Merchants of the Staple
sta·ple1 / ˈstāpəl/ • n. a piece of bent metal or wire pushed through something or clipped over it as a fastening, in particular: ∎ a piece of thin wire with a long center portion and two short end pieces that are driven by a stapler through sheets of paper to fasten them together. ∎ a small U-shaped metal bar with pointed ends for driving into wood to hold attachments such as electric wires, battens, or sheets of cloth in place. • v. [tr.] attach or secure with a staple or staples: Mark stapled a batch of papers together. sta·ple2 • n. 1. a main or important element of something, esp. of a diet: bread, milk, and other staples Greek legend was the staple of classical tragedy. ∎ a main item of trade or production: rubber became the staple of the Malayan economy. 2. the fiber of cotton or wool considered with regard to its length and degree of fineness: [in comb.] long-staple Egyptian cotton. 3. hist. a center of trade, esp. in a specified commodity: proposals were made for a wool staple at Pisa. • adj. main or important, esp. in terms of consumption: the staple foods of the poor | fig. violence is the staple diet of the video generation. ∎ most important in terms of trade or production: rice was the staple crop grown in most villages.
At various times the chief staple was overseas; from about 1390 to 1558 it was at Calais, which was sometimes called the Staple.