English Cloth in the Levant Trade

  • Ralph Davis


Only one kind of English cloth found its way in any quantity into the bazars of the Levant; the thick, heavy material known as broadcloth. Though the name now connotes a particular type of cloth, it originally implied no more than it said, a broad cloth, of something over a yard and a quarter in width, as compared with narrow cloths like the 27-inch-wide kersey. But as far back as the fifteenth century the name had come to be associated with a particular range of thick, finely woven and heavy cloth of high quality, which was England’s principal export product. In the seventeenth century broadcloths began to be replaced, in English sales to European markets, by types of lighter cloth known as says, perpetuanoes, serges and stuffs. In the Levant, however, demand for broadcloths was rising very rapidly, and the new fabrics found no favour. Turks, Arabs and Persians (and Indians too) remained faithful to broadcloth until late in the eighteenth century.1


Eighteenth Century Levant Factor English Cloth English Trader Good Quality Cloth 
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  1. 2.
    J. Porter, Observations on the Religion, Law, Government and Manners of the Turks (2nd ed., 1771), pp. 292–5.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    There is a useful discussion of the kinds of cloth supplied in the second half of the seventeenth century, in G. P. Ambrose, ‘English Traders at Aleppo 1658–1756’ (Econ. Hist. Rev., 1931–2, iii, 248–50).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    C. King, The British Merchant (ed. 1743, ii, 85), said in 1713 that French competition had almost driven out Salisbury cloths.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    See D. Sella, Commerci e Industrie a Venezia nel Secolo XVII (Rome, 1961), pp. 61–4.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    By 1795 the English translator of Mariti’s Travels through Cyprus, Syria and Palestine could write (p. 248)Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    For an account of this competition from the French point of view, see P. Masson, Histoire du Commerce Français dans le Levant au XVIII ième Siècle (Paris, 1911), pp. 477–81.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    L. S. Sutherland, A London Merchant (Oxford, 1933), pp. 130–1.Google Scholar
  8. 1.
    See J. de L. Mann (ed.), Documents Illustrating the Wiltshire Textile Trades in the Eighteenth Century (Devizes, 1964).Google Scholar
  9. 1.
    E. M. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers (1954), pp. 219–20.Google Scholar
  10. 3.
    (M. Helot, The Art of Dyeing Wool, Silk and Cotton (1789), p. 136.)Google Scholar

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© Ralph Davis 1967

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  • Ralph Davis

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