Research: Jeake Family of Rye

The Worlds of the Jeake Family of Rye, 1640-1736

The seventeenth century Sussex merchant, Samuel Jeake, is best known to historians through his surviving diary, available in its original form here and published in 1988 as An Astrological Diary of the Seventeenth Century: Samuel Jeake of Rye, 1652-1699. Far less well-known and less well-used is the collection of over 1,000 Jeake family letters preserved in East Sussex Record Office. I was commissioned by the British Academy Records of Social and Economic History series to produce an edited collection of around 300 of those letters:


The collection has been constructed with the aim of creating a narrative across more than a century and through three generations of the Jeake family. With Samuel Jeake junior (1652-1699) and his wife Elizabeth (1667-1736) at its centre, it also touches on the lives of their parents and their children. The volume begins with the death of Samuel Jeake senior’s mother, Anne, in 1639 and ends with the death of Samuel and Elizabeth’s second son, also Samuel, in Jamaica in 1773.

Samuel Jeake is well known to early modern historians through his published diary. The letters extend our understanding of his life, business dealings and his key relationships, those with his wife, Elizabeth, and his father, also Samuel. Other correspondents include Samuel’s business contacts and his extended family. The letters reveal the importance of kinship connections to the management of business and to the family’s survival during the religious and political upheavals at the end of the seventeenth century. They give detailed insights into the Jeakes’ domestic life and a rare glimpse into the life and work of a middling-sort woman. Elizabeth Jeake made a significant contribution to the marital economy. The volume also tells the story of Samuel’s troublesome brother-in-law, Nathaniel Hartshorne, who became involved in the political machinations surrounding the Exclusion Crisis and narrowly avoided execution after a short and disastrous career as a government informer.

This collection is accompanied by comprehensive introductions to each chapter which put the correspondence in context and complete the narrative.

Contents of the Book:

1: Conflicts and Courtships, 1640-c.1662
2: Adolescence and Starting Out, 1668-1669
3: Samuel, the Merchant, 1672-1680
4: Marriage, Trouble and Strife, 1681-1684
5: Friends and Family, 1684-1686
6: The End of the War, 1696-1697
7: Elizabeth and her Children, 1699-1736
8: Afterword