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A Test of Faith: The Account Book of Richard Poor, Quaker Merchant of Barbados


  • Simon Smith


At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Barbados formed one of the world's most successful economies, specialised in exporting sugar produced using enslaved labour. This paper analyses an account book maintained by the Bridgetown merchant factor, Richard Poor Jr, between 1699 and 1713. Poor Jr initially traded in provisions but switched to importing manufactures in exchange for sugar, rum, and cotton after establishing business relations with London Quaker merchants. Analysis of Sunday trading suggests that many clients were fellow Non-conformists. Quakerism, however, fused with other factors in reinforcing trust and security. The distribution of transactions was skewed towards persons trading only once or twice, while customers owning taxable property and heads of households generated the most valuable accounts and transacted over the longest period of time. The tempo of mercantile life appears slow: on a majority of days zero transactions are recorded. This finding may reflect the degree to which non-business activities complemented commerce.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Smith, 2007. "A Test of Faith: The Account Book of Richard Poor, Quaker Merchant of Barbados," Centre for Historical Economics and Related Research at York (CHERRY) Discussion Papers 07/02, CHERRY, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  • Handle: RePEc:yor:cherry:07/02

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    West Indies; merchant; Atlantic trade; religion and business; eighteenth century;

    JEL classification:

    • N8 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History

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