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

By Jean Favier; Caroline Higgitt | Go to book overview

FIFTEEN
The Power of Business

Perhaps because they had been created by businessmen, some towns seemed to be made for them. Such were the towns in the Empire where the sovereign authority of the emperor was distant and scarcely noticeable, when it was not actually rejected. Such were the towns of northern and central Italy where the imperial party—the Ghibellines—did not necessarily support the emperor, and where alliances between towns were often more significant than the periodic affirmations of imperial unity. Such were the German towns where the struggle for the imperial crown was considered an issue for princes and archbishops, and of little concern to the townspeople.

At Florence and Lübeck, at Genoa and Hamburg, the real political power lay with the people. In Italy this was sometimes the financial and merchant aristocracy, the popolo grasso, at others, the popolo minuto of the shop or workshop. In the Hanseatic towns, it was the League's council which solely represented, in theory at least, the merchant class.

Even before the emergence of the bourgeoisie in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, there were towns over which a sovereign power had asserted its authority. The new powers in the towns, businessmen and tradesmen, although initially unsure, soon associated themselves with this convenient ally—convenient because distant—against the more local powers—the count or the lord, the bishop or abbot—inherited from Carolingian times. Whether it was townspeople involved in dispute with a castellan, or the common people with a business patriciate inclined to confuse its own interests with those of the town, all appealed to the sovereign—the king of France, of England, or of Aragon. The patricians of Ypres, playing a subtle but often

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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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