Economic and financial strategies of the British Catholic community in the age of mercantilism, 1672-1781
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This dissertation examines the British Catholic community during the Age of Mercantilism. It opens with John Aylward’s trade in the early 1670s and closes with the death of Bishop Richard Challoner in the late eighteenth century. By investigating the economic and financial strategies of these individuals, this work dispels the stereotype of idle Catholicism and shows how the Catholic community played a relevant role in the emerging Atlantic economy. The work starts with an analysis of John Aylward’s dealings during outbreaks of international warfare. His papers prove that Catholicism was crucial in his business, allowing the adoption of various strategies and access to diverse markets. As a merchant Aylward defies the stereotype of religious minorities’ communality in trade, by moving beyond religious and national borders. Moreover, he challenges the stereotype of Catholicism as estranged from capitalism. The dissertation further continues with an analysis of his widow Helena Aylward, as merchant and financier. Her skills and strategies allow the extension of the narrative of enterprise and Catholicism to women as well, by challenging the prevailing role of Catholic women as patrons or nuns. Finally, the last chapter analyses the business accounts of Bishop Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the London Mission. His dealings exemplify how Catholicism played a relevant role in finance, both individually and institutionally. In fact, the British Catholic Church fundamentally sustained itself through the stock market. Therefore, this work proves that Catholics were entrepreneurs: they built coherent trading zones and through a broad range of Atlantic connections, moved beyond the borders of the European Empires. They disregarded religious affiliations and nationalities, suggesting that the new economic and financial opportunities of the Age of Mercantilism allowed the Catholic Community to integrate into the British economy and eventually to achieve toleration.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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