Merchant Adventurers, name given originally to all merchants in England who engaged in export trade, but later applied to loosely organized groups of merchants in the major ports concerned with exporting cloth to the Netherlands. They were incorporated as a trading company in 1407. Originally the company's activities centered in Bruges, but in 1446 it obtained trading privileges from the duke of Burgundy and established its staple (i.e., trading center) at Antwerp. Despite strong competition from the Hanseatic League, whose dominance in the Baltic caused the exclusion of the Merchant Adventurers from that area, the company flourished, established depots in several cities, and in 1560 was given the monopoly on exporting cloth to W Germany and the Netherlands. It continued to prosper throughout the 16th and 17th cent., although political rivalries forced it to move its staple to Hamburg (1567) and Dordrecht (1655). The company was dissolved in 1808.
See E. M. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers (2d ed. 1967).
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