MRP: Zante

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Editorial history

02/12/11, CSG: Created page
06/12/11, CSG: Uploaded Mercatoris map of Graecia showing Zante (alias Zanta)
27/12/11, CSG: Added hypertext Table of Contents

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See Venice


Graecia, Atlas Minor, Mercatoris, 1634

Graecia, Gerardi Mercatoris, Atlas Minor (Amsterdam, 1634)

Detail, Carte du bassin méditerranéen, de l'Asie mineure etc., le Brun, 1714

BOOK PAGE DETAIL Le Brun C Bassin Med Voy au Levt Bef P1 1714 BNF DL CSG 130112.PNG


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Image credits & copyright information

(1) Graecia plate in Gerardi Mercatoris, Atlas Minor (Amsterdam, 1634), p. 555
- Book and image are out of copyright
- Sourced from a Google Free E-book copy

(2) Detail from 'Carte du bassin méditerranéen, de l'Asie mineure etc.' in Corneille Le Brun, Illustrations de Voyage au Levant (Paris, 1714), carte dépl. en reg. p.1[1]
- Book and image are out of copyright
- Sourced from Bibliothèque nationale de France:, for non-commercial use

Town profile


Early nineteenth century descriptions of Zante and its trade

A general dictionary of commerce, trade, and manufactures (London, 1810): entry on 'Zante'

"Zante. -- An island in the Grecian sea. Zante is extremely fertile in corn, and produces abundance of cherries, from the kernels of which is made a liquor called marasquin, and which is highly esteemed in Itlay and France. The chief commodity of this island is, howver, its currants (uvae Corinthiacae). There are only two vineyards that produce the grapes, which when dried are denominated Zante currants, and are situated in a delightful plain about the middle of the island; the grapes are gathered in the month of August, and are laid on the ground to dry; when perfectly dried they are carried to the capital of the island, and lodged in warehouses, called seraglios, being poured into them by means of large doors in their roofs, until the warehouses are completely filled; and they adhere so closely when thus lodged, that immediately before their being barrelled, they are obliged to be removed with iron utensils....Foreign vessels must obtain permission to take in cargoes of currants at any of the islands subject to the Venetians. There are other species of grapes grown in Zante, from which excellent strong wines are made. Oil of good quality is also made here, but this, as well as the wine, cannot be exported in foreign vessels; and that part which remains after the home consumption being supplied, is sent to Venice....

Cephalonia.--The chief production of this island, which is situated near Zante, is currants, similar to the produce of the latter. Cephalonia is likewise fertile in olives and in vines, but especially in that species of vine called by the French muscat rouge, or red muscadine. The merchants of Zante purchase all the currants produced in Cephalonia, and hence this island has no commerce of its own, in a direct way, even with Italy. Cephalonia or Argostoli is the principal port."[2]

Early nineteenth century description of Venice to Morea and onwards trade


Formery called Peloponnesus, is a peninsula joined to the rest of Greece by an isthmus, called the Isthmus of Corinth, and surrounded by islands called the islands of the Archipelago. First, respecting the islands situate on the Mediterranean side. Zante, Cephalonia, and Corfu, are the principal of the seven constituting the Ionian republic, which formerly belonged to Venice, but now form an anomalous kind of state under the protection of Great Britain...

...[of the seven Ionian islands] Zante alone, exports (chiefly to England,) 7,000,000lbs. of oil, 60,000 barrels and 4000 casks of wine - Cephalonia exports nearly similar quantities of these articles. Zante is the most fertile, as well as the most beautiful, of these islands...

...With respect to the Morea itself, it is sufficient to observe, that in all parts of the Peninsula, provisions are plentiful and cheap, and money of more value than in any other part of the Mediterranean: in consequence of which there is no good market for any considerable quantity of manufactured goods. lead and tin are always in demand, but only in small quantities at any one port. Ships that taje cargoes of fish to Venice or Trieste, where there is always a great consumption, may take in ballast and run down the Gulf of Venice and load immediately in the Morea, instead of waiting in those ports for a cargo. It would be a difficult task to attempt giving a particular description of the various articles the produce of the Morea, they being so very numeroud; currants, fustic, cotton, volonia for tanning, and olive oil are among the principal; besides these, are to be reckoned some sorts of fruits, gums, drugs, madder, &c. &c.

Currants, it has been observed, are a considerable article of export from the Morea; Petrasso is one of the best ports to ship them from; the fruit is rather larger and more free from and or gravel, than that of either Zante or Corfu. They are shipped in various sized casks, from twenty hundred weight to fifty pounds. The quantity shipped must weight above five hundred weight net, otherwise, they are liable to seizure. The casks are always included in the weight of the fruit, and paid for as such; the Morea currants have the preference in most countries, except England, where the Zante currants are more merchantable."[3]

Merchants trading with Zante

Charles Longland

Charles Longland, writing in 1653 from Livorno to John Thurloe, mentions Zante shipping:

- Here is in this port about ten Duch men of war, who intend sudenly to go out to look for som of our ships, which they conceiv may com from Newfoundland with fish, as also a ship or two going hom from Zant.[4]

Phillip Williams

The Livorno based merchant Phillip Williams bequeathed in his will, written in 1648, an investment in the Zant Merchant, together with investments in other ships:

- IMPRIMIS I give and bequeath to my deare and loving brother William Williams in London Merchant six hundred pounds in money and my parts of the ships Margaret, Edward, Paramore, Retourne (or the quond:m Zant M:rchant) and the Casar which I value at about four hundredd pounds more

William Williams

Richard Grassby portrays the London merchant and draper William Williams as primarily a Mediterranean merchant, exporting dressed cloth and dozens from Berkshire, Wiltshire, and Devon and importing currants from Zante. His father was John Williams, a London draper.[5]

Deposition on captivity of Jacob Searle, made at Plymouth, 30 Charles II

"To the third Interr this depon:t sayth that he hath often heard and beleiveth that Jacob Searle the Nephew in the Interr named was aboute Eight or Nyne and Twenty yeares since as this depon:t remembreth taken captive by the Turkes as he was cominge out of Zante beinge loaden as this Depon:t hath heard into ??carracs & ?carried into Trippoly"[6]

The Legorne Merchant voyaging to Zante, 1668-1669

The Legorne Merchant

The Legorne Merchant, captained by David Hamilton, and later by others, regularly pursued the Mediterranean trade, taking out a range of cargos to assorted Mediterranean ports, and returning with currants and olive oil from Zant.
- See C10/160/41 f. 1 (Chancery suit concerning the chartering of the Legorne Merchant in December 1668 for a nine month voyage to the Mediterranean. The ship's late departure, lead to the ship's late arrival in Zant, and allegedly led to the purchase of currants in Zant at higher than necessary prices and their subsequent sale in London at lower than expected prices
- See C10/160/41 f. 3 Voyage accounts for the Legorne Merchant, December 1668-September 1669, including disbursements in Zante

The Spanish trade links to the Zante currant trade

The Spanish Company

Pauline Croft comments in her study of the Spanish Company on the close link between Spain and the expanding (east) Mediterranean trade in the early C17th, and notes that the puchase of currants from Zante was dependent on trade with Spain, since currant purchase was "largely financed by the dollars and pieces of eight picked up en route at ports such as Lisbon, Cadiz, Malaga and Alicante". Crofts adds "A third of the charter members of the revived Levant Company of 1605 were also members of the Spanish Company, and the proportion would probably have been higher had not the latter been abolished soon after the incorporation of the former."[7]

Modern historiography of Zante

"The island of Zante was the centre of the [Levant] Company's trade in the dominions of Venice. English ships had frequented it as far back as 1533, and there were factors living on the island at least as early as 1586. In 1616 and again in 1626 a native was appointed to act as vice-consul there by the Levant Company, but the first Englishman to hold the office seems to have been John Cowley, nominated in 1628. The climate was an unhealthy one, and the mortality among the factors was high; but the demand for currants in England, and to a lesser extent in Holland, drew the English and Dutch there, and a large traffic was done which made the island rich in itself and a little gold-mine for its Venetian rulers. Cloth, lead, and tin were the chief articles bartered by the English merchants at Zante for the currants, honey, wax, oil, and wine which the island produced, but as we have seen the export of currants was so great that a great balance had to be paid every year in cash. Many deplored the passion for this 'liquorish stuff' which poured such vast sums of English money into 'these holes' (as Roe stigmatized Zante and its neighbouring isles) and condemned their countreymen 'who forsooth can hardly digest bread, pastries, broth and bag-puddings without those currants'. But currants, like tea at a later date, pleased the palates of the English public, and the laments of economists and moralists all failed to stem the traffic."[8]

Suggested image sources


MPI 1/27 ORDER THIS PIECE AS MPI 1/17. 1 item (illustrating the journal of Grenvill Collins, Master RN HM Frigate Newcastle, 1678) extracted from ADM 7/688. Greece. Chart of Zante Bay showing soundings, the mole, castle, town, windmills, a watering place and other features. [1678]

Suggested primary sources

Parliamentary Archives

Parliamentary Archives: House of Lords: Journal Office: Main Papers 1509-1700 HL/PO/JO/10/1 1 Feb 1509 - 16 Jan 1700: Main Papers HL/PO/JO/10/1/166 22 Feb 1644 - 11 Mar 1644
- 7 March 1644 -- Draft ordinance for support of the Levant Company. Annexed: 1 Petition of the Governor and Company of Merchants trading the Levant Seas; Pray that license may be granted only to members of the Company to import currants in English ships from Zante, Cephalonia, and the Morea.

Parliamentary Archives: House of Lords: Journal Office: Main Papers 1509-1700 HL/PO/JO/10/1 1 Feb 1509 - 16 Jan 1700: Main Papers 21- 38 HL/PO/JO/10/1/348 20 Mar 1671 - 8 Apr 1671
- Annexed: g) 29 March 1671 -- Petition of several merchants trading into the Levant seas. g) 29 March 1671 -- Reasons for taking into consideration the great burthen upon the trade of Zante.


PROB 11/298 Nabbs 52-105 Will of John Bromhall of Spiridioni Island of Zante July 1660
PROB 11/298 Nabbs 52-105 Will of Anthony Withering or Witheringe of Island of Zante 12 July 1660
PROB 11/330 Coke 57-107 Will of Richard Johnson, late of the Zante Frigate Merchantman in Scanderoone Road in the Parts beyond the Seas, Batchelor 27 September 1669
PROB 11/337 Duke 102-158 Will of Thomas Deyons, late Mate in the Ship the Zant Frigate 14 August 1671
PROB 11/361 King 125-176 Will of Richard Shaw, Chaplain of the Portland Ship in Zante Roads 31 December 1679
PROB 11/363 Bath 60-123 Will of George Rutter, Mariner being now outward bound for Venice and Zante in the good Ship Dragon 10 June 1680
PROB 11/406 Vere 140-189 Will of Chester Cordell, Merchant of Island of Zante 24 November 1691
PROB 11/411 fane 147-194 Will of William Curties, now belonging to the Good Ship Zante Frigate, a Merchantman 09 September 1692
PROB 11/440 Pyne 178-218 Will of James Evans, Seaman now belonging to the good Ship called the Zant Frigate, a Merchant Man 23 October 1697

SP 98/4 Kent to [?]: 2 letters, for consuls at Zante and Cephalonia 1663 Aug 13
SP 99/45 Appointment Williamson as consul at Zante. 1662 July 30/Aug. 9
SP 99/46 Complaint of Zante factors to Levant Co. 1666 Jan. 8
SP 99/47 Appointment of Clem. Harby as consul at Zante. 1670 July 20
SP 105/109 An ordinance of the Lords and Commons in Parliament concerning the importation of currants whereby it is lawful for all merchants of the Levant Company to import in English ships any currants grown in Zante and Cephalonia, and to land them in any port within the power of Parliament, etc. 1643/[4] Mar 19 Westminster

Warwickshire County Record Office

Warwickshire County Record Office: Feilding family of Newnham Paddox [CR 2017/C1 - CR 2017/C328: CORRESPONDENCE OF THE 17TH CENTURY [no ref. or date]: Unbound Correspondence in the time of the 1st and 2nd Earls of Denbigh [no ref. or date]: Letters found loose addressed to Basil Lord Feilding and arranged in alphabetical order of correspondents [no ref. or date]:]
- John Bromhall, Henry Hyde, Grenling Tyndall and Henry Norris in Zante [Ionian Isles] to [the same] Ambassador in Venice, 13th July 1637; John Bromhall, William Burdett (? Consul), Grenling Tyndall, Martin Lobery, Henry Campion, John Kent and William Freeman in Zant to the same as before, 12th Jan. 1637/8; Henry Hyde in Zante to [the same], 5th March 1638: all concerning the unjust treatment of Henry Hyde, an English merchant, by the authorities. CR 2017/C56/1-3 1637-1638

Suggested secondary sources


Blunt, Joseph, The merchant's and shipmaster's assistant: containing information useful to the American merchants, owners, and masters of ships (New York, 1822)
Croft, Pauline (ed.), The Spanish Company, London Record Society 9 (?London, 1973)
Gelder, Maartje van, Trading places: the Netherlandish merchants in early modern Venice (Leiden, 2009)
Eisen, Gustav, The raisin industry: a practical treatise on the raisin grapes, their history, culture and curing (San Francisco, 1890)
- 'Corinth and currants' (pp. 22-29)
- 'Smyrna raisins' )pp. 30-35)
Mortimer, Thomas, A general dictionary of commerce, trade, and manufactures: exhibiting their present state in every part of the world; and carefully comp. from the latest and best authorities (London, 1810)
Wood, Alfred C., A history of the Levant Company (London, 1964)


Fusaro, Maria, 'Ch: 5: Coping with transition: Greek merchants and shipowners between Venice and England in the late sixteenth century' in Ina Baghdiantz Mccabe, Gelina Harlaftis and Ioanna Pepelasis Minoglou (eds.), Diaspora entrepreneurial networks (Oxford & New York, 2005)

- Discusses role of Greek owned shipping in resisting encroachment by English shipping into Eastern Mediterranean, including Zante currant trade
  1., viewed 13/01/12
  2. Thomas Mortimer, A general dictionary of commerce, trade, and manufactures: exhibiting their present state in every part of the world; and carefully comp. from the latest and best authorities (London, 1810), unpaginated, section Europe, Google p. 178. See, viewed 27/12/11
  3. Joseph Blunt, The merchant's and shipmaster's assistant: containing information useful to the American merchants, owners, and masters of ships (New York, 1822), p. 411. See, viewed 27/12/11
  4. See 5th September 1653, Letter from Mr. Longland to secretary Thurloe (Thomas Birch (ed.), 'State Papers, 1653: August (5 of 5)', A collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, vol. 1: 1638-1653 (London, 1742), pp. 435-445. URL: Date accessed: 20 December 2011)
  5. See Notes section of John Williams will
  6. See C20/803/34 f. 7
  7. Pauline Croft (ed.), 'Introduction: The revival of the company, 1604-6', The Spanish Company, London Record Society 9 (?London, 1973), pp. XXIX-LI. URL: Date accessed: 07 December 2011, citing Morton Epstein, Levant Company (London, 1908), pp. 158–60.
  8. Alfred C. Wood, A history of the Levant Company (London, 1964), pp. 66-67