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

By Jean Favier; Caroline Higgitt | Go to book overview

SIXTEEN
The Businessman and the Prince

It was possible to be a loyal subject to one's king without renouncing one's aspirations to a place, and a role, in politics. Whether French or English, Castilian or Portuguese, businessmen knew that in their towns—unlike Genoa or Lübeck—power did not come from economic strength. The res publica sprang from different sources, and its definitions were different. For all that, business clearly could not be indifferent to the implications of fiscal policy or diplomacy.

It was well aware that it could realistically influence political economy only if it had a foothold in the various layers of political society. Although, in London or Lisbon, it was not the businessman who decided on war or peace, he could still listen to what was being said in the council and make his voice heard in financial negotiations between the sovereign power and parliament, the states general or provincial, or the Cortès. It was as important for him to determine the common stance of the town or region toward the monarchy's demands as to the competition with other economic powers.


Business in the City

Even in the heart of town, sovereign power greatly inhibited the activities of municipal bodies. Insofar as they were a social group, the middle classes had less and less autonomy. From England to Sicily, they saw their freedom of action restricted to the defense of their economic interests and, particularly, to the discussion of their contribution to the kingdom's financial burden. The monarchies, for their part, actively discouraged these urban leagues, the alliances that gave the Italian and German towns their strength. It was rare for relations to be established between towns; and they were

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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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