S. George West
Lisbon and OPorto Factory Houses, British Merchants and Ec. Relations
Recent researches have brought to light a great deal of information about the commercial and social activities of the British «Factory» in Lisbon and about its historical function, growth and ultimate disappearance (1). But, as Sir Godfrey Fisher has pointed out, there seems to be no record of any constitution of the Factory in the seventeenth century, although it is obvious that the members must have evolved some regulations, however rudimentary, for their own governance.
We still need to discover what were the characteristics, other than nominal, by which the association known as the «Council and the Factors» was distinguished from the larger association of the «Consul and the Merchants» of which it formed part. We know that the Factory meetings were presided over by the British Consul, who was a member ex officio, and that he acted as the Factory's spokesman in all dealings with the Portuguese authorities; that from 1666 onwards a Treasurer was elected annually «for distributing the charity and necessary expenses of the Factory»; and that the «Factors» were drawn from the British houses with mercantile interests in Lisbon.
Not all British merchants resident in Lisbon, however, were members of the Factory, and we have yet to learn in what way the Factory developed into an exclusive corporation, what was its complement, how the variation in its numbers was regulated, and what were the conditions and procedure by which a Merchant became admitted to the status of Factor.
The following extracts from contemporary documents may help towards finding the eventual answers to some of these questions, and are of interest in that they provide the names of some, possibly all, of the members of the Factory in 1672-73, and the names of allegedly all the Factors in 1686.
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