Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 June 2017
The historiography of Tudor economic legislation has been preoccupied with two questions: firstly whether any consistent economic planning, or simply expedient reactions to various problems, can be discerned in Elizabethan policy; and secondly whether and to what extent policy was imposed “from above” by William Cecil and the privy council, or influenced “from below” by local and factional lobbying. Since the 1980s the research of Geoffrey Elton and his successors has extended our understanding of Tudor parliaments; yet the standard accounts of Elizabethan policy-making have on the whole paid insufficient attention to contemporaries’ perceptions and interpretations of economic change, upon which their suggested solutions and arguments for reform were based. As several studies of particular policies have shown, such as Norman Jones’ analysis of usury statutes, and Paul Fideler’s work on poor relief, the evolution of economic policy in sixteenth-century England can fruitfully be approached by cutting through the rhetoric of preambles and policy statements, and by focusing on the strategies of persuasion underlying debates in Parliament and beyond.
The author thanks Ian Archer, Pauline Croft, and the participants in the Tudor and Stuart History Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, for their valuable comments.
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4 5 Eliz. I. C.5, Statutes of the Realm, 4:1, 422–23 (hereafter cited as 575); the earliest attempt to enforce fish days with “political” justification was an Edwardian proclamation of January 1548, Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Paul L. Hughes and James F. Larkin, 3 vols. (New Haven, 1969), no. 297; see also nos. 368, 386 (hereafter cited as T.R.P.), and a statute of 1549, 2&3 Ed. VI. c. 19, SR, 4:1, 65–66; earlier navigation acts did not mention fishing, for example the “Act for the Maintenance of the Navy” of 1540, 32 Hen. VIII. c.14, SR, 3: 760–63.
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11 T.E.D., II, 99; Barnabe, a merchant of London, had been Thomas Cromwell’s agent in France and gathered various information as well as carrying on his business under the protection of safe conducts granted by Henry VIII and Edward VI.
12 PRO, SP 11 1/23, ff. 59–60, is an undated document of c. 1558–63 listing “ships decayed since the xxxvjth year of King Henry VIII,” which possibly formed the basis of the figures quoted by Cecil in his 1563 speech; Letters & Papers Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII, 4: 2, 5101 (1528), endorsed by Cecil, lists 149 ships of several ports engaged in the Iceland voyage, plus 222 north sea crayers, and 78 crayers for Scottish voyages; other early sixteenth-century documents he probably used include: L&P Hen. VIII, 4: 1, 1380 (1533); and L&P Hen. VIII, 19: 1, nos. 109, 114–17 (1543-15); PRO, SP 12 28/3, ff. 4–5 is a “certificate of shipping in the V portes, as it was xxx yeares past and as it is at this present ,” endorsed by Cecil: “decayed”; evidence that he may have cited further figures not recorded in the draft of his speech remains in a jotting taken down by the clerk, transcribed by Neale, J. E., “The Commons Journals in the Tudor Period,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 3 (1920): 139, n 3.Google Scholar
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17 Elton, “Piscatorial Politics,” p. 8; Elizabeth’s first biographer, William Camden, wrote that “least she shoulde breake the Ecclesiasticall fast in Lent, shee solemnly asked licence every yeere of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for eating of flesh”; however, this note was omitted from all but two of the English editions of the Annales of Princess Elizabeth, edited by Norton (1635), pp. 7–8, and Heame (1717), 1: 34; Collinson, Patrick, “One of Us? William Camden and the making of history,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 8 (1998): 139–63.Google Scholar
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19 PRO, SP 12 27/72 is a draft of certain exemption clauses in Cecil’s hand; Hartley interpreted these equivocations as a sign that Cecil himself believed that extra fish days “could have no substantial effect on the strength of the navy”; however, this claim is not supported by reference either to the speech or to Cecil’s notes on related topics, but on the contrary, evidence that Wednesday fasts were close to Cecil’s heart can be seen in his Memoryall on “The State of the Q. and the Realm” (1585), PRO, SP 12 184/50, ff. 135–46v.
20 Anon., Libelle of Englyshe Polycye (c.1436), ed. G. Warner (Oxford 1926), p. 47; Dee, John, General and rare memorials pertctyning to the perfect arte of navigation (1577)Google Scholar STC 6459, sig. G4v; Nashe, Thomas, Nashes Lenten stuffe, containing the description and first procreation and increase of the towne of Great Yarmouth in Norffolke: with a new play neuer played before, of the praise of the red herring (1599)Google Scholar, ed. McKerrow, R. B., Works, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1904–10), 3: 158.Google Scholar
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29 Loades, The Tudor Navy, p. 7.
32 Nashes Lenten stuffe, McKerrow, Works, 3: 179, Nashe’s italics; PRO, SP 12 147/82, “Rate for the diet of a man for the fish days and the difference in price of flesh,” shows fish to be cheaper than meats such as beef or mutton.
33 Worlds Within Worlds, pp. 140–44, 403–07.
34 Description of England, ed. Georges Edelen (New York, 1968, repr. 1994), p. 374; this comment was added to the second edition (1587), perhaps in response to the 1581 act, whereas in the first edition (1577) only a margin note had remarked that “neuer was our salted and fresh fishe so deare as now sith men must neds haue it,” STC 13568, sig. P5r.
35 PRO, SP 12 78/35, ff. 232–33 (misdated in CSPD to 1571) is a planning document in Cecil’s hand detailing this stipulation and other clauses; it is probably the minutes of the committee Cecil chaired; Elton, The Parliament of England, p. 260.
36 Erasmus, “On the Eating of Fish” in Colloquia (1526), in The Essential Erasmus, ed. Dolan, J. P. (New York, 1964), pp. 271–326 Google Scholar; An epystell of ye famous doctor Erasmus of Roterdam vnto the reuerende father & excellent prince Christofer bysshop of Basyle, concemyng the forbedynge of eatynge of flesshe, and lyke constitutyons of men, &c, tr. Thomas Godfray (c.1534) STC 10489; Becon, Thomas, A fruitful treatise of fasting, wherin is declared what ye Christen fast is, how we ought to fast, and what ye true vse offastyng is (1551) STC 1722.Google Scholar
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40 Anon., “Polices to reduce this realme,” T.E.D., 3: 335.
41 Wriothesley, Charles, A Chronicle of England… 1485–1559, ed. Hamilton, W. D., Camden Society, 2 vols. (London, 1877)Google Scholar, 2: 68; Machyn, Henry, The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant Taylor of London, from 1550–1563, ed. Nichols, J. G., Camden Society, o.s. 42 (London, 1847), p. 253.Google Scholar
42 PRO, SP 12 77/69, f. 174; SP 12 147/82, ff. 145–48; proclamations for “enforcing of abstinence from meat” were re-issued annually at Lent, see T.R.P., no. 477 (1561).
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48 PRO, SP 12 75/16, f. 33v.
49 Hitchcock, described by John Dee as being “of the Middle Temple” was also responsible for publishing a military treatise, The arte ofwarre (1591), and for translating The quintessence of wit (1590), a book of “politick conceites” out of Italian; in these sources he outlined his career, starting with the command of “200 pioneers in the fortifications at Berwick in 1551,” after which he “served the Emperor Charles V in his warres” in 1553, gaining experience which he again put to use in the Low Countries in 1586; he petitioned the queen on military matters on numerous occasions, see BL, Lansdowne MS 113/10; Lansdowne MS 119/3; and Lansdowne MS 389; Elton, “Piscatorial Politics,” pp. 6–8.
50 BL, Add. MS 18035 (1570), dedicated to Leicester.
51 BL, Add. MS 20042 (1588), see ff. 18r-19v on fishing and trade.
52 The earliest extant version of his scheme is BL, Lansdowne MS 14/30, dated 1572, although it may have originally been devised and presented to the earl of Leicester as early as 1570.
53 Tollitique platt (1581) STC 13531, sig. F4r.
55 Pollitique platt, inserted between sigs. E4v and Fir.
56 Pollitique platt, inserted between sigs. F3v and F4r; the perceived link between fishing and the wine trade is also apparent in earlier policy and planning, such as Cecil’s memorandum on a wine licensing act, PRO, SP 12 41/58 (1566).
57 Pollitique platt, sigs. A2r, Air, Alv.
58 General and rare memorials, sigs. A4v, C4r-v; Loades, The Tudor Navy, pp. 191–3, argues that Dee’s proposals were “almost feasible.”
59 Hartley, Proceedings, 1: 104; see above, notes 12, 21.
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62 Ibid, p. 13
63 Ibid., p. 16.
64 PRO, SP 12 148/29, f. 128.
65 27 Eliz. I. c. 11; this was achieved as part of an “Acte for the reviving, continuance, explanation and perfecting of divers statutes,” but not without a considerable clash between the two Houses, with Burghley, now in the Lords, trying to prevent its passage by putting it to a special conference. Elizabeth personally sent a message to the speaker, that she “thowghte that the continewance of the Wedensdey to be fishe deye was verye necessary and commended yt to the Howse.” But the Commons resisted: “we on the contrarye stoode to the meyntenawnce of that we had passed; and neyther parte seemed satisfyed”; Hartley, Proceedings, 2: 77, 78, 91, 95, 96, 99; Lords Journal, 2: 100, 103, 106; the repeal did not prevent the continued issuing of proclamations enforcing 5 Eliz. I. c.5 for the observation of other fish days (Fridays, Saturdays, Lent, etc.), for instance T.R.P., no. 800.
66 Hartley, Proceedings, 2: 68, 112.
67 Ibid., p. 112; exactly the same arguments were recited in an anonymous “Discourse of corporations” (c. 1587–89), T.E.D., 3: 267, 274.
68 Ibid., 2: 387, 396, 497; in 1589 the Fishmongers accused their adversaries of being “fisshers in satén dobletes with gold and silver,” but the epithet could have applied to themselves; ibid. 3: 98, 116, 121, 126, 127, 174; in 1593 the Fishmongers’ bill was obstructed at the last minute by Thomas Vavasour, a gentleman pensioner with a privilege for importing cod and ling notwithstanding the statute; Archer, Ian W., “The London Lobbies in the Later Sixteenth Century,” Historical Journal 31 (1988): 38.Google Scholar
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70 43 Eliz. I. C.9; SR, 4: 2, 973–74.
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74 Yarmouth’s high stewards in this period included the earl of Leicester, succeeded by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and the earl of Essex; Lowestoft were supported by Suffolk peers ( MacCulloch, Diarmaid, Suffolk and the Tudors: Politics and Religion in an English County, 1500–1600 [Oxford, 1986], pp. 213–14)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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76 Norfolk Record Office, Y C36/7/13, Lowestoft’s first petition, 1595.
77 NRO, Y C36/7/14, Yarmouth’s answer tc/Lowestoft’s allegations (n.d.).
78 NRO, Y C36/7/15, Lowestoft’s second petition (n.d.); an exchange of petitions, answers and appeals continued with much repetition of the original articles; NRO, Y C36/7/16, 17.
79 NRO, Y C36/7/2, 3 are copies of the certificate of the judges; A.P.C., XXV, 400–04.
80 NRO, Y C36/7/6; other drafts of the same material are NRO, Y C36/7/7, 8, 9, 18, 19.
81 Nashes Lenten stuffe (1599), McKerrow, Works, 3: 145–226.
82 NRO, Y C36/7/6.
83 Anon., “Discourse of corporations” (c. 1587–89), T.E.D., 3: 273–75.
84 A bill was proposed in 1598 to ban exports when the price of herring rose above certain limits, but it was defeated after a division in the Commons; Hartley, Proceedings, 3: 236, 237.
85 PRO, SP 12 48/83, ff. 204–05, “The humble peticon of the poore inhabitantes of the coastes of Norffolk and Suffolk for the relyef and mayntenance of the navigacon.”
86 BL, Lansdowne MS 65/29 (1590); the anonymous author of this document alleged that “Yarmouth men synce the statute of Navigation have yearely imployed themselves and wealth most about herring faire not to serve the Reaime as they were wont to doe but to transporte them only…whereby London markettes haue bene without herring commonly by halfe lent past.”
87 35 Eliz. I. C.7, SR, 4: 2, 854–56; PRO, SP 12 282/42 (3 Nov. 1601) and 282/63 (26 Nov. 1601); Hartley, Proceedings, 3: 318, 400.
88 Dean, Law-Making and Society, pp. 165–67; Jennings, A briefe discouery (1590) STC 14486; a draft of this pamphlet is BL, Lansdowne MS 101/22.
89 The volume of pamphlet literature on the subject continued to grow in the seventeenth century, although it was increasingly targeted at promoting individual enterprise rather than at government policy-makers; for example, Tobias Gentleman, Englands way to win wealth (1614) STC 11745; E.S., Britaines busse (1615) STC 21486; Dudley Digges, The defence of trade (1615) STC 6845; Robert Kayll, The trades increase (1615) STC 14894; Keymor, John, Observation made upon the Dutch fishing about the year 1601 (1664) Wing K390.Google Scholar
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