With the accession of Edward I. we enter upon a new stage of the Anglo-Dutch relations. It was no longer military ambition which drove inhabitants of the Low Countries to Great Britain and Ireland; it was no longer in large waves that Flemish and other Low Dutch adventurers rolled over the country to end by settling there, returning to their old avocations and finally amalgamating with the native population. During the period under our review Low Dutch artisans and traders immigrated — to use Cunningham’s felicitous phrase — ‘in a series of little streamlets which trickled to one district or another’ 1), not to fight, but to help lay the foundation of England’s future industrial and commercial greatness. While Flanders, owing to the regular development of her industry and commerce, had gradually reached a very high degree of prosperity, and had become the most thriving country of western Europe, the state of unrest in which England had been almost from the time of the Conquest, had greatly interfered with her industrial as well as her commercial development. There was one species of industry, however, the importance of which the monarchs of the chief wool-growing country of Europe could not help realizing, and which most, if not all of them, took measures to promote and protect: this was the manufacture of cloth. As early as 1197 Richard I. issued the assize of cloth, which was enforced under the great Charter. His assize may be looked upon as the first effort made to develop the cloth industry which, as we know, had been introduced by the Flemish immigrants after the Conquest. It protected the native weavers against competition in the home market, both on the part of those who produced homespun cloths and on the part of merchants who imported cloth of different size and quality from abroad 1). Though it is difficult, if not impossible, to trace the various towns in Great Britain where cloth was manufactured during the thirteenth century, yet it seems certain that there was a regular cloth industry all over the country, especially in the wool-growing districts and in the eastern counties 2), where the neighbourhood of Norwich has at all times been a great centre and a place to which many Flemish immigrants were attracted. Simon de Montfort did what he could to further native production 3), and in connexion with the fact that in that century cloth had already become an article of export4), it need not surprise us that Edward I., following Simon’s example, made restrictions on the export of wool. It is in his time that we first hear of the aulnager 5), an officer whose duty it was to visit the fairs and to try and enforce the one measure of cloth which had been established for the kingdom. Only the makers of Cogware and Kendal cloth in various parts of England were allowed to make these sorts of cloth of the usual breadth of three quarters of a yard, which is the Flemish ell of 27 inches, which measure is evidence of a Flemish origin of these kinds of cloth 6)
KeywordsEnglish People Henry VIII English Ship Foreign Merchant English Merchant
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