An examination of the nature and use of gifts and the sociopolitical role of gift giving or gift exchange in early modern society is, in many respects, a logical extension of Heal’s excellent Hospitality in Early Modern England (New York, 1990). The book under review is divided into two sections. The first deals in a general fashion with the early modern view of what defined a “gift” in both a social and an economic sense, also looking at the occasions on which gifts were most likely to be given (or exchanged). The second section turns more to case studies, working outward and downward from the court and moving to the wider circles of foreign rulers and dignitaries, aristocrats, ambassadors, and various sorts of local worthies, all of whom sought to grease the wheels of business and friendship through some form of gifting.

The context in which “the gift” is examined,...

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