The international wool trade was an important part of Northumberland’s economy in the fourteenth century, and participation in it was central to the working lives of many local merchants. However, in the mid-fourteenth century the wool trade was subjected to an unprecedented period of royal regulation and taxation. The reaction of local export merchants to this was smuggling. This article examines both the practice and the prosecution of wool smuggling from Northumberland, primarily by use of legal records, and sets smuggling in a wider commercial, constitutional and judicial context to reveal its wider regional significance. Firstly, it situates Northumberland as a region in which this illicit economy assumed a particularly substantial measure of importance in commercial life. Secondly, it engages with the question of governance. Here, by focusing on the perceived legitimacy of taxation and law enforcement in the North-east, it argues that the conflict which resulted from the crown’s attempt to reshape the wool trade led to the blunting of the institutional mechanisms which were supposed to police the export trade in Northumberland. Smuggling therefore reveals some of the limits of royal authority in the far north of England.
Raven, M. (2022). Wool Smuggling and the Royal Government in Mid-Fourteenth Century Northumberland. Northern History, https://doi.org/10.1080/0078172X.2022.2142184