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Performing Economic ThoughtEnglish Drama and Mercantile Writing 1600-1642$
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Bradley Ryner

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748684656

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748684656.001.0001

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Tables and Metaphors

Tables and Metaphors

Walter Mountfort's The Launching of the Mary

(p.16) Chapter 1 Tables and Metaphors
Performing Economic Thought

Bradley D. Ryner

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines how both tabulated data and metaphors functioned in early mercantile treatises as tools for conceptualising economic systems. It finds in treatises by Gerard Malynes and Edward Misselden the desire for what Mary Hesse, in her work on scientific models, terms the ‘perfect metaphor’ (a metaphor that corresponds exactly to the system it describes) and proposes reformulating the insights of economist-cum-rhetorician Deirdre McCloskey into a strategy for reading these metaphor-models. Whereas economic writers came to favour numerical data over metaphor because of the apparent ability of the former to offer an unmediated view of economic activity, the stage undermined any notion of an unmediated, non-metaphoric view, as East India Company merchant Walter Mountfort found when he attempted to incorporate information from the tables of Thomas Mun's A Discourse of Trade into his play The Launching of the Mary. In attempting to present Mun's tables as perfectly transparent windows on to the world of trade, Mountfort struggled against the mechanics of theatrical representation. However, the competing metaphoric descriptions of Dorotea Constance in the play's more theatrically effective plot offer a glimpse of how the stage might function to question, rather than transmit, economic models.

Keywords:   economic models, Mary Hesse, The Launching of the Mary, Deirdre McCloskey, Gerard Malynes, Edward Misselden, Thomas Mun, metaphor, Walter Mountfort, scientific models

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