Journal Article

‘In the Power of the State’: Mr Anys's Project and the Tobacco Colonies, 1626–1628

Thomas Cogswell

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXIII, issue 500, pages 35-64
Published in print February 2008 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online March 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cen002
‘In the Power of the State’: Mr Anys's Project and the Tobacco Colonies, 1626–1628

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Scholars have generally assumed that the dissolution of the Virginia Company in 1624 initiated an extended period of benign royal neglect in which Virginia were able to develop as they wished. Yet the recent discovery of detailed minutes for a Whitehall committee makes abundantly clear that Charles I and his councilors had not forgotten about the colony -- and the wealth it might bring into the Exchequer. As this article will make clear, a remarkable projector, William Anys, prompted the royal government to establish a tight monopoly in 1626-1628 both on the colonial production of tobacco and on its retail sale within England. Mounting colonial opposition and the prospect of parliamentary criticism in 1628 eventually prompted Charles to abandon the scheme, but the prospect of a windfall profit from tobacco continued to haunt him and his ministers. A full understanding of the Anys episode in turn finally renders much more comprehensible the hitherto mysterious events in 1634-5 when Charles I again established a transatlantic tobacco monopoly and when the colonists in their rage physically ejected his governor from Virginia. Consequently, the first blow against the meddling Caroline regime arguably came, not in Edinburgh in 1637, but rather in James City in 1635.

Journal Article.  14370 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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