Cover image for The Most Necessary Luxuries: The Mercers’ Company of Coventry, 1550–1680 By Ronald M. Berger

The Most Necessary Luxuries

The Mercers’ Company of Coventry, 1550–1680

Ronald M. Berger

BUY

336 pages
6" × 9"
14 b&w illustrations
1993

The Most Necessary Luxuries

The Mercers’ Company of Coventry, 1550–1680

Ronald M. Berger

The Most Necessary Luxuries traces the history of the mercers’ trade in Coventry, England, against the background of the economic decline of that city in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with extensive coverage of the topic of shopkeeping in England during this period. Berger offers new material, attempts some fresh interpretations, and synthesizes a good deal of general material written over this century which has not been brought together in this way before. A significant contribution.”

 

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Subjects
Between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, gilds were the basis of industrial and commercial organization in England. Surprisingly, however, the disappearance of gilds has been neglected by historians. In The Most Necessary Luxuries, Ronald Berger uses the Mercers' Company of Coventry to follow the eclipse of an entire trading community in one of England's premier medieval cities and manufacturing centers. Berger charts the difficulties faced by mercers and grocers in a growing capitalist economy and discusses their unsuccessful efforts to maintain their prosperity.

The book helps to explain both the development of a new urban system and the rise of shops in Midland England. It shows how shops replaced markets and fairs and uses the economics of the fashion trades to explain why provincial shops could not overcome the competition put forward by the metropolis.

The Most Necessary Luxuries unites the fields of social, urban, and economic history to explain the decline of a medieval city, the evolution of the English urban middle class, and the transformation from an amalgam of wealthy wholesalers and distributors of luxury goods to an association of mere shopkeepers. It demonstrates that the rise of commercial capitalism between 1550 and 1700 in England undermined the medieval economy that was based on protected markets, restrictive trading practices, and entrenched oligarchies that dominated towns.

The Most Necessary Luxuries traces the history of the mercers’ trade in Coventry, England, against the background of the economic decline of that city in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with extensive coverage of the topic of shopkeeping in England during this period. Berger offers new material, attempts some fresh interpretations, and synthesizes a good deal of general material written over this century which has not been brought together in this way before. A significant contribution.”

Ronald M. Berger is Professor of History at the University at Albany, SUNY.

Also of Interest

Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list and be notified about new titles, journals and catalogs.