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The Forgotten Majority: German Merchants in London, Naturalization, and Global Trade 1660-1815

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Volume 3

Studies in British and Imperial History

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The Forgotten Majority

German Merchants in London, Naturalization, and Global Trade 1660-1815

Margrit Schulte Beerbühl
Translated from the German by Cynthia Klohr

326 pages, 15 illus., 28 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-447-2 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2014)

eISBN 978-1-78238-448-9 eBook

Hb   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This is undoubtedly an important piece of work. It brings together a wide range of archival data and secondary material (in both English and German) to provide an innovative and incisive analysis of the role of nationalized German-born merchants in London between the mid-seventeenth century and the end of the Napoleonic Wars….[It] represents an important contribution to existing scholarship relating to the rise of British trading interests and the development of London as the focal point for international trade, commerce, and banking.”  ·  Robert Lee, University of Liverpool

“Without question, Margrit Schulte Beerbühl’s work is a pathbreaking contribution to the study of international (or transnational) merchant networks.”  ·  Andreas Fahrmeir, Goethe University

“This is an extremely important book…It helps us to reinterpret British economic growth and trade…gives a deep rooting to those interested in the migration of those with middle class backgrounds to Britain today…points to the longevity and the fundamental importance of migration in British history…[and] is also a highly original contribution to the history of naturalization in Britain.”  ·  Panikos Panayi, De Montfort University


The “forgotten majority” of German merchants in London between the end of the Hanseatic League and the end of the Napoleonic Wars became the largest mercantile Christian immigrant group in the eighteenth century. Using previously neglected and little used evidence, this book assesses the causes of their migration, the establishment of their businesses in the capital, and the global reach of the enterprises. As the acquisition of British nationality was the admission ticket to Britain’s commercial empire, it investigates the commercial function of British naturalization policy in the early modern period, while also considering the risks of failure and chance for a new beginning in a foreign environment. As more German merchants integrated into British commercial society, they contributed to London becoming the leading place of exchange between the European continent, Russia, and the New World.

Margrit Schulte Beerbühl is Professor of Modern History of the University of Düsseldorf. Her publications include Spinning the Commercial Web (Frankfurt 2004, ed. with Jörg Voegele), Migration and Transfer from Germany to Britain (München 2007, ed. with Stefan Manz et al.),  and Transnational Networks: German Migrants in the British Empire, 1670-1914 (Leiden 2012, ed. with Stefan Manz et al.).

Subject: History (General) History: 18th/19th Century
Area: Europe


List of Illustrations
List of Tables


Sources and Outline

Chapter 1. Naturalizing Newcomers for Prosperity (1660-1818)

  • Early Modern English Naturalization Law
  • Naturalized Subjects: Their Numbers and Native Lands
  • The Occupations of German Immigrants who became English Subjects

Chapter 2. Furthering Anglo-German Trade in the Seventeenth Century

  • Reorganizing Anglo-German Trade during the 1600s
  • London’s German Merchants after 1660
  • Lack of Trust and Understanding: Challenges for Both Sides
  • German Merchant Trade in London
  • Trading Regions and Commodities
  • Late-Seventeenth-Century German Trade Networks
  • German Merchants and London Trade Companies
  • Fighting Regulated Companies
  • Politics and Commerce

Chapter 3. Eighteenth-Century German Houses and Trade

  • London’s German Trade Houses
  •     Starting out in London: The Way to Independence
  •     Trade Houses and Partners
  • Chain Migration, Successors, and Transnational Alliances
  • A German Perspective on the Development of Bilateral Trade
  • The Rise and Organization of Early “Merchant Empires”
  •     Connecting Colonial Empires
  • Early Merchant Empires – flexible and vulnerable

Chapter 4. German Merchants in the Levant and Russia Companies

  • British Trade with Russia and the Levant
  • Naturalized Merchants in the Levant Company
  • Naturalized Merchants in the Russia Company
  • The Russia Company’s Struggle with Naturalization Practices
  • Naturalized Citizens and the Russia Company’s Office in St. Petersburg
  • The Bank of Scotland’s Right to Naturalize

Chapter 5. Favorable Markets and Bankruptcy

  • Insurance and Trade at London’s German Trade Houses
  • London’s Early Insurance Business
  • Networking Europe with the Americas and Asia
  • The Bankruptcy Trend and the Naturalized Subjects’ Bankruptcies
  • Waves of Bankruptcy during the Coalition Wars
  • The Size of Failed Trade Houses during the Era of the Coalition Wars
  •     Muilman & Nantes
  •     Theophilus Blanckenhagen
  •     Persent & Bodecker
  •     Oom, Hoolboom, Knoblock & Co. and Hippius & Co.
  • Estates of the Failed
  • Certificate of Conformity and Brokering Commodities: Starting all over
  • Commodity Brokers and the Freedom of the City


Historical Sources

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