Grain, for instance, was usually prohibited from export, unless prices were low, because of fears that grain exports would raise the price of food in England and thus cause food shortages and / or civil unrest.
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Jones' study focuses on smuggling in Bristol in the mid-16th century, arguing that the illicit export of goods like grain and leather represented a significant part of the city's business, with many members of the civic elite engaging in it.
"I do not find they have any foreign commerce, except it be what we call smuggling and roguing; which I may say, is the reigning commerce of all this part of the English coast, from the mouth of the Thames to the Land's End in Cornwall." The high rates of duty levied on tea and also wine and spirits, and other luxury goods coming in from mainland Europe at this time made the clandestine import of such goods and the evasion of the duty a highly profitable venture for impoverished fishermen and seafarers.
In certain parts of the country such as the Romney Marsh, East Kent, Cornwall and East Cleveland, the smuggling industry was for many communities more economically significant than legal activities such as farming and fishing.
The principal reason for the high duty was the need for the government to finance a number of extremely expensive wars with France and the United States.
Before the era of drug smuggling and human trafficking, smuggling had acquired a kind of nostalgic romanticism, in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped: The thievery was boasted about and romanticized until it seemed a kind of heroism.