The Political Economy of Tobacco in the Seventeenth Century English Atlantic

Ruth Savidge Turpin, Purdue University


This thesis examines the political economy of tobacco in England and the Chesapeake in the seventeenth century, including production and labor, distribution and shipping, markets, taxes, and consumers. Because of James I’s struggles with Parliament, tobacco achieved a special tax status and thus a special relationship to the English Crown. That relationship persisted through the reign of Charles I, across the Interregnum, and into the Restoration. Tobacco was grown as a cash crop in both England and the Chesapeake. In England, production was exclusively by independent landowners hungry for a cash crop. English tobacco growing was outlawed in 1619, but growing continued and was clearly a financial success. Tobacco was introduced into the Chesapeake under the Virginia Company and supported the colony even though the Virginia Company collapsed. Although there were some slaves in the Chesapeake from 1619 on, due to the success of the headright system production was primarily by independent producers until the mid-1670s. English colonial merchants developed the Triangle Trade, increasing their profits. As a result, slave labor substantially replaced independent growers in the Chesapeake. There is no hard data showing when or how Gloucestershire tobacco growing died out, but merchant alliances to stamp out the competition from England may well have had an effect.




Farr, Purdue University.

Subject Area

European history|American history|Agricultural economics|History

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server