Examine the view that eighteenth-century smuggling was the fault of the state

Topics: Illegal drug trade, Duty, Smuggling Pages: 3 (1166 words) Published: November 14, 2013
The evolution of smuggling from the small scale illicit trade of the seventeenth century to the multi-million pound business of the eighteenth century was compounded by several factors. The first of which was the sheer number of people involved in smuggling, whole communities including those in the elite classes were said to be actively or passively engaging in and profiting from smuggling in one way or another. The state’s initial dismissal of smuggling as being restricted to a minority of people meant they were unable to stop its huge growth when it was still viable to do so. Taxation and custom duties also played a major role in the growth of smuggling as the profit gained made it a more lucrative venture for those involved. Smugglers would have been unable to engage in their behaviour at the level that they did without the cooperation of the communities in which they lived or brought their smuggled goods into. Historian Richard Platt states that “whole communities connived... and profited” . The fact that port towns were reliant on ships coming in and out for employment goes some way in substantiating Platt’s statement as some would have cooperated with smugglers simply in order gain employment and subsidize their income. This phenomenon is most evident in coastal towns such as the Scilly Isles were the whole community was brought “to the point of starvation” when measures to stop smuggling were increased. The involvement of communities went a long way in legitimising an illegal trade. However it is difficult to establish how far the idea that smuggling was “a way of life” is true as by their nature smugglers were secretive and kept few records from which we can try and establish the amount of ordinary people involved. Cooperation from the general population also meant that it was close to impossible for the revenue men to get any information on the smugglers or their operations. Support of smugglers was not restricted to the labouring classes; Paul Monod...
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