Histories of England, 1600–1780

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, historians of England pioneered a series of new approaches to the history of economic policy. Commerce, finance and statecraft charts the development of these forms of writing and explores the role they played in the period's economic, political and historiographical thought. Through doing so, the book makes a significant intervention in the study of historiography, and provides an original account of early-modern and Enlightenment history. A broad selection of historical writing is discussed, ranging from the work of Francis Bacon and William Camden in the Jacobean era, through a series of accounts shaped by the English Civil War and the party-political conflicts that followed it, to the eighteenth-century's major account of British history: David Hume's History of England. Particular attention is paid to the historiographical context in which historians worked and the various ways they copied, adapted and contested one another's narratives. Such an approach enables the study to demonstrate that historical writing was the site of a wide-ranging, politically charged debate concerning the relationship that existed – and should have existed – between government and commerce at various moments in England’s past.

David Hume’s History of England

T H E E N D O F E C O N O M I C S T A T E C R A F T 169 9 The end of economic statecraft: David Hume’s History of England The chronologies of David Hume’s career as a political economist and his career as a historian are closely intertwined.1 Political Discourses, the collection of essays containing his principal contribution to political economy, was published in January 1752.2 The work went on to secure Hume a Europe-wide reputation as a writer on economic affairs and was, as he noted in his autobiography, his only book ‘successful on the first

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William Guthrie’s General History

E C O N O M I C S T A T E C R A F T A N D E C O N O M I C P R O G R E S S 155 8 Economic statecraft and economic progress: William Guthrie’s General History The middle years of the eighteenth century saw the emergence of a new, enlightened approach to history. Underpinning this mode of writing was the assumption that the level of progress achieved in modern-day Europe distinguished it from any previous historical period.1 To an extent, the novel qualities of the present were conceived of in political terms. With regard to England in particular, there was

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C H R O N O L O G Y A N D C O M M E R C E 83 4 The English Civil War and the politics of economic statecraft The relationship between historical writing and the political and religious conflicts of the 1640s was a complex one.1 Historians of the period generally emphasised that their loyalty was to the ‘truth’ rather than to any particular faction or party. Hamon L’Estrange, for example, used the frontispiece to his The Reign of King Charles (1655) to claim that this was a work ‘Faithfully and Impartially delivered’.2 Similarly, in the preface to his

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200 COMMERCE, FINANCE AND STATECRAFT Conclusion The Monthly Review for September 1790 contained a lengthy discussion of the final volume of John Sinclair’s The History of the Public Revenue of the British Empire (1785–90). While appreciative of Sinclair’s work, the anonymous reviewer opened his discussion with some general, and rather less positive, comments on the treatment of financial issues by previous English historians: History, till of late, was chiefly employed in the recital of warlike transactions. […] The people were not known; the circumstances

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Thomas Carte’s General History

134 COMMERCE, FINANCE AND STATECRAFT 7 Jacobite history: Thomas Carte’s General History A more far-reaching critique both of Rapin’s History and Whiggish ideas of credit was developed by the Oxford historian Thomas Carte in the 1740s and 1750s.1 Carte was a diligent and able scholar, and the author of a series of well-documented historical works including a three-volume History and Life of James Duke of Ormonde (1735–36) and the four-volume General History of England (1747–55).2 He was also a Non-Juror and an active Jacobite conspirator. In the 1720s he

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William Camden’s Annales

, FINANCE AND STATECRAFT affairs of state as their principal subjects and, in discussing them, drew inspiration from classical historiography. Moreover, both were attracted to the works of Tacitus. And although Bacon had relatively little to say on Polybius, he, like Camden, entirely endorsed the Polybian claim that it was through analysis of cause and effect that history could teach men political wisdom. The similarities between their work have led the two writers to be conceived of as part of the same Tacitean, ‘politic’ school of history.3 However, while an admiration

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Thomas Salmon’s Modern History

government borrowing developed under William III. In dealing with these issues, both writers drew on the economic statecraft tradition. Indeed, through some careful deployment of material, they were able to use the work of Bacon and Camden to provide commentaries on recent innovations in financial practice. At the same time, however, Salmon and Carte were concerned that modern governments had – with disastrous consequences for national welfare – lost control of England’s economic institutions. Such claims led to the development of what might be labelled an anti

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Edmund Howes’s Annales

, FINANCE AND STATECRAFT culture, and drew mainly on government sources to provide narratives of high politics. This helped to ensure that, while both writers were happy to deal with issues relating to trade, the focus of their accounts was the state’s management of commercial affairs. Howes, as we shall see, shared this concern with economic statecraft. His analysis, however, was also shaped by his links with the workshops, warehouses and offices of the City. And it was through describing the activities of individuals attached to these locales, both in England and

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Paul de Rapin de Thoyras’s Histoire

102 COMMERCE, FINANCE AND STATECRAFT 5 Whig history: Paul de Rapin de Thoyras’s Histoire The latter years of the seventeenth century saw a series of calls for a complete account of England’s history from the Roman invasion to the present, which would be able to rival both in quality and scale the work of Livy.1 Initial attempts at such an endeavour were made by, among others, John Milton, William Temple and Jonathan Swift, while more substantial accounts emerged from Robert Brady and James Tyrrell, both of whom reached Richard II.2 A success, of sorts, was

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