In a pre-industrial economy dominated by small family firms, economic growth could not have occurred without the skill, persistence, and initiative of individual businessmen like Sir Dudley North. North was not only a celebrated merchant and economist, but an important and controversial servant of Charles II and James II. Richard Grassby exploits the extraordinary wealth of documentation available to establish how North made a fortune in the Levant commodity trade and through usury. He explores his character, beliefs, and intentions, and the diverse technical and personal reasons for his success. As the younger son of a peer, his domestic life and his relationship, with his family and the world of business demonstrate both the mobility of English society and the close integration of town and country. His economic works, which are here published in full for the first time, reveal the breadth of his ideas and originality.
Although a man of exceptional personality, North confronted the same obstacles and opportunities as other merchants of his day, and this study of his life offers us unique and valuable insights into the seventeenth-century business world.
Grassby...writes with impressive conciseness and authority... Grassby's success in re-creating from contemporary ledgers, journals and correspondenceboth North's personality and his milieu must be pronounced a remarkable achievement * English Historical Review * a learned, important ... work ... It draws upon prodigious research, citing manuscripts from over sixty archives and concludes with a valuable edition of North's economic writings and of the passages omitted from the printed version of the Life of Sir Dudley North. * Mark S.R. Jenner, University of York, Urban History, Vol. 23, Pt 2 - Aug 96 * meticulously researched biography * American Historical Review * This is business biography at its best, and anyone interested in the minutuae of early modern business practice cannot afford to ignore it. * Business History * Grassby has produced an excellent and highly readable biography. * The Economic History Review * 'This is an outstanding book, original in its scholarship, and in the kind of questions it asks and in the way it seeks to answer them, technically accomplished and extremely well written. Years of work have gone into this magisterial study of English economic history at a particularly interesting stage, when there was everything to play for and the odds against winning were formidable. The triumph of this book is the author's ability to stand back from his
researches and to summarise in simple, vigorous language which his sitter would certainly approve what manner of man he was and what lights he steered by. The roundness, the completeness of this portrait can hardly be glimpsed in a short review. The information and insights it contains are worthy of Braudel.'
Richard Ollard, The Mariner's Mirror, Volume 80 (1994)