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.