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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explains the significant, if often overlooked, ways in which both free and enslaved women as well as men participated actively and eagerly in trade around the Atlantic rim from 1500 to 1800. Commerce in the early modern period was not performed by heroic individuals or anonymous empires but by individuals embedded in familial and social relationships. The meanings that contemporaries accorded to female traders changed over time. With the expansion of Atlantic trade and particularly the increased availability of consumer goods in the mid-eighteenth century, women’s economic practices took on new political and social significance. By the end of the century, however, several forms of women’s commercial activity were attended by danger and backlash. By the 1830s, commerce itself had come to be defined as a male activity, even as women continued to participate in trade.

Keywords: trade, market, consumption, economics, commerce, family, American Revolution, fur trade, political economy

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