but also willing to enjoy the benefits of British imperial protection when it suited them. These merchants succeeded in extending their interior market range up navigable rivers and out early roads, drawing as many settlers as they could reach into the commerc
Main Description
In Merchants and Empire, Cathy Matson examines the economic ideas and behavior of New York City's commercial wholesalers, especially the middling merchants who, as a majority of active traders, affected the character of city commerce over its colonial years. Although less prominent in transatlantic dry goods commerce than the great traders, this middling majority spread dissenting economic ideas and flouted political authority time and again when the benefits to their interests were clear. Indeed, middling or lesser merchants fashioned a plausible alternative to mercantilism, and contributed significantly to the challenges Americans offered to British rule in the final colonial years.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
Engagements with Economic Freedom
Establishing a Port, 1620-1664p. 13
Where Returns Were the Richest: The Transatlantic Trade, 1664-1700p. 36
"Where There is the Least Hindrance": The West Indian and Coastal Trade, 1664-1700p. 73
Creating a Regional Economy, 1664-1700p. 92
Encounters with Imperial Maturity
The Spur of Success: Ideology and Experience in Transatlantic Trade, 1700-1760p. 121
The Prospects for Satisfying Appetite: The Transforming Qualities of West Indian and Coastal Trade, 1700-1760p. 170
The Promise of the Domestic Economy: Expanding Internal Trade and City Manufacturing, 1700-1760p. 215
The Vagaries of War and Depression, 1754-1770p. 265
Conclusionp. 313
App. A: Tables and Graphsp. 319
Bills of Exchangep. 328
Notesp. 331
Essay on Sourcesp. 439
Indexp. 443
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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