1619, The Eastland merchants ask for lower taxes because their trade has decayed

The Eastland merchants. SP 14/105 f. 54 (1619)

To the right honourable the lords and others of his majestties most honourable privie councell.

The humble peticion of theastland marchants.

Whereby they humbly desire a favourable assessement towardes the present charge against pyrates,

And humbly shew, that their trade is soe small that in cloth conyskins leather and all other commodities they doe not ship from this porte of London above the proporcion of seaven or eight thousand clothes one yeare with another, which is not the eight parte of the marchant adventurers exportacion from the said porte in clothes kersies baies and other commodities as by the custome bookes may appeare.

And that they in their trade are soe decayed by meanes of their greate losses lately susteyned by banckrupts, the extraordynarie bad sale of cloth, and the intollerable losse in their retornes, that the greater parte of the company are disabled and the rest discouraged from tradeinge.

Humbly referringe the due consideracion of the premisses to your lordships favourable construccions prayinge that a charge may not be laid uppon them above to the proporcion of their trade.

And they shall accordinge to their bounden dueties daylie pray to God for the preservacion of your honours in all happynes.

Report by Barbara Prynn

The Eastland Company or North Sea Company was an English crown-chartered company, which was founded in 1579 to foster trade with Scandinavia and Baltic Sea states.(1) Like the better-known Russia Company(2) this was an attempt by the English to challenge the Hanseatic League’s(3) dominance in the commerce of northern and central Europe. By the first article of the charter, the company was erected into a body politic under the title of the Company of Merchants of the East, to consist of Englishmen, all practising merchants, who trafficked through the Sound(4) before the year 1568, into Norway, Sweden, Poland, Livonia, Prussia, Pomerania, etc., and likewise Revel, Königsberg, Danzig, Copenhagen, etc. excepting Narva, Muscovy and its dependencies. Most of the following articles granted them the usual prerogatives of such companies including a seal, governor, courts, laws, etc.

The privileges specific to this company compared to other English companies of the time, were:

  • That none shall be admitted a member who is already a member of another company nor any retail dealer at all.
  • That no qualified merchant be admitted without paying 6 pounds 3 shillings 6 pence (about £700 to-day)
  • That a member of another company desiring to renounce the privileges thereof and to be received into that of the East, shall be admitted gratis, provided that he procures the same favour for a merchant of the East who is willing to fill his place.
  • That the Merchant Adventurers who never dealt in the East in the places expressed in the charter, may be received as members of the company on paying 40 marks. That notwithstanding this union of the Adventurers of England with the Company of the East, each shall retain its rights and privileges.
  • That they shall export no cloths but what are dyed and pressed, except one hundred pieces every year which are allowed them gratis.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastland_Company
  2. https://archives.history.ac.uk/guildhallmanuscripts/russia.htm
  3. https://www.ellysmanorhouse.com/blogs/news/69583557-the-hanseatic-league
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%98resund


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.