Merchants of the Staple

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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.

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staple. A staple was a trading centre in England or occasionally abroad, where traders deposited certain important commodities, bought and sold there. Edward II is regarded as the ‘father of the English Staple’ since it was during his reign that the Ordinance of the Staple (1313) made the system compulsory. The aims of the system, of particular importance in the 14th and 15th cents., were to regulate commerce in important commodities, especially wool, wool cloth, leather, and tin, and, by confining trade to a few named staple towns, to facilitate the collection of tolls or customs duties, and to bring trade under the control of royal officials who could ensure the maintenance of quality. The courts of the staple decided issues within the statutes. Because of England's importance as a trading nation, the staple system was also significant politically as an instrument of diplomacy.

Maureen Mulholland

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staple former term for a centre of trade, especially in a specified commodity, such as wool; originally, a town or place, appointed by royal authority, in which was a body of merchants with exclusive right of purchase for certain classes of goods destined for export. An ordinance of Edward III in 1353, the Statute of the Staple, established staples in a number of English towns as well as at Carmarthen, Dublin, Waterford, Cork, and Drogheda.

At various times the chief staple was overseas; from about 1390 to 1558 it was at Calais, which was sometimes called the Staple.