Benjamin Worsley occupies a unique place in the development of commercial governance in England. Employed as secretary to councils of trade by both the Commonwealth and restored monarchy, his career reveals the contribution of republican policies to the establishment of a navigation system that governed commercial relations between England and its empire for decades to come. But Worsley was far more than a faceless public servant. Ally of the reformer and publisher Samuel Hartlib, mentor to the young scientist Robert Boyle, arch-enemy of William Petty, the political arithmetician, Worsley participated in the intellectual culture of his time, but until now his own story has remained untold. As a London apprentice, military surgeon, and projector; jealous observer of Dutch trade, employee of republic and crown alike, and frustrated surveyor of Cromwellian Ireland; experimental scientist, aspiring alchemist, spiritual seeker, and restoration dissenter, Worsley stood at the juncture of many crucial historical developments. Bringing together commercial, intellectual and political history, and ranging from London to Ireland, Amsterdam, and the international trade routes in which they were set, this book tells the story of a remarkable character and the revolutionary age through which he lived.
Dr THOMAS LENG is Lecturer in History at the University of Sheffield.