English Capitalism, ca 1553

An Incidental Description from Unknown Shore, The Lost History of England's Arctic Colony, by Robert Ruby, page 18

Young men became sailors because they planned on joining their family's trading business, or because they wished to escape farming, or because they lacked an inheritance. In general, they went to sea to improve their station. Change of that kind was harder to accomplish in a village or in guild-regulated crafts. Farmers remained farmers; craftsmen -- bakers, brewers, carpenters, coopers, grocers, haberdashers -- likewise expected to stay in place. Ideally, a young would-be mariner would acquire the necessary sailing skills aboard a vessel owned by relatives. As a second choice he could be apprenticed at age eleven or twelve as a ship's 'boy.' In either situation, the young man could reasonably hope to rise through the ranks aboard merchant ships.

John Yorke had invested money in three ships at the Portsmouth dock. The term for him was adventurer, which had a different meaning than it does today. Adventurers invested their capital -- ventured it -- in outfitting vessels. These entrepreneurs either owned the ships outright, supplied the merchandise for trading, provided the rigging and weapons, or played all these roles. In return, they received a share of the profits from the voyage. As investors, they regularly mixed private and public roles. Adventurers might simultaneously own ships and serve as commanders in the Royal Navy. If blessed with the right connections at court, adventurers would borrow vessels from the navy for modest sums and reduce their costs further by "borrowing" the navy's munitions and victuals.

In that way, John Yorke and adventurers like him could enrich themselves. A senior government minister could own a vessel, lease it to the Royal Navy, then persuade the navy to provision the ship for double the number of sailors actually on board. The owner would profit from the lease and pocket an additional sum from selling the extra supplies that the navy had provided at no charge. Such practices were regarded as proof of a man's energy and cleverness.

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