The growth, fluctuation and decline of the Levant trade can be measured by the value of the cloth sent out each year and (rather less certainly) by that of the silk brought back to England. But though these two commodities governed the trade, and in the eighteenth century accounted for more than four-fifths of its value, they played a much less decisive part in the employment of shipping. Other commodities such as cotton, galls, goatswool and fruit filled the holds of home-ward-bound ships and provided shipowners with the greatest part of their earnings. The volume of these to be brought home determined what tonnage of shipping was sent to the Levant each year. There is a marked contrast during the period 1700–30 between the very moderate decline in the value of the import trade as a whole — that is, effectively, of silk imports — and the steep fall in the import of the cheaper commodities that made up the tonnage of imports. The average import of galls in 1699–1701, for example, was 450 tons a year — double the weight of silk imported, though only a twentieth of its value.1 From this level the import fell to 200 tons a year in the early thirties, and in the following decade it almost vanished.
KeywordsCloth Silk Freight Rate Early Thirty Private Ship General Shipping
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