Sir Thomas Gresham

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Gresham, Sir Thomas

(grĕsh`əm), 1519?–1579, English merchant and financier. As the royal financial agent in Antwerp after 1551 he proved himself very able, though his methods were frequently more effective than ethical. After the accession of Elizabeth I to the throne he spent most of his time in London but went on diplomatic and financial missions. He also accumulated a great private fortune as a banker, mercer, and merchant. He was the principal figure in the founding of the Royal Exchange, and he endowed Gresham College in London. His name was given to Gresham's law, the economic principle that in the circulation of money "bad money drives out good," i.e., when depreciated, mutilated, or debased coinage (or currency) is in concurrent circulation with money of high value in terms of precious metals, the good money is withdrawn from circulation by hoarders. It was thought that Gresham was the first to state the principle, but it has been shown that it was stated long before his time and that he did not even formulate it.


See J. W. Burgon, Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham (2 vol., 1839, rep. 1968); biography by F. R. Salter (1925).

References in periodicals archive ?
Capitalists in all Heywood plays analyzed here, but especially in the second part of IYK, have apparently been, as we have seen, idealized: Bess Bridges as the girl in a tavern transformed into a wealthy international merchant, then married into the nobility; Sir Thomas Gresham as successful Elizabethan international businessman, the idealized citizen, philantropist and capitalist merchant prince.
But it is probably the figure of Sir Thomas Gresham that introduces a clearest interrogation on capitalism as the alleged unconflictive defining feature of Early Modern identity.
The character of Sir Thomas Gresham embodies well these contradictions: when compelled to pay a tribute to the most prominent representative of the new capitalist episteme, Heywood can only produce a conflictive character, halfway between feudal society and new economic relations, simultaneously exemplifying and rejecting capitalism, embodying residual and emergent elements of the new economy.
By the reign of Elizabeth I, friends of the company, notably Sir William Cecil and Sir Thomas Gresham, shifted the balance in favor of the company so that by 1564 the Merchant Adventurers monopolized the cloth trade.
China's Shanxi Province killed an estimated 830,000 people; 1571: The Royal Exchange founded by financier Sir Thomas Gresham was opened by Elizabeth 1; 1832: Birth of French impressionist Edouard Manet; 1849: English-born Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from a New York medical school to become the first female doctor; 1898: Birth of Soviet film director Sergei Esenstein; 1931: Death of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova; 1989: Death of Spanish painter Salvador Dali.