North, Sir Dudley (1641-1691)
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Source: This biographical information comes from the editor's notes to Commerce,
Culture, and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism before Adam Smith, ed.
Henry C. Clark (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
Dudley North was born the son of the fourth Baron North in 1641. It
is said that he was stolen by a beggar-woman for his clothes as a child but
was soon recovered. He showed no taste for book learning early in life
and was apprenticed to an English merchant named Davis, who made him agent
to the Turkish trade at Smyrna in 1661 and Constantinople in 1662. By all accounts,
he was a vigorous and successful factor, giving life to
what had been a rather sluggish trade there. He was made treasurer of the
Turkey Company, and there was apparently some talk of his becoming ambassador
of England to Constantinople.
Having made a fortune, he returned to London
in 1680, a respected man of the world, fluent in Turkish and some of the dialects
of the Levant. In 1682, he was named sheriff of London, to the great dismay
of the Whigs. Afterward, he became a commissioner for the customs and an agent
in the treasury as well as a Tory member of Parliament from Banbury during
the reign of James II. After the accession of William of Orange in 1689, he
remained in London and was the subject of an inconclusive inquiry for his role
in packing the juries that condemned Algernon Sidney and others in 1682.
Thereafter, he was active mainly in commercial ventures until his death
on the last day of 1691.
His Discourses upon Trade is one of the earliest attempts to theorize
as a whole the workings of a market economy in England.