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By Edwin S. Hunt, James Murray

A historical past of commercial in Medieval Europe, 1200-1550, demolishes the commonly held view that the word "medieval business" is an oxymoron. The authors overview the full diversity of industrial in medieval western Europe, probing its Roman and Christian background to find the industrial and political forces that formed the association of agriculture, production, development, mining, transportation, and advertising. Then they care for the responses of businessmen to the devastating plagues, famines, and struggle that beset Europe within the past due heart a long time. Medieval businessmen's extraordinary good fortune in dealing with this antagonistic new surroundings ready the best way for the commercial enlargement of the 16th century.

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Extra resources for A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 1200-1550 (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks)

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Modern scholars have sometimes found this attitude difficult to grasp; accounting historians even of the stature of Federigo Melis have described some early bookkeeping systems as “lame,” because they jumbled business and household transactions. But like it or not, the separation of business and personal affairs, a feature of today’s economic life so encouraged by our legal and tax systems, was alien to medieval thinking at all levels, from royalty on down. Medieval enterprise encompassed a wide range of activities, each of which developed a distinctive system of organization in response to the opportunities presented by a growing and more sophisticated clientele and to the constraints on trade that had to be overcome.

The final stage of the process, the marketing of the finished product, was controlled by the merchants who operated for profit. This final stage illustrates one important difference between Italian and northern cloth producers. Whereas in Italy cloth was sold along with other trade goods by merchants who acted as entrepreneurs, in France and Flanders the marketing of cloth was far more specialized. There, production of the cheaper grades of cloth woven from indigenous wool seems to have been in the hands of ordinary weaver-drapers, who operated with little capital, owned at most three or four looms, and sold their product in the town cloth hall.

Its uses ranged from candle wicks to ready-to-wear underclothes, to padded doublets, to sailcloth. These were all rapidly growing markets: wax candles provided better light than oil lamps; the aristocracy, and then the common folk, began to appreciate the hygienic attributes of underwear and the comfort and fashion appeal of the doublet. The manufacture of cotton goods was concentrated in the towns of northern Italy, and its organization was similar to that of woolen textiles, except that the specialist artisans enjoyed greater autonomy, participating more directly in the councils of the overarching cotton or cotton/linen guilds.

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