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Parliament and commerce

In the years after the Restoration in 1660, the wider economic importance of the English sugar trade became more obvious. There were also international economic pressures.

On 8 April 1671, West Indian planters presented their arguments to the House of Lords for a stronger defence against their commercial and political rivals.

The City of London's Corporation, the Bank of England, Lloyd's insurance - and a host of banking facilities - all thrived on the Atlantic trades. So, too, did the industries which provided goods for exchange in Africa, equipped the slave plantations of the Americas, and processed and sold the imported slave grown produce.

Consumption rose and the number of shops increased, and exotic goods formed an important element in the growth of England's finances. Duties and taxes raised by Parliament became critical sources of income. As a result, complex rules came to govern trade between England, Europe and the wider world.

Major ports and docks flourished in London, Bristol and Liverpool but the different levels of customs duties encouraged illicit imports which developed into a remarkable smuggling industry. To prevent such fiscal abuses, the state developed powers of scrutiny and punishment. Shopkeepers and tradesmen complained about such powers in petitions.

Sugar, tea and coffee

During the 17th and 18th centuries tobacco, but above all sugar, transformed British life. Britons developed their famous sweet tooth because their drinks - tea, coffee and chocolate, all naturally bitter - needed to be sweetened with sugar. They were also celebrated for the profusion of their puddings and desserts.

At the heart of this was slave-grown sugar. This led to a massive proliferation of shops across Britain, whose main source of income was goods from the West Indies.


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