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

By Jean Favier; Caroline Higgitt | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Payment

That instability was bad for trade was something felt by everyone from the humblest peddler to the businessman well versed in monetary mechanisms. In fact, all too often the effects of a crisis became one with the causes, and the paralysis resulting from a lack of currency was hard to distinguish from that deriving from the uncertainties that accompany any change, even if the latter claims to be a remedy for the insufficiency. But there was also belief in the miracle cure that could breathe life back into the currency: "Thus, trade, which is dead or slack, would be entirely recovered by means of the black coinage and the extensive issue that will be made of them."

This was the advice given to Philip the Fair by the money changers of Tours, Troyes, Orleans, and Poitiers: salvation would come with the multiplication of coinage, even if it was base silver. Quantity, not quality, was the answer. During this period, others less competent than these money changers even recommended a return to the old heavy coin.


Instability

Ordinary people were ignorant of the workings of the monetary system. They saw the changes in the coinage made by the prince not as a reaction to fluctuations in the economic climate but as an expression of his will. They believed that the prince made changes in the currency for the profit he might derive; to benefit the landowners, in the rare cases where the money of account was strengthened; or to ruin the nobility or the clergy, in the more frequent cases where money was devalued. It went without saying that any change would benefit the speculator. In any case, the high

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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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