The English and the Early Modern Mediterranean: Theater, Commerce, and Identity

  • Daniel Vitkus
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


Throughout the early modern period, firsthand contact with other cultures helped to define English identity and to alter English thought and practice. At the same time, the representation of cross-cultural encounters played an important role in the ideological development of English identity. The key process that generated this cross-cultural contact and influence was the movement of goods and people via international commerce. English merchants had always interacted with foreign economies, but after 1570 an unprecedented economic impetus sent an increasing number of English subjects to and fro, forming stronger and more extensive ties with what Fernand Braudel calls “world-economies.”1 At the midpoint of the sixteenth century, England was commercially unsophisticated and isolated, but by the end of the century, English merchants and mariners began to assert themselves as players in the world of international commerce and cross-cultural exchange.2 One prominent economic historian has described this period, 1570–1630, as exhibiting “one of the most striking transformations in economic history,” manifested in “…New forms of organization, a new breed of merchants and promoters, new sources of capital, a new sense of purpose, and a new vitality in economic enterprise…” (Rabb 1967, 2–3).


Early Modern Period Foreign Economy English Writer English Subject International Commerce 
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© Daniel Vitkus 2003

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  • Daniel Vitkus

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