The Historical Journal


Trading with the Enemy 1585–1604*

Pauline Crofta1

a1 Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London

It has been the standard wisdom of historians that whereas the rebel Dutch continued to trade with Spain and the Spanish possessions throughout the Armada war, the English did not. As the letter-writer John Chamberlain resentfully complained, ‘We for their sake and defence entering into the war, and being barred from all commerce and intercourse of merchandise, they in the meantime thrust us out of all traffic to our utter undoing’. The evidence assembled here suggests instead that English trafficking with the enemy was much greater than has been assumed, although it probably never reached the huge proportions of the Dutch effort. Moreover the substantial volume of illicit trade should point to a re-consideration of some important Elizabethan attitudes to Anglo-Spanish relations both before and during the war, and hence also more generally to religious attitudes.


* Earlier drafts of this article were read at the Tudor-Stuart seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London, and at a seminar held by the International Commission for Maritime History. I am grateful to all those who offered comments and references, especially Professor Conrad Russell and Dr Geoffrey Scammell, and to Dr Simon Adams for helpful criticism.