BUSINESS Life in the later Middle Ages was in some ways very different from our own, but in others far more similar than we might expect: it was on a very much smaller scale and perhaps less complicated, but many of the problems which perplex us now were even then causing anxiety.
In earlier days state regulation of trade had been accepted without question, but the growth of industry and commerce which was taking place led to a desire for greater freedom, and the struggle began between the rival claims of Free Trade and Protection. Medieval ideas of Free Trade were not, however, exactly like ours; it did not mean the free importation of goods from foreign countries, but only internal Free Trade and equal advantages for all English traders. Certain trades were in the hands of privileged persons or associations, and directed into certain channels, but monopolies of this kind began to be irksome. For example, the wool trade was in the hands of a body of merchants who were called Staplers, and wool might only be exported from specified ports to a specified mart, which was generally at Calais. These ports were termed Staple towns, or Staples, and the organization which