With the dramatic increase in trade witnessed in Belfast during the seventeenth century, large numbers of Scottish families were attracted by the town's economic potential, the availability of business premises, the ease with which one could attain the status of freeman, and the atmosphere of tolerance of Presbyterianism. This immigrant community formed the basis of Belfast's new merchant community.
The author provides detailed profiles of over thirty such merchant families, revealing a complex kinship network and a community hierarchy based on wealth, status and land ownership. Insights are given into commercial and social mobility, as it transpires that the merchants of Belfast often attained the position of gentry, and that many merchant families used their wealth to move abroad, establishing new trading links and extending their kinship-based commercial network to other centres of Irish, British and European trade.
Jean Agnew is an archivist at the Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.