Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages

By Jean Favier; Caroline Higgitt | Go to book overview

TWO
Opening the Way

Expansion seemed to have reached an impasse, horizons closed off and capacity limited. And then, suddenly, in the 1250s, everything began to change. This occurred at the very moment that one of the most serious crises yet experienced by the European economy was looming, and when statistics available to us—particularly in relation to agricultural prices and land rents—begin to show the first signs of a general winding down of energy; yet it was at this time that technological innovation and intellectual progress joined in bringing about developments that would postpone this decline. The result was two centuries of demographic growth and an expansion in rural economies that had important consequences for the towns.


The Art of Navigation

For a start, things were happening in the naval shipyards. From the galley of antiquity to the caravels that would cross the Atlantic, ships had been continually evolving. In the three or four centuries that mark the close of the Middle Ages, constant collaboration between the experience and imagination of shipbuilders and sailors led to the construction of safer and faster boats that could better cope with bad weather or unfavorable winds, carry heavier loads, and adapt more easily to the various cargoes that might be available in different ports. Ships were asserting their dominance as by far the best means of transport for heavy goods such as wheat, wine, salt, alum, timber, or raw wool.

Some ships were still rowed. These were principally the light galleys still used, in time of war, by the maritime powers to lead their expeditions and, at all times, to protect their merchant ships from threats such as the

-31-

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Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gold & Spices - The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages *
  • Contents *
  • Maps *
  • Introduction 1
  • One Horizons 8
  • Two Opening the Way 31
  • Three Learning About the World 53
  • Four Privileges 77
  • Five Competition 95
  • Six Foreigners 109
  • Seven Currency 125
  • Eight Payment 142
  • Nine Capital 151
  • Ten Business 175
  • Eleven Credit in the Marketplace 193
  • Twelve Toward Modern Banking 215
  • Thirteen the Risks of Business 237
  • Fourteen Accounting 258
  • Fifteen the Power of Business 280
  • Sixteen the Businessman and the Prince 297
  • Seventeen Social Aspirations 312
  • Eighteen Fortune and Conscience 332
  • Nineteen the Merchant and the Arts 349
  • Conclusion 363
  • Bibliography 365
  • Index 376
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