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Samuel Pepys and his money : profit, pleasure and priorities

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Schwarz, JM (2014) Samuel Pepys and his money : profit, pleasure and priorities. Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Seventeenth-century England saw religious dissension, civil war, the Interregnum
and then the reinstatement of the King, war with the Dutch, France and Spain,
economic growth and then decline, the increasing influence of mercantile
companies, frequent plague epidemics and the Great Fire of London. By a happy
coincidence, Samuel Pepys wrote his famous Diary (1660-1669) during this
tumultuous decade, after Charles II was restored to the English throne. At this
time, nothing was certain, especially life itself, but out of this uncertainty and
change arose opportunity for those with the talent and desire to improve their
lives. Pepys was one man who took advantage of these opportunities to embark on
a stellar career, one that would make him extremely wealthy.
In her excellent biography of Pepys, Claire Tomalin writes that money is one of
the obsessive themes of the Diary: 'how it is made, how borrowed and lent, how
saved, how hidden. ' This is a rather provocative statement, one that would be
interesting to examine more closely. Was Pepys really obsessed with money and
if so, why? Was he different from his contemporaries in this respect, or did other
men monitor their financial affairs in much the same way? What did money
represent to Pepys, and how did he acquire it and use it? The questions raise some
relevant and interesting issues pertaining to Restoration England: the acquisition
of money and the behaviour of ambitious men; consumerism, credit and
indebtedness; financial and administrative systems and corruption. These issues
have not been systematically and collectively addressed in the scholarship of this
period. They are worth considering and the intention of this study is to
'interrogate' Pepys and his attitude to money through his Diary, making
comparisons and contextualising where possible.
Samuel Pepys's Diary has been a rich source of information for scholars and of
interest to anyone who enjoys history. The definitive version of the Diary
published by Robert Latham and William Matthews has become the standard
edition for historical scholars and writers in many fields: political, social,
economic, bureaucratic, and naval; it is the main source of material used for this thesis. This thesis seeks to determine whether the Diary could be useful in
understanding Pepys's attitude to money, how this influenced his behaviour, and
whether this understanding could be extended to the broader community of
Restoration London.

Item Type: Thesis (Coursework Master)
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2014 the author

Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2016 02:34
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2016 02:34
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