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DuRing the ninth and tenth centuries the decay of the Carolingian Empire and the raids or conquests of Northman, Saracen, Bulgarian, and Magyar had hindered the economic consolidation of new peoples and checked intercourse both among Mediterranean lands and between those lands and the North. Byzantium—the great city, the luxurious capital—remained the depositary, and as yet unrivalled elaborator, of the industrial and commercial traditions of the ancient world. But Byzantium faced East; though she conducted an active trade with her Muslim neighbours, and trade of a kind with the inchoate peoples of the North and West, her economic influence westward and northward was, as it were, involuntary. Her chiefest luxuries might not be exported, and she allowed Italian seamen to fetch what they were permitted to take. Her direct influence on Italy, above all on Venice, in the tenth and subsequent centuries was great; though the lines of its action are not always easily traced. At least equally great was the direct influence of Italy on the lands over the mountains. It would therefore be possible to resolve the history of European trade and industry in the Middle Ages into a series of tableaux illustrating the outward spread of Byzantine and Italian influences. But that history cannot be so resolved; although it would be distorted, and some of its most significant features would be obscured, were it painted with a Northern rather than a Southern light. In matters economic, as in much else, the homes—even the pillaged homes—of the older culture usually led, and very often they gave; but the newer peoples also were really, if rudely, creative.

What little is known of the intricate commercial and industrial life of tenth-century Byzantium provides, for the most part, rather contrasts with simpler contemporary conditions and subsequent growths elsewhere than suggestions as to the roots from which those growths may have sprung. But, if only for the contrast’s sake, that little should not be overlooked. It is drawn mainly from the so-called Prefect’s Edict of Leo the Wise, which, though it deals only with the greater organised trades and professions, over which the State exercised a special control, still throws some light into the streets and shops and counting-houses of the city. These State-dominated trades are the bankers, notaries, jewellers, dealers in raw silk, silk-throwers, silk-weavers, dealers in silken garments, linen-dealers—who buy for money in Pontus and Thrace and by way of barter from the Bulgarians—dealers in unguents who buy from the East, dealers in wax, in soap, general dealers, leather-workers, and all the trades connected with the food-supply of a great capital. Other trades, such as marble-workers, painters, and carpenters, are mentioned; but whether or not they were organised into gilds or colleges is uncertain and immaterial. They shew clearly enough a complex subdivision of labour and trade in the service of a luxurious community. The organised trades, though subject to rigid government control, are yet not in the almost servile position once occupied by the collegia under the declining Empire of the fourth and fifth centuries. Moreover they are developing in ways unknown to the classical collegium. The beginnings of an apprentice and journeyman system; rules for testing the qualifications of new members; attempts on the part of government to prevent prosperous traders from making gain in more than one line of business; and provisions for purchases by whole “gilds” collectively, anticipate familiar aspects of the gild-life of the West in the high noon of the Middle Ages.

There may have been—in Italy there almost certainly was—a measure of continuity between late imperial “gilds,” whether of the Byzantine or of some other type, and those “gilds” of traders or craftsmen which come into being—or into the light—throughout Europe, from the latter part of the eleventh century onwards. Ravenna, where evidence of such continuity would most naturally be sought, supplies a series of references to technical scholae and their officials—in the sixth century the bakers; in the ninth and tenth the notaries and merchants; in the eleventh the fishers and victuallers. Rome had her schola of gardeners early in the eleventh century, and there are similar isolated references from Naples and elsewhere, until the blacksmiths’ community of Brescia appears as a well-organised body in 1101. Of the industrial life of these scholae in the dark ages really nothing is known, and the continuity, if continuity there were, in Italy or possibly in parts of Gaul, is of little real significance; for there is no reason to suppose that either these scholae or those of Byzantium were deliberately copied by other communities in Italy, still less by transalpine communities. What is of great significance is the mere existence of any such “gild” at a given time or place, proving, as it does, commercial or industrial specialisation and suggesting the existence of wide markets.

Though commercially Byzantium faced East, her own lands and the Levantine territory of the Crescent attracted Italian seamen and merchants even in the most perilous days of the tenth century. By the close of the century, Venetians constantly visited all the ports of the Eastern Empire. Venetian slave-traders, and Venetian salt or timber merchants, were in Greece and Egypt certainly in the ninth and possibly in the eighth century. In the early days of Venice, Amalfi, which recognised the suzerainty of the Eastern Emperors down to 1075, had been a serious rival; but by about the year 1000 Venice was undisputed mispress in the Adriatic. She had, also, regular trade relations with Germany and was sending over the Alpine passes the luxuries of the East into the as yet but imperfectly Germanised frontier-provinces of the Empire. It was probably by way of Venice and Mayence that the men of the Emperor procured the pepper which they paid to Canute to maintain their trade footing in England. Yet though merchants went to and fro and the worst days were past, Venice and all other Italian towns, at the close of the tenth century, were little better than villages, or encampments among the ruins, when compared with Byzantium's population of at least a hundred thousand and her diversified industrial and commercial life. It is true that from the ninth and even from the eighth century onwards faint reports come through to us of manufacturing industries of more than local importance, in one or other of these Italian towns, of cloth made in Florence, of silk woven and cloth and gold wire made at Lucca, or of rich vestments bought—and possibly made—in Rome. But these are only obscure beginnings or struggling survivals—one cannot tell which—very different from the industries of the great city which had never been pillaged.

Though war may waste the fields, and conquests change and change again the legal and social status of the cultivator, so long as men must be fed there is less chance of widespread technical retrogression in agriculture and the rural crafts, during ages of trouble, than in those urban industries which depend on effective communications and an extensive or wealthy circle of consumers. Therefore, although whole districts went out of cultivation in what had been the home provinces of the Empire between the fourth and the seventh centuries, scattered evidence from the seventh to the tenth—evidence coming mainly from the Exarchate, the Patrimonium Petri, and the South—proves at least the existence of regular leases, arable land owned by small cultivators, enclosed vineyards and oliveyards, rents paid in money, and other rents which just because they were paid in kind reveal a very varied and, so to say, civilised agriculture, an agriculture in sharp contrast with the primitive simplicity of the contemporary Celtic, Teutonic, and Slavonic North; where neither the relics of an old civilisation nor the agricultural specialisation that commerce brings with it had as yet affected systems of tillage, which in any case—owing to climatic reasons—could never attain to the variety of the South.

One force, it is true, must have worked steadily, even during the dark­est ages, in the North—the slow growth of population or the slow spread of a dominant race, as in England, over the whole territory available for conquest and settlement. Land was being won from moor and forest and sea; pastoral or semi-pastoral life was giving way to agriculture. The ploughman, “the grey-haired enemy of the wood" of the Anglo-Saxon poet, was everywhere carrying on his slow feud, conquering those forests from which, as King Alfred wrote, “many a home may be built and many a fair town stockaded, wherein men may dwell in peace and quiet.” The free peasants of eastern Flanders, of the Campine, and of Frisia, were laboriously attacking the heath and the marshes round about their scattered homesteads. In such districts individual initiative had the freest play; but it was only in later centuries that they became homes of serious technical progress in agriculture. Throughout the greater part of Northern Europe settlement was by villages, and agricultural holdings, whatever the exact status of the holder, were scattered over the open fields and subject to a common routine which, once fully established, proved extraordinarily incapable of change.

It is uncertain over how wide an area what was, generally speaking, the final step in the development of that routine had been taken by the close of the tenth century; but the evidence now available suggests that the area was not very wide. That step was the introduction of the familiar three-field system, in which each of the great village fields was cropped in a regular rotation of winter grain, summer grain, fallow. It was first taken apparently, in a few districts, soon after the final settlement of the Northern peoples. The three-field system was certainly known and practised in the Empire of Charles the Great, to whom legend ascribes an order for its general use. But the less economical two-field system, in which half the arable lay fallow each year, survived in parts of Germany, the Mosel-land in particular, far into the Middle Ages. The two-field rotation was common in such a progressive French province as Normandy during the thirteenth century, and in Central and South-Western France it was universal centuries later; although there one can speak of a two-field rotation, but hardly of a two-field system, because population was more scattered and agriculture less communal than in the North. The two-field system was common too in almost all parts of England in the Middle Ages, and it survived into modern times far more widely than was at one time supposed. All this suggests that the three-field rotation won its way very slowly.

The two-field system itself was only one of several growths from that most primitive form of agriculture in which fields have no permanent existence, but revert periodically into rough pasture or, it may be, into woodland. All over Europe remnants of this earliest system survived to modern times, side by side with remnants or variants of perhaps its most important offshoot other than the two and three-field systems: that is the system in which an “infield” near the village or homestead is permanently cultivated, while a series of “outfields” are cropped in turn so long as they will bear, and are then allowed to revert to the waste. In the tenth century the primitive system of shifting fields, or its first modifications, must have been widespread. It was the typical agriculture of Wales as revealed in her earliest laws; it became a permanency in many parts of Norway. In its “infield” and “outfield” form it remained the basis of Scottish agriculture down to the eighteenth century, and left traces on the agriculture of many English counties. It was long the dominant system in most of the Alpine valleys; it has a modern history in the lowlands of the North Sea coast. Owing to the very flexibility of its rude practice it proved less obdurate, when a stimulus to improvement was forthcoming, than the relatively perfect and very rigid organisation of the two or three-field system; but in the earlier centuries of the Middle Ages it must still have been a mere unprogressive barbarism.


During the dark centuries, the old cities of the Western Mediterranean and of Southern France had fallen even lower than those of Italy. In Northern France and in England, where the perfected city­life of the old world had never come into being, as in the greater part of Germany, in Scandinavia, and in the Slavonic lands, where there had never been city-life at all, the humble beginnings of that life in its medieval form had to face every kind of difficulty. But around court, cathedral, or monastery, at the nodal points of roads and waterways, and at the chief harbours, a scanty industrial life had persisted through the times of trouble or was coming into existence as society became once more accustomed to a measure of security, so that population, and that luxury among the great which has so often been the cause of industrial specialisation, had once more chances of growth. Even in the ninth century a small Frankish monastic town had its streets of the merchants, the smiths, the armourers, the saddlers, the bakers, the shoemakers, butchers, fullers, furriers, wine-merchants, and inn-keepers; in the tenth century scribes made copies of technical treatises; and at the beginning of the eleventh the reeve, or lord’s bailiff, on a great estate in England controlled, ideally and perhaps in fact, a plumber and a mill-wright besides the more primitive types of artisan. But a street need neither be long nor full; a treatise may be copied yet not much read; and the industrial dependents of a great ecclesiastical or lay establishment were not a new social phenomenon.

The raids and conquests of the Northmen had stimulated commerce and town life both directly and indirectly. Themselves great traders, though also great destroyers, their inroads extended both the range and the intensity of European commerce. In the ninth century they joined hands with the East, behind the back of Europe as it were, securing political control of the old trade route down the Dnieper to the Black Sea, and of its profitable commerce in furs, honey, wax, and, above all, slaves. Treasure and Eastern wares came up the route to the Baltic, so that the influence of this “Arab” trade can be clearly traced in Western Germany during the tenth century. Their ships and settlements brought the whole of the British Isles, and to some extent the remote lands of the North-West, into close relations with the continent. In or about the year 1110, York is described as full of merchants from every quarter especially from the people of the Danes.And though their raids had so wasted the Flemish and Frisian shores that, about the same date, the land beside the mouths of the Rhine and the Meuse was almost uninhabited, yet the needs of self-defence had called into being there, as in other regions subject to their depredations, strong places—stockaded boroughs in the English Danelaw, or fortified monasteries, like the castrum coenobium Gandense of St Bavon—which were to become in time centres of urban civilisation.

To these new centres, as to the old, came the wandering merchants of many races whom every great Northern ruler of these centuries, an Otto or an Alfred, appreciated and encouraged. Moving usually in groups, in their ships or with their caravans, through lands which as yet for the most part had no organised commercial life, they seem often to have travelled farther than did their successors of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; though few can have rivalled those ninth-century Jews who are said to have journeyed constantly from Erankland to China, sometimes by the coasting routes of Southern Asia, sometimes overland from the Levant, finding at innumerable points of the great journey communities of their own people to aid and protect them. Among these wandering merchants, men bound to no soil and by the law of no single community, there grew up habits of co-operation and a custom of the merchants which was to become the Law Merchant of later centuries.

The developments and changes in transport and intercourse, between the dark earlier centuries and the age (c. 1250-1350) for which information is comparatively abundant, and with which this chapter is mainly concerned, were affected more profoundly by political events than by technical achievement of any kind. True, the trade of Bruges in her great days owed much to the mighty artificial waterway to the sea at which Dante marvelled; the pass of the St Gothard might have remained only a second or third rate Alpine highway, and the federation of the Forest Cantons might not have acquired so great an economic and political importance, had not some nameless engineer—about the year 1225—hung “the bridge of spray” in the gorge of the Reuss above Goschenen; improvements in seamanship, by the fourteenth century, rendered the long voyage from Italian ports to the Channel an ordinary rather than an extraordinary occurrence. But such technical gains were to some extent offset by corresponding losses—an undoubted decay of Roman highways, as for instance in England; siltings up of harbours and waterways with which medieval engineering was unable to cope; lost memories of possible trading routes, such as those revealed by the more distant explorations of the Northmen. And in any case these technical gains had not economic significance comparable—to take examples from varied spheres—with that of the political consolidation of England or of France; the cutting off of Russia from the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean, to which Russian ships had penetrated in the tenth century, by the invasion of the Patzinaks from Asia during the eleventh; the counter-offensive of Genoa and Pisa against Muslim piratical sea-power in the Mediterranean which preceded the First Crusade; the destruction of the sea-going trade of Ferrara by Venice early in the thirteenth century, which marks an important stage in the concentration of the trade, and so of the industry, of north-eastern Italy in the territory of St Mark; the creation of the Mongol empire which opened the overland routes to the Far East for Marco Polo, routes which had been so well trodden by 1315 that Pegolotti the Florentine could write of one of them—which started from the northern shores of the Black Sea—“e sicurissimo, e cio lo dicono tutti i mercanti che Fhanno usato.” Within a generation political events closed them again, and. the lands of the “ Grand Cham” became lands of fable.

There is one major exception to this general conclusion. The technique of the warehouse and the counting-house, of the money-changer’s table and of the moneyer’s art, made notable progress with the growing volume and complexity of commerce and the growing capacity of governments to protect and encourage it. This progress, unlike that in the means of transport and the opportunities for trade, is not counterbalanced by any parallel retrogression. It can best be examined in connexion with the spread of commercial influences from Italy. But before any such examination is attempted, the fundamental industry of agriculture, as it had come to be practised in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, claims attention—not merely because the Middle Ages were essentially agricultural, but because important problems, connected with the accumulation and distribution of wealth and with the relations of urban and rural industry, must first be viewed, as it were, from the fields.


In its broad outlines the agriculture of Europe changed but little between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries. Not till the end of the thirteenth century was the agricultural occupation of their territory by the Northern nations approximately complete, a process of which the Villeneuves, the Newtons, and the innumerable villages created by the Germans in the process of their colonisation southward and eastward, are the permanent record. To what extent the creation of new villages was accompanied by improvements in the laying out of the fields in France or England is not yet known; though the planning of new towns can be studied in the French bastides of the thirteenth century, or in Edward I's bastides in North Wales, at New Winchelsea,and at Hull. In Germany, it is possible to trace with some certainty the effect of the constant creation of villages and towns on the arts both of town and of village planning. The semi-agricultural towns of the North and East, such for instance as. Breslau, have a systematic rectangular ground-plan which recalls Roman or American colonial enterprise. Modern field-maps of the villages bevond the Elbe, as compared with those of the older settled territory further West, often shew a forethought and system which must have contributed to agricultural efficiency. The directors of the various colonising movements were men who understood their business. They brought to their aid specially qualified pioneers. The marsh, lands about Bremen, for instance, began to be settled and laid out with an admirable regularity and efficiency by expert peasants from Flanders and Holland early in the twelfth century. These Low-German and other West-German colonists carried their skill as far eastward as Hungary; and it is not unlikely that the agriculture—together with the industries—of England profited by the close relations with Flanders which followed the Norman Conquest.

The gradual adoption of the three-field system, already referred to in connexion with an earlier period, is an English parallel to this technical progress during the German colonial age. A corresponding development in Western Germany is the progress from a two-field to a four-field system which is found in the valley of the Mosel. It was a distinct technical advance for, whereas under the two-field system half the land lay fallow yearly, of a four-field system it is written seminabunt agros illos tribus annis et quarto vacabunt. The same thing happened in some English two-field villages; but the change is hard to date.

The pressure of population in old-settled districts had furnished both colonists and some incentive to the adoption of the less wasteful forms of agriculture. Towards the end of the thirteenth century the business of village-making slackened throughout Germany, and in the fourteenth century it ceased. Forests, which in the twelfth century had been valueless or even a burden, began to be protected systematically, first by the lords and subsequently by the customary law of village or mark. Great numbers of villages were even deserted in various parts of Germany; though how far this was due to war and pestilence, and how far—as has been argued—to the actual inability of a now redundant population to maintain itself on poor land, it is impossible to determine. Had the rural population, in any part of Europe, grown during the two closing centuries of the Middle Ages, fundamental adjustments in technique would have been inevitable. But plague—especially the great visitation of 1349—warfare, and possibly the more subtle social causes which tend to preserve the balance between population and resources, rendered anything of the kind unnecessary. Indeed, what large-scale adjustments took place were often in the opposite direction, as a result of the temporary fall in population, due in England to the Black Death, or in France to the Death and the Hundred Years' War.

Such progress in agriculture as had occurred up to the fourteenth century was not absolutely confined to the mere conquest of wood or waste, and the reproduction on land thus gained of slightly improved forms of the old village life. The transforming power of nearness to the young towns, or of facilities for the production of some luxury or necessity which could enter into commerce, can everywhere be traced, most readily and most extensively in the agriculture of the Mediterranean lands. Throughout Northern Europe special crops could not easily be fitted into the corn-producing routine of the open arable fields; whereas in the South the climatic facilities for the production of such crops—the grape, for instance, and the olive—had maintained a varied and relatively elastic agriculture since ancient times. The gradual extension of crops other than corn, in the Teutonic or semi-Teutonic North, was facilitated by the fact that much land which was cultivated directly by or for the greater “proprietors” either had always lain outside the intermixed acres of the open fields, or was gradually consolidated—extracted from the fields as it were—at some time before the fourteenth century. Whether such land was tilled by a more or less servile peasantry, under’ the direction of the lord’s agents, or was in some fashion farmed, is from the present point of view immaterial. The fact that an intermixture of property was a technical disadvantage had been early recognised. Documentary evidence of such recognition is naturally rare, but a few cases have come to light, such as the exchange effected between two ecclesiastical landowners of South-West Germany in 1158, on the ground that “ex tali perinixtione diversarum proprietatum saepe molestiae fiebant et querimoniae.” There is little reason to think that, in Germany or any other country, this recognition, with the resulting re-arrangements,affected peasant lands before the fourteenth century.

The peasantry, however, had always controlled some scraps of land outside the fields, and the progressive absorption of waste land had added to the supply. In the earlier centuries land newly won must have often been assigned piecemeal to its first cultivators and subjected to the ordinary arable routine; but when once that routine was set, the new acquisitions—the essarts of English agrarian history—often provided opportunities for a more individual agriculture than was possible in the fields, whatever the system of tenure.

The closes of the lord’s demesne and the essarts in peasant hands, to adopt the English terminology, might be turned into specially well-cared-for meadows, into vineyards or orchards; they might be cropped with flax or hemp, hops or woad; or they might be used as garden ground for pease, cabbages, and small sowings of the finer grain crops. Wherever climate and circumstances favoured, there was a steady addition to the land thus set aside for crops that required special attention. Here and there, in the thirteenth century, whole districts were dominated by some special crop, though this was, of course, exceedingly rare. The high valley of Aquila, in the Abruzzi, grew saffron “for half Europe”; and as its second staple industry was pasture, it drew its corn and oil from other parts of the Regno, tn the near neighbourhood of Bordeaux, wine­growing for distant markets controlled agricultural life. South-western France was a region in which the closely-articulated and therefore relatively indestructible Teutonic type of open-field husbandry had never existed; so it is not surprising to find that the solvent influence of a commercial agriculture had produced an entirely individualistic rural economy, in which vines, olives, and wheat were grown by an almost free peasantry on “small, exceedingly subdivided plots, without any communal connexion between them.” In a more northerly wine-producing district, that of the Mosel, where vines were grown on demesne land or on land newly won from the waste, the social effects of a specialised agriculture are also to be seen, in the freer forms of tenure, and consequently greater subdivision of property in the peasant vineyards than in the manorially regulated Hufen (peasant holdings) of the common fields.

Thirteenth and early fourteenth-century Flanders furnishes the extreme instance north of the Alps of the reaction of an industrial city-life on rural conditions, though wherever towns grew strong some of the results which were general in Flanders were likely to occur sporadically. The great Flemish estates of the Cistercians, and many of those belonging to the nobility, produced for the towns; towards the end of the thirteenth century such estates were let out to metayers or rent-paying farmers, since throughout Flanders serfdom was decadent and agricultural capital was accumulating. Polders were multiplying rapidly; some of them still bear names which are probably those of the “undertakers” of the thirteenth century. Inland heaths and marshes were also laid under contribution. Intensive agriculture was already driving out the system of regular fallowing. The urban demand for meat, milk, and cheese enabled the cultivator to keep much live-stock; the climate was favourable to pasture­farming; and so manure was abundant. Agriculture was becoming to some extent specialised locally; there were cattle districts, corn districts, woad districts. Commons had almost disappeared, except the scanty common of the highway side or the dyke bank. There were fed the beasts of the agricultural labourers, the coppers, who, like the labourers of eighteenth-century England, had at most a scrap of land attached to their cottages, and supplemented their earnings with those of their wives and children, who span wool for the urban manufacturer.

Languedoc also was a land of towns, and that much earlier than Flanders; but its town life was, for the most part, less industrial. Nevertheless, rural conditions in Languedoc indicate an urbanised rather than a feudal society. In the twelfth, and even in the eleventh century, the Toulousan peasant was but little burdened with services or servile dues. He had inherited a diversified agriculture. He was, it would appear, some sort of metayer, paying to his lord usually a quarter of the produce of his plough-land and a half of that of his vineyards, orchards, and nut-trees.

In Northern and above all in Central Italy the mezzadria system had become very common by the close of the thirteenth century, as the result of the victory of a rich urban over a poor feudal society. The businesslike landowners, while able and ready to advance capital for the development of their estates, were not prepared to part with their share in the increment, as did the feudal lord when—in France for instance—he granted land to the peasantry in return for a fixed cens. Therefore the Italian stipulated for his share of the produce. The typical townsman of Italy despised and bullied the contadini,but it was to his interest to promote drainage, irrigation, the rational use of the land, and that diversified agriculture which was necessary to meet the luxury and the varied industrial demands of the cities. As communities also, the cities of the thirteenth century are found applying business principles to land. About Bergamo common pastures were rented out to cattle-owning associations. Brescia let its pastures at auction to the highest bidder, instead of regulating their use by tradition as a contemporary English town might have done. Como sold much of its common land out and out. The constantly recurring prohibition of such sales in urban legislation during the whole century, and also the constant acquiescence in the permanent though irregular occupation of common land by individual citizens, show how strong the tendency to alienation was in an individualistic society. With the fourteenth century, agriculture in Tuscany, Lombardy, and the other Italian homes of active civic life had taken its place in definite economic subordination to the capitalism of the towns.

The roots of medieval Italian capitalism are buried in and beneath the commercial revival of the eleventh century. It has been argued that medieval trade—at any rate before the thirteenth century—was such a peddling affair, so limited in scope and outlook, that it could not of itself beget accumulated capital, whose immediate origin, so the argument runs, must be sought in the surpluses—the true unearned increments— accruing to the burgess owners of urban real property, during the age of town growth from the tenth to the thirteenth century; and whose ultimate sources were the surpluses which the governing classes in Church and State drew from their control over the springs of rural wealth, and spent in the towns. No doubt ground-rents were a true cause of accumulation; in some parts of Europe, above all in the North, they may well have been a chief cause; but that they were the sole or even a prominent cause in those places where accumulation was earliest, most rapid, and most conspicuous, cannot be maintained. However much the growth of the early medieval town, and so of its ground-rents, may have been promoted bv the dispersal of agrarian surpluses through the households of king and count, bishop and abbot, trading wealth and the employment which it brings must be regarded as both cause and consequence of town growth, not as consequence only.

In Italy, where urban history before the thirteenth century is most significant and urban wealth greatest, no such simple connexion between agrarian surpluses and commercial capital can be accepted. The salt-trade, and the earnings of her traffic with Byzantium and the East, laid the foundations of Venetian wealth at a time when her citizens were not lords of the terra firma, and when the rental of the Rialto can have been but small. No doubt, in many other towns, accumulations of wealth are found at an early date in the hands of a class which corresponds to the land­owning patriciate of the towns of Northern Europe. But care must be taken in drawing conclusions from this fact. It is on record, for instance, that Genoese noblemen, owners of urban real property, provided capital for the wars of St Louis; but there was no gulf between nobleman and merchant at Genoa, and it is possible that the wealth invested in land had been won by their predecessors in trade. As merchants, shippers, bankers, the nobles of Genoa in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries took a leading part in the commercial life of the town. They risked, and no doubt also gained, wealth in trading partnerships en commandite. A will which has survived from the year 1236 shews clearly the varied, if somewhat modest, investments of one such Genoese trading gentleman. Perhaps his initial capital came from the land; it certainly grew in trade.

There is, however, both in Southern and Northern Europe, and throughout the whole medieval period, one certain connexion between feudal land-ownership and commerce—the lord might himself become a trader or an organiser of trade. The trading lord was most often the head of an ecclesiastical corporation, but not infrequently he was a king. A familiar instance of monastic commerce is the wool trade of the English Cistercians. Monastic houses were the chief traders, shipowners, and money-lenders of Scotland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The early Benedictine houses of the continent had regularly employed a negotiator eccletiae, who was charged with the sale of the surplus produce of their lands and of the monastic artificers. In the ninth century the abbey of St Martin of Tours had secured extensive trading privileges from Louis the Pious, and in the eleventh those of St Wandrille, Jumibges, and Fecamp could undersell the other wine-merchants owing to their exemption from tolls. In the twelfth century the government of Richard I carried through some profitable deals in tin; in the thirteenth Henry III—or his agents—utilised the royal prerogative to help the sale of wine from the royal vineyards in Gascony; in the fourteenth the Black Prince made profit out of his tin “blowing houses” at Lostwithiel and shipped salt fish for sale to Bordeaux.

But nowhere was royal trading so early or so fully developed as in the kingdom of Sicily. The Norman administrative genius, which had not hesitated to tabulate English swine and “otiose beasts” in the Damesday survey, and had made the Duchy before the year 1200 “the most advanced and self-sufficient country in Europe,” found an outlet in the kingdom of Sicily in the organisation of government monopoly and trade. Perhaps the Normans were influenced by the example of Byzantium and stimulated by the congenial Italian commercial atmosphere. In the twelfth century the Crown monopolised the commerce in iron, steel, and pitch; it sold the surplus corn and cattle of its vast domains to merchants from Venice and the northern towns; it conducted an extensive grain trade with Africa. Under Frederick II the agricultural resources of the kingdom were developed systematically, numerous fairs were established, internal customs were abolished, weights and measures were standardised. But royal trade proper attained its greatest extension under the Angevin dynasty. To the corn and cattle trades Angevin administrators added trade with the Venetians in cheese, butter, and oil. Crown agents bought, warehoused, and resold silks, cottons, flax, and spices. Retaining the old monopolies of iron, steel, and pitch, they established a monopoly in salt. Royal ships were not allowed to rest unproductive, but were hired out when not wanted—often to corsairs. This government business was not all sound: the Angevin fiscal greed constantly threatened the prosperity of the kingdom, and the whole commercial development depended too much on the enterprise, and latterly on the capital, of traders from the commercial cities farther north, especially Florentines. Yet government business continued under the Aragonese dynasty; it was imitated by the barons, and it grew rank in the congenial atmosphere of the fifteenth century. At the close of the Middle Ages, King Ferrante’s son was speculating in the Genoese oil trade, and there were barons who forbade their people to buy even food except from themselves.

It was by means of capital early accumulated in trade that Italy, from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, exerted her most direct economic influence on Northern and Western Europe. How the Crusading age developed the Levant trade of the Italian cities and brought the princes of the North into financial relations with the Lombards is well known. The Italian trader, long a familiar figure over all the Mediterranean littoral, is found constantly north of the Cevennes, though not often north of the Alps, from the early years of the twelfth century. His chief places of resort were the great fairs in Champagne—the two of Provins; the two of Troyes; those of Lagny-sur-Marne and Bar-sur-Aube. His trade was both in money and in merchandise; but it is only towards the close of the century that his characteristic financial activities can be traced with certainty. Somewhere about the period 1150-75 the Champagne fairs had become such convenient meeting-places for Frenchmen and Germaiis, Spaniards, Provencals, Catalans and Italians, Flemings, English­men and men of Brabant, that the practice of making “international” debts payable among the booths of their money-changers was well established by the close of the century. Each of the six great fairs ran for six weeks and no two overlapped; so trade could be carried on almost all the year round with that full liberty which was only possible during the Middle Ages at the fair. Documents stipulating for the settlement of debts at one or other of these fairs have survived from the late twelfth century; and from the beginning of the thirteenth century Champagne becomes for a time the clearing-house of Europe. In 1202, for example, Baldwin of Flanders is undertaking to repay certain noblemen of Venice— Venetians, by the way, were rarely seen in Champagne—at the fair of Lagny. Or again, from 1213 onwards there are records of a whole series of borrowings by the archbishop and the city of Cologne, the lenders being always Italians, the place of payment always Champagne. The example of Cologne was followed by many other bishops of Southern and Western Germany. As the loans to bishops across the mountains were often made to facilitate payments due from them to the Holy See, and were often arranged with a visiting bishop in Rome itself, the Curia might be induced to use its influence in support of the creditors: “we must get letters from Rome,” write the agents of Italian houses when they find their debtors obstinate.

Various types of Italian financiers are to be found in the North. There are humble usurers who wander over France and Germany, doing a little buying and selling, but occupied mainly, like some of their Jewish predecessors and competitors, in lending to small folk who pawn their household goods to get advances at the well-known usurer’s rate, 43 per cent. The Germans called such people Kawerschen (Cahorsins), and some may have come from Cahors in Languedoc; but most of those trading in Germany apparently came from Asti. The men of Asti were among the first to migrate in considerable numbers beyond the Alps, and with them migration seems to have become a habit. According to their own chronicler it was “in the year of Our Lord 1226” that they “began to lend and practise usury in France beyond the mountains.” Sometimes they handled the high as well as the low finance. In the two Burgundies, where they were particularly numerous, they engaged in every form of profitable and unpopular commerce—corn speculation, toll-farming, farming the revenues of ducal domains, and ordinary village usury. They were followed into the Burgundies, France, and Germany by traders and financiers from most of the West Lombard and Tuscan towns, besides men of Genoa, Venice, and Rome.

The financial supremacy of the Florentines dates from about 1250 and endured for a century. They owed much, in the long run, to the quality of Florentine gold money; but they had won their position before the fiorino (Toro was first struck in 1252. England admirably illustrates the progress of their influence. John, a stay-at-home king, borrowed of an Italian house in the early years of his reign, but the house was from Piacenza. About a quarter of a century later, Florentines appear, together with Sienese, Lucchese, and l’istoians, on the borrowing list of Henry III. Henry’s son also made use of the Genoese; but by his time the great Florentine firms, led by the Frescobaldi, a house whose head became a member of Edward II’s council, were indisputably supreme. So they were also at the court of Philip the Fair, where “Mouche et Biche,” that is to say Musciatto and Biccio Guidi of the company of the Frescobaldi and the Franzoni, gained wealth and unpopularity. Under Edward II the Frescobaldi, who after alternations of good and bad fortune abandoned English business in 1312, gave way to the Bardi and Peruzzi. Italian financial operations were already declining in England and would probably have dwindled away, in the course of the fourteenth century, owing to the growing wealth of native merchants and the increasingly difficult economic situation in Florence itself, quite apart from Edward Iii’s notorious act of bankruptcy.

These Italian firms were normally companies, with a family nucleus. In the firm of Peruzzi, for example, about the year 1300 more than half the capital belonged to members of the Peruzzi family, but some sixteen other families were interested in it. There were five or six Directors (direttori); the house had regular representatives in Naples, Avignon, Paris, Bruges, London, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Tunis, to name only the more important centres; and there was an army of travelling agents, identifiable by their teaserathe family badge—scattered over the whole commercial field. The business of such firms was varied. Custody of the deposits of private individuals, gilds, churches, and other corporate bodies, formed a large part. This was the home business. More familiar, but not more important, were the loans to crowned heads and the business of remitting funds to Rome, who undertook to pay over at Rome in Florentine money what he had gathered in a great variety of currencies.

Such widespread and intricate transactions required an elaborate busi­ness organisation, detailed accounts, drawing of bills (lettere di pagamenti) by the scattered agents on the head office, and an infinite knowledge of currencies and exchange. Even primitive forms of the bank-note and the cheque can certainly be traced in the fifteenth century; and the former, if not the latter, appear to have existed much earlier.

The coining of the gold florin in 1252 marks the return into the currencies of Europe of an effective gold unit. Since Charles the Great struck his new (silver) money there had been no regularly renewed gold coinage west of the Adriatic. The golden bezant, continuously struck and used in the Eastern Empire, was known throughout Christendom. In the West, golden coins had been struck from time to time—with some regularity at Genoa from the middle of the twelfth century—but they had not become current money with the merchant. Frederick II, that hardy innovator, issued a golden augustale after his return from the East in 1285; but his need became so great that it could not be kept up: once he was reduced to the issue of leather money. So the augustala has no history. Twenty-four years after it came the florin, which has a great history. Before the close of the century it had been widely imitated and, owing to its reputation, Florentines had been called in to manage the mints, not only in other Italian towns, but at Hall in Swabia and even in London; though they were not everywhere required to arrange for the striking of gold. The credit of Florence rested on the excellence and abundance of her gold; and her government of traders, who were very willing to strike overrated silver for paying wages by the Arno, maintained the quality of the florin with the honesty of self-interest.

Gold once known and struck with some regularity throughout the West, the currency history of Europe entered its late medieval phase. The gold was mainly a money of commerce, favoured by the great lenders and borrowers, buyers and sellers, because of its portability, its noble aspect and universal welcome. From the first, its use was encouraged by the Papal Curia. But even in Florence silver was the standard money for domestic trade. Now, owing to ignorance, abuse of the royal prerogative, the diversity of moneys, and the defects of medieval minting, the legal ratio of exchange between coins of the two metals was always fluctuating, and only by the merest accident might two countries employ the same ratio at the same time. So governments constantly discovered that one or other metal was undervalued and tended to leak out abroad, in spite of ferocious currency laws. To remedy this evil the legal ratio might be altered or coins made of the undervalued metal might at the next issue be lightened. In the fourteenth century alone the official ratio of the metals was altered a hundred and fifty times by the King of France, with or without alterations in the metallic content of the coins. As, over and above the lightenings thus undertaken to rectify the evils of a crude bimetallism, new coinage was sometimes lightened in order that it might not differ too much in weight from tokens of the same face value which had borne the heavy burden of a medieval circulation, and sometimes because it suited the convenience of kings to lighten it, the metallic content of the European currencies fell steadily from 1300 to 1500, In these two centuries the English silver penny fell from 22 to 12 grains, the gold equivalent of 6/8 from 128 to 80 grains; and this fall of something like forty per cent, is representative.

Advantageously situated as were the Italian towns for the development of the machinery of commerce, their political independence and animosi­ties accentuated among them, with unfortunate results, that particularism which was characteristic of medieval urban life. Their distinct currencies were only an outward sign of distinct and often conflicting economic policies, policies which produced such trade-wars as that between Venice and Ferrara, or industrial wars like that waged by Florence with Volterra about an alum-mine, which was essential to the Florentine wool industry. In countries which possessed a measure of political unity, some of the economic drawbacks of the Italian urban civilisation were mitigated. Flanders is a case in point. The Flemish towns, though not technically independent, were almost autonomous from the twelfth century onwards. But they were subjects of a single ruler, and not the least important of the many causes of Flemish economic development was the care with which the Counts of Flanders maintained the currency, which had a reputation for excellence and uniformity as early as 1100. To uniformity of coinage was added, as time went on, a uniformity of weights and measures exceedingly rare in the Middle Ages. Diverse as were her measures, England in Pegolotti’s day had at least a more uniform, if a more old-fashioned, coinage than any considerable European country. The excellence of her silver was well known in Italy in the thirteenth century, though she had no gold money of international, or even of domestic, significance until a much later date.

In this matter of the gold currency there can be no doubt that transalpine governments consciously imitated those of Italy. And it is probable that in connexion with many private commercial institutions there was more or less conscious imitation, though proof in such cases is not likely to be forthcoming. That half-public and half-private institution, the gild, commercial or industrial, in its innumerable forms, whatever its ultimate origin or origins, cannot be included among the borrowed institutions; although, as has been already pointed out, the earliest definitely economic gilds of the Middle Ages are to be found south of the Alps. But the commercial company, as employed for instance by the Florentine bankers, was certainly first perfected in Italy, under the influence of Roman law, and made known by Italians in many other parts of Europe. An institution which has its roots in the family, or the simple association of those who eat the same bread, is not of necessity sprung from any one law or from any one land; and company trading was well developed among the Hanse merchants in the late thirteenth century, without any demonstrable Italian influence. Yet, whereas the first traces of trading companies in Germany go back only to the opening years of that century, in the Italian towns such companies are found a hundred years earlier. They might be extended family partnerships or wider organisations such as that of the Peruzzi. The individual company was usually referred to in legal documents as the Societas A. B. et sociorum.

These firms were essentially private partnerships, not primitive joint- stock companies. Not until the middle of the fourteenth century do the beginnings of joint-stock organisation appear at Genoa. Such things remained exceptional, even in Italy, down to the close of the Middle Ages; and they were nowhere imitated.

Older than the company are the sleeping partnership (commenda) and the loan to a merchant for a trading venture overseas, which have their roots in Roman Law and Byzantine practice. At Genoa and Marseilles in the twelfth century many varying methods of employing the commenda can be traced. The sleeping partner is not however, at this time, a permanent associate of his active colleague. As a rule he hands over his capital only for some specific enterprise; so that in practice such partnerships are not very different from the loans for a venture beyond the sea. The latter, however, provided opportunities for more speculative undertakings. In the form which they assumed in Mediterranean commerce, commenda and shipping loan spread northwards; though primitive forms of such obviously natural institutions must have been known to Teutonic traders in very early times. When Burning Flosi, in the Saga of Burnt Njal, was fitting out a ship to leave Iceland, it is said that “he was so beloved by his men that their wares stood free to him to take either on loan or gift, just as he chose”; his men, in short, were prepared to speculate in their chief’s half piratical venture.

Nor is it difficult to trace, in very early Northern gild regulations, the beginnings of certain kinds of mutual insurance. Every gild, social, religious, commercial, or industrial, insured its members in some degree against accidents of life, death, or immortality. The suggestive clause which declares that “at a house burning” brethren shall contribute a penny occurs in. the rules of the Exeter gild of late Anglo-Saxon times. In the twelfth, and possibly in the eleventh century, the Icelandic Repp, an association of neighbours for mutual protection, and the somewhat similar Danish frith-gild, took special cognisance of losses by fire. But systematic commercial insurance, based on the regular payment of premiums, is first found in Italy at the beginning of the fourteenth century. There is no reason to suppose that it existed before that date; nor can the splitting of risks connected with loans for trading ventures be properly described as insurance. From documents which run back to 1318 it is evident that the Bardi accepted insurance risks, on consignments of cloth despatched overland, in return for definite premiums. From about the middle of the fourteenth century the history of insurance at Genoa is continuous; and before the century closes re-insurance and the subdivision of insurance risks begin to appear. A Genoese trader was concerned in the first demonstrable case of insurance at Bruges—the first in all Northern Europe—which happened in 1370; and, for many decades after that date, insurance business with which Italians have no connexion is rare even in the busiest commercial centres by the North Sea. Premiums for the insurance of human life also begin in Italy in the fourteenth century; but, even in Italy, life insurance only occurs sporadically and in relation to specified risks—those of the sea, fpr example, or those of childbed.

There is reason to think that commercial insurance was, in part at least, an ultimate product of the condemnation by the Church—about 1230—of contracts for the payment of fixed interest on loans for distant ventures. The growing difficulty which faced the speculating merchant in finding lenders who would share his risks without any certain returns made some means of reducing these risks desirable. Only an isolated canonist here and there ever criticised insurance by way of premiums. This episode in the history of the ecclesiastical campaign against usury in the thirteenth century illustrates the fact that, by this date, the campaign was a forlorn hope; because the payment of interest, certain guaranteed interest, was no longer, as in primitive rural communities, merely the sin of detested village usurers but was a part of everyday business-life in Italy and, to a much less degree no doubt, throughout Europe. Innocent III was perhaps hardly exaggerating when he wrote to the Bishop of Arras in 1208 that, if all usurers were really to be shut out of the Church. That was at a time when the Italian money-lenders were extending their operations swiftly and successfully beyond the mountains. Nor did they go to lands where usury was unknown, although they did bring fresh supplies of loanable capital and highly-trained commercial intelligence. Quite apart from Jewish money-lending (which is dealt with elsewhere) outside even of the Jews' range, the loan of money at interest had long been practised in societies which are sometimes conceived of as living in ignorance of how money breeds. It may be that the denunciations of usury by English and Carolingian Church councils in the eighth and ninth centuries were to some extent imitative; but it can hardly be doubted that they were aimed at a real, though perhaps uncommon, evil. Throughout Europe, from very early times, rich monasteries and individual churchmen had committed usury on a large scale. In the thirteenth century the Templars and the Teutonic Knights carried on the old monastic tradition; though their contracts may not have been technically usurious. Much of the lending by religious corporations, during and after the Crusading Age, is connected with the Mediterranean commercial developments of that era, a connexion which further illustrates the size of the problem with which the stricter moralists of the thirteenth-century Church tried to deal. The references to money out at interesting Njal’s Saga may reflect the environment of the thirteenth-century Icelandic scribe rather than that of his tenth-century hero; but even so they are significant.

The methods of the ordinary Christian usurer, who carried on what he knew to be a doubtful trade, were much the same in all times and places. His devices as described early in the thirteenth century by Raymond of Penaforte, whose experience was presumably gained in Catalonia, have their parallels in England and Normandy, Italy and Germany. He buys standing crops at impossible prices; he exacts ruinous compensation for delay in repayment, having fixed the date of repayment so that delay is certain to occur; he takes out his interest in the labour of his debtor or, imitating the Cahorsins, takes it frankly in money; he hides loan and interest behind a fictitious sale and repurchase at an impossibly high price by the debtor—a device which still troubled English legislators in early Tudor times. Whether the pilloried Cahorsin was an Italian or not, his frank acceptance of interest in money reflects Italian practice and Italian law as they existed before the middle of the fourteenth century when, under the influence of Baldus and Bartolus, the prohibition of interest found its way into secular legislation. Fifteen per cent, was a legal rate of interest at Milan in 1197 and twelve per cent, in 1216. The right to a fixed return without risk—the very essence of usury as conceived by the Christian casuist—was publicly admitted in connexion with the debts of Italian city republics. Genoa led both in the creation and in the consolidation of such debts; her consolidated debt of 1274, which still, as has been said, lives on in the national debt of unified Italy, was the first of its kind. Venice was also an early borrower, and she was followed by Florence, Pisa, Bologna, Siena, Novara, Vercelli, and Como. The clash of the doctrine of usury with the habits of a commercial society is well seen in fourteenth-century Florence. In the course of the century every Florentine gild forbade usury; yet all the time the gilds themselves, like tire State, both gave and took interest, either frankly after the manner of the Cahorsins, or under cover of one of the recognised subterfuges.

In societies less radically commercialised than those of the Italian towns, certain types of contract for fixed gains survived the elaboration in the thirteenth, and the legal adoption in the fourteenth century, of the completed canonist doctrine of usury, just because they had so long been familiar. Of these the sale and repurchase of lands and the purchase of rents are the most important. A borrower could sell land cheap, leaving the fruits to the lender as a handsome interest; and the repayment of the loan would appear as a repurchase. Though the sale and resale of chattels came everywhere to be treated as a usurious contract, the principle was never applied to real property. As for the purchase and sale of ground­rents—one of the oldest types of investment—that was never seriously criticised. Rent purchases were always a favourite monastic investment. The sale of urban ground-rents might provide the trader with very necessary capital, or—though less frequently—the rural landowner with funds for improvement and colonisation. In thirteenth-century Germany such transactions were conducted on an average basis of 10 per cent. Latterly they were often fictitious, that is to say undertaken without reference to specified properties; and so they became indistinguishable from ordinary usurious loans at fixed interest. Taking all these various lines of investment into account, it may well be doubted whether at any time in the Middle Ages capital, where it existed, lacked remunerative employment, with risks which—medievally judged—were not great.

Accumulation of capital, as has already been pointed out, was always possible for the landowner, more especially the corporate landowner, and for the successful trader. Whatever may have been the case at an earlier date, by the year 1300 some merchants of weight and wealth were to be found in all parts of Europe. They were of course far more numerous and wealthy in Italy than, for instance, in England; but even the English merchants of the thirteenth century were not such men of straw as has sometimes been suggested. Light is thrown on the comparative scale of Italian and English business operations, in one important branch of commerce, by the records—imperfect but not so far as they go untrustworthy —of the wool export from England in 1273. In that year various persons connected with the house of Scotti in Piacenza shipped at least 2100 sacks of wool, and the Bardi at .least 700. (For comparison it maybe borne in mind that, sixty years later, 30,000 sacks was a burdensome national grant to Edward III for his French wars). There were twenty Englishmen each of whom exported more than a hundred sacks; of these the two most important were together responsible for a larger export than the Bardi. They were William le Pcssuner and John Durant, both of Dunstable. The total amount exported by Englishmen exceeded that exported by foreign merchants. In estimating a merchant’s opportunities for profit and accumulation, the fact that he was not necessarily confined to one line of business must not be overlooked. In thirteenth-century London “most of the aidermen were wool-mongers, vintners, skinners, and grocers by turns or all at once.” And the capital gathered in trading could be increased from the rentals of urban property, or by customs-farming and other profitable work for the Crown.

But when all has been said, the number of those who, by any or all of these meanSj were on the road to wealth was singularly small in the average North European town of the early fourteenth century—mainly because of the smallness of the towns themselves. There were, by that time, several Italian cities which approximated in size, and in the variety and splendour of their economic life, to the Byzantium of the tenth century; and it has been maintained that Paris had a population of 200,000, though some would reduce the figure by at least one-third. A better founded estimate gives Bruges 50,000 in 1292. But London can hardly have risen above 20-25,000. Cologne, and rather later Lubeck, were perhaps in the same class as London. Even towards the close of the fourteenth century, really important towns, such as Frankfort, Nuremberg, or Hamburg, York, Norwich, or Bristol, may be assigned from 6-12,000. Such towns were few. More representative of fourteenth-century England is a town like Liverpool, which in 1375 had about 1,000 inhabitants. In Germany it is probable that, at the end of the medieval period, the very great majority of the towns had less than 5,000 inhabitants. Two centuries earlier their position would be still more modest. In such communities the commercial or industrial roads to wealth were few and strait. The five fishmongers, the four drapers, the four bootmakers, and the two tailors, who formed the trading population of Liverpool at the date mentioned, had not the opportunities of a Loudon aiderman in the days of Edward II, or of Antonio Frescobaldi who sat on Edward’s Council. It is not often possible to draw a satisfactory line between commercial and industrial activities; the typical medieval craftsman was also a shop­keeper, and in the larger towns his interests and outlook were those of the dealer rather than those of the maker; but it is certain that the more purely commercial pursuits gave far greater opportunities for accumulation than those which were primarily industrial. If anyone in fourteenth­century Liverpool became rich it would be the fishmonger rather than the bootmaker.

The difficulties of communication; the dominance of handicraft in the strict sense of the term; the great extent to which townsman and countryman alike provided for their domestic needs by the labour of their own families; the simplicity of those needs and the scanty population both in town and country—these and many like causes tended to keep the scale of industry small, quite apart from the general absence of expensive mechanical appliances, apart too from those definite attempts to prevent any craftsman from rising above his fellows which are so commonly found in the gild regulations of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The ordinary picture of medieval industrial life, drawn from industries working with primitive appliances for a narrow market, is therefore broadly true—true of all the industries in an average town; true of many industries oven in the greatest towns of Italy or Flanders. Taking all trades together, it has been argued that even in Paris, say in 1300, there were as many masters as men. For the towns of Germany many scattered instances, from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, shew that the majority of master craftsmen employed at any rate three or four assistants—apprentices and journeymen; but, when the minority is taken into account, this does not yield a result which differs much more from the Parisian estimate than the later date of many of the records would lead one to expect. Throughout Europe, in many crafts, the master was very often only a jobbing workman called in to handle materials supplied by his customers. In occupations such as carpentering, in which the master sold not goods but services, he was paid only about 20 per cent, more than his mate in fourteenth-century England, a difference which may be taken as a rough measure of the distance between employer and employed over a large part of the industrial field in Europe. It is not therefore surprising to find that the Parisian Livre des metiers (1261-70) contemplates the possibility of masters reverting to the status of journey­men, “through poverty or because they choose to do so.” In the gilds of Prussia, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, for every hundred employers there were barely fifty-six employed; and although the petrifaction of the German gild system in early modern times, and the multiplication of masters, who had secured their position—in the English phrase—by patrimony, may in part account for these figures, it can liardlv be supposed that the average position in the Middle Ages was more favourable to the employing class, if such a term be not an anachronism.

But an arithmetical statement of this kind by no means exhausts the facts. In the few centres of active industrial life we can discern—as industrial conditions come into the light of fourteenth-century documents—certain significant tendencies: a tendency for the journeyman to become an outworker doing jobs for several masters; a tendency for masters, in some minor industrial craft, to become subordinated economically to the shopkeeper or merchant of an allied commercial occupation; or a similar tendency to differentiation within a trade, the handworking master taking work from his more commercial colleague. From Siena to York, gilds are found laying down the rule that the journeyman shall work for one master only, a rule whose universality is only explicable on the assumption that there was a general tendency in the opposite direction, atendency favourable to inequality among the masters; for the powerful employer would control a disproportionate share of the trained labour in his town, if he were permitted to secure even some part of the services of men employed primarily by his weaker neighbours. In those towns or trades—and they were very many, especially in Germany—where the industrial gild spirit, with its jealous desire for equality of opportunity among masters, most completely prevailed, the tendency towards inequality was counteracted during the fourteenth century. But it survived and had freer scope elsewhere.

The equally widespread group of rules, limiting the numbers whom any single master might employ, is a further indication of the state of things against which the systematised gild life of the fourteenth century was a reaction or a safeguard.

The growing economic subordination of craft to craft, or of the hand­working to the trading element within a single craft organisation, is conspicuous in fifteenth-century London. A marked decline in the number of distinct craft organisations during the century is one evidence of the former process: glovers, pursers, pouchmakers are absorbed constitutionally into the Company of Leathersellers, the master-glover becoming, if not exactly a wage-earner, at least to some extent dependent on the trader through whom alone his wares can reach the consuming public. In the Goldsmiths' Company the process of differentiation between working and trading masters is very well marked. These instances are taken from the eve of modern times, but they illustrate tendencies which, even in England, can be traced back to the thirteenth century and may well have existed in the twelfth. In Bristol, for example, there can be seen in the fourteenth century two distinct species of tailor, the “merchant tailor” and the small master working on commission for him. In London, the thirteenth century reveals a still more modern phenomenon, not the dependent small master but the “server,” who could never aspire to the mastery. The ordinances of the Cordwainers of the year 1271, one of the earliest trade-codes extant in any country, shew that the cordwainer’s prentice was expected to pay a premium far beyond the means of an ordinary worker in that or airy other trade. That there were opulent tradesmen—goldsmiths, weavers, bakers, clothworkers, pep- perers—in twelfth-century England the heavy payments made by their associations for privileges from the Crown, and recorded in the early Pipe Rolls, are sufficient testimony. The business organisation which yielded this wealth escapes us; but it can hardly have been that of humble masters barely distinguishable from those who served them.

On the Continent, as in England, only the documents of the later thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries justify any confident account of industrial organisation; but, in certain great towns and in a few trades which produced articles de luxe for export, that organisation is so complex, so capitalistic, that its growth must have been a matter of generations, possibly of centuries. It is closely allied, in its most important homes, Italy and Flanders, with the contemporary organisation of commerce, of which it is to a great degree a product. Its directors are men of commercial antecedents and commercial instincts, whose thoughts and whose wares are far away in foreign parts.

At Florence there are early twelfth-century records of the import of fine cloth from Byzantium and of rough unfinished cloth, Frisian and so forth, by way of the fairs of Champagne. In the thirteenth century these “ultramontane” fabrics were dyed and finished for export in cloth­working shops by the Arno, belonging to, or working for, the merchants of the Arte di Calimala. Probably the cloth was exported mainly to the Levant, though early in the fourteenth century it is certain that consignments went back over the Alps or by sea to Marseilles, to supply the Northern markets. Very little was consumed in Florence, so that this industry, relying on imports for its material and on export for its success, was liable to seasons of bad trade, with all their familiar modem accompaniments in the world of labour.

More interesting than the Arte di Calimala is its successful rival the Arte della Lana, which, when it comes into the full light of the documents (1293-1301), is already the organ of a group of manufacturers who like the merchants of the Calimala use foreign raw material—at this date wool from England—and produce mainly for export. A humbler “art” had to do with the making of rough cloth for home use. The English wool, which for the most part came via the Garonne and Aigues-Mortes, was cleansed and prepared for spinning in the warehouse of the Lanaiuolo. The spinning was done on commission for the Lanaiuolo by a distinct group of tradesmen, the Stamanioli who employed village spinners, mere country folk kept in order by their priests, who had instructions from the city government to preach regularly against yarn stealing and bad workmanship, and to excommunicate in case of need. Sometimes the Stamaniolo himself supplied the yarn, but as the fourteenth century went on, the Stamanioli became simply paid agents of the Lanaiuoli. Weavers, working by the piece for the Lanaiuolo, made the cloth on looms which were usually rented from their employer. The master dyers, who in the twelfth century had an “art” or gild of their own, were in a more independent position; they owned their vats and appliances and sometimes employed ten or more hands; but they too worked on commission for the Lanaiuoli. Fulling was mostly done in rural mills; the various finishing processes—teazing, shearing, pressing, and the like— in little urban workshops. Throughout the long series of operations, the Lanaiuolo retained full ownership of the growing cloth, and his gild controlled all the groups of commission workers. The gild was wealthy and enterprising; it imported scarce raw materials; as a partner en commandite it subsidised technical experiments; it managed alummines and a woad warehouse; it owned ships, a court of justice, and a jail. In all its decisions, the interests of the Lanaiuoli were paramount. The Lanaiuolo was of the same class, often of the same family, as the great financiers; and the State, controlled by these “capitalists,” absolutely forbade combinations among the workpeople.

To find in Florence industries in which there was a fair chance that the average prentice would rise to become a really independent working master, one must descend to the lesser arts, butchers, saddlers, bakers. Here the limitation of the numbers that a master might employ, and the other familiar regulations for safeguarding equality of opportunity, suggest the outlook of the typical North European burgess, rather than that capitalistic outlook which the Lanaiuoli shared with the members of the commercial “arts.” The art of silk alone, among the manufacturing arts proper, developed an organisation similar to that of the export cloth industry; but it did so only gradually in the course of the fourteenth century.

Approximations to the position of the Florentine Lanaiuoli are to be found in the textile industries of several Italian towns during that century. Occasionally records from the early part of the century suggest that such an organisation was of old standing. This is the case with the Lucchese silk industry, as reflected in the regulations of 1308, an industry which sent its goods to the Champagne fairs and even to London. The business undertaker was a merchant, who bought silk and had it put through the various processes for him by groups of dependent domestic workers.

In thirteenth-century Venice, the actual manufacture of silk was in the hands of small master weavers, who bought the raw material from im­porting merchants and sold silks to dealers and exporters. As a result, it is conjectured, of a migration of manufacturers from Lucca, the Lucchese type of organisation finally prevailed, in spite of the struggles of the weavers, who however succeeded in retaining more independence than the wool-weavers of Florence. The wool industries in Venice and Pisa, as also the “Art of foreign wool” at Bologna, also supply evidence—though in no case so striking and complete as that furnished by the Florentine Arte della Lana—of a group of manufacturers economically and socially dominant over their workpeople.

A similar, though not identical, class can be discerned in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries among the cloth-working towns of Flanders and the adjacent districts. Frisian cloth, as has already been noticed, was the first manufactured product of a Northern land which became a staple article of European trade. Already in the eleventh century, Flanders was importing wool for the use of an industry that had outgrown its old homes, the peasant’s hut and the manorial or monastic workroom, and was maintaining a class of specialised craftsmen. By 1200 the industry was complex and its products of an almost infinite variety. During the following century, in such towns as Ghent, Ypres, and Bruges, operations were directed by the drapyer (the clothier) who, like the Lanaiuolo of Florence, himself bought the wool and gave it out to the master weaver, dyer, fuller, and the rest, beneath whom again was the true proletariat of “cnapen,” the “blue-nails,” living in suburbs of wretched huts, often paid in truck, hired by the week, and liable to dismissal during those times of slack trade which the constant wars and the resulting difficulties of communication produced with distressing frequency. The drapyer was as a rule a member of the old urban aristocracy, a poorer, who owned urban property and was in a position to accumulate rents. Apparently he had no direct connexion with the manufacturing processes; so far as is known he did not own looms, like the Florentine Lanaiuolo; nor did his gild, in this case the Gild, the Merchants’ Gild, take any but a regulative part in the business of manufacture. The craftsmen who worked for him never admitted his supremacy, though forced to accept it; and the economic hatreds which the system produced were among the causes of the social upheavals of the fourteenth century.

Analogous to the position of the Flemish merchant drapyer, was that of the Parisian silk mercer, who bought the raw material and had it spun by wage-earning, but in this case the weaver was an independent craftsman, to whom the mercer sold yarn. More strictlv analogous is the English “clothier that doth put cloth to making and sale,” as an Elizabethan statute describes him, a type which rose to great prominence with the rapid growth of the English export trade in cloth towards the close of the Middle Ages, but first comes clearly into the light in the fourteenth century. How closely the emergence of this type of entrepreneur was associated with production for a wide market is shewn by the history of the dreipiers at Brussels. The class came into being in the thirteenth century, and was at the height of its power in the fourteenth. Side by side with it there always existed a class of inde­pendent master weavers, who sold their own fabrics instead of working for the drapier like their weaker fellows. In the fifteenth century when, owing to commercial and political changes, the cloth export from Brabant declined, these small mastersincreased in numbers while the merchant drapiers dwindled. Meanwhile the development of the linen trade was calling into existence a class of linen manufacturers who, like the drapiers, supplied material to weavers, themselves super­intending only the mercantile side of the business. By that time this type of organisation was widespread in the textile industries of Europe, perhaps the most notable instance, besides those already referred to, being the fustian industry of South Germany, in which the Fuggers of Augsburg made their earliest fortune.

The clothier type has not exactly the same history in any two regions. The relations of the clothiers to gild organisations are particularly varied. The early Flemish drapyer belonged to an urban aristocracy and an old established Merchants’ Gild, a gild which would not admit those who worked for him; the Florentine Lanaiuolo, also connected with a socially dominant class, had his dependent workers regimented in the lower grades of his own “art”; the English clothier, and others of the same type elsewhere in the fifteenth century, often employed rural weavers and tended to operate outside or across the boundaries of gild regulation. But, with certain minor qualifications, all represent the same grade of economic organisation and the dominance of the commercial over the industrial factor. This dominance is not confined to the textile industry; it is noticeable, though not at so early a date, in mining and metallurgy. In the English lead and tin mining of the fourteenth century, for example, the getting of the ore was in the hands of small men; but these small men were often dependent on advances from the merchants; and the merchants came into direct contact with the actual work of production by their control of the business of smelting. In the great mining industries of the German lands the situation is complicated by the special and changing relations between the various governing powers and mining enterprise, especially in the silver mines of Styria and the Harz. During the earlier centuries, in many cases, work had been carried on under the direct superintendence of a lord’s agents, by more or less servile labour. From the twelfth century onwards these servile labourers are succeeded—though no one generalisation will cover all the facts— bv groups of free working miners. But differentiation sets in among members of the groups almost from the start: the more successful co­partners employ day-labourers; their claims can be worked in their absence; where heavy expenditure on the workings becomes necessary only they, or if they fail, the lord of the mine, can make the necessary advances. As time goes on many of these richer shareholders are otherwise occupied: they direct smelting operations, are minters, money­changers, merchants. Yet they control the mines, though working miners may still share with them; for in hardly any case was a complete separation between “capital” and “labour” brought about. The nearest approach to it occurred where the lord of the mine, by making the necessary advances himself, had exchanged his primitive political and proprietary control of the miners for a control that was more purely economic. Like the Duke of Cornwall at Lostwithiel, he became a kind of industrial capitalist.

The business undertaker in the various industries which have been discussed—and in the discussion attention has been concentrated on the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries—may fairly be described as a capitalist. But if, in modern terminology, his circulating capital was relatively large, the fixed capital of the industry—tools, appliances, buildings—belonged for the most part, at any rate in the textile industries, to those who took work from him; and they had no greater supply of these things than had the ordinary self-dependent craftsman. Once more the nearest approach to modern conditions is to be found in Italy. The Florentine Lanaiuolo had a large warehouse with a staff of bookkeepers and clerks, and accommodation for workpeople who washed, sorted, and prepared the wool for the spinners, or inspected the yarn and cloth as they were brought in at the various stages of the manufacture. He had much capital “fixed” in the looms which his weavers hired from him. The clothiers of Northern Europe must also have had warehouse accommodation. There are records or suggestions that some of them owned looms, dyehouses, or finishing shops. But, on the whole, their fixed capital would seem to have been less; nor were they united into corporations with capitalistic activities like the Arte della Lana.

Generally speaking, there was little in the plant or machinery requisite for medieval industry to encourage large scale operations of the familiar modern type. There was abundant use of “power,” but rarely on a large scale. The water-mill for grinding corn, which spread over Europe—how, no one knows—between the fourth century and the consolidation of the new peoples, was a decisive innovation. Medieval society in the West would be hardly recognisable to the modern student without the mill and the miller. Water-power was subsequently adopted for other industries; but its technique hardly varied. From the twelfth century comes evidence of its use in Italy for fulling, at a time when the fuller of Northern Europe was still a “walker,” who stamped the cloth till it thickened and felted. Later the fulling mill spread into the north, being manorialised like the corn mill. Water-power was used during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in metallurgy, for driving furnace­bellows, tilt-hammers, and even wire-mills; for grinding operations other than corn-milling; and for sawing. But, until the fifteenth century, iron and steel were produced by very primitive methods and in very small establishments. The high blast-furnace and cast iron were unknown. The smelting forge (Anglicc, bloomery) in which the roughly prepared ore was worked into “blooms'’ of metal, and the smithy which turned out rods or shoes, were both so small as to be easily moveable—the fabrica errantes of the Forest of Dean in the thirteenth century. Steel was made in tiny quantities, and in few places, in equally small Catalan forges. The nearest medieval approach to a modern power-equipped factory is a water-mill for silk-throwing, said to have been erected at Bologna in 1391, whose machines could do the work of four thousand spinners. Others of the same type were subsequently erected by the commune and rented out to manufacturers. As the reputed designer of this medieval factory was a man from Lucca, it is possible that the capitalistic silk industry of that town was familiar with such labour-saving devices at an earlier date. The wind-mill spread slowly from about the time (1190), when, at Bury St Edmunds, Herbertus decanus levavit molendinum ad ventum super Hauberdu, but it remained very rough and imperfect.

There can be little doubt that the nearest approach to modern conditions was to be found, neither in the textile industries, nor in mining, nor in metallurgy; but in the shipyards of the seafaring nations, especially those of Byzantium, Genoa, and Venice. In the ninth century large ships began to be built at Venice on Byzantine models. By the close of the eleventh century Byzantium was outstripped; and early in the twelfth, Ordelafo Falier being Doge, the national shipyard was organised. The scale of operations and the rapidity of work at Venice are suggested by the contract made by the republic with the Emperor Isaac Angelus in 1188, to prepare a fleet of from 40 to 100 galleys within six months; but this is doubtful evidence and does not necessarily apply to the government yard alone. From the time when Dante compared the pitch of Malebolge with that which boiled all winter in the Arsenal, information becomes more specific. A detailed account of the operations in the fourteenth century shews that, apart from repairs, 40 galleys could be built in the year, and that the whole body of workpeople connected with the Arsenal may have been numbered in thousands.

Even in the middle of the twelfth century Genoa was able to send out a fleet of 63 galleys and 163 other ships against the Moors of Spain. Duringjher great days in the thirteenth century the orders of the government for galleys suggest a very highly organised ship-building industry, probably superior to that of contemporary Venice. In 1207 the government orders 20 galleys to be built at home and 2 abroad; in 1242 the order is for 40, and in 1282 for no less than 50 galleys. From the scanty records of navies elsewhere, as for instance in England or in Naples, it may be concluded that government ship-building in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, backed as it was by the whole financial power of the State, involved everywhere a great outlay of capital and a considerable organisation of labour, though only the sustained and well-considered naval policy of Venice could produce a continuous government industry at all comparable with the ship-building industries of the modern world.

Like the building of ships, the building of castles, palaces, churches, and monasteries was largely dependent on the resources of the State, or on those of corporations no less durable and not always less wealthy. The scale of building operations in the Middle Ages was certainly not small. Unfortunately the organisation of medieval building is one of the most obscure sections of economic history. For the centuries from which no documentary evidence survives we are occasionally told, and can generally assume, that there was some amount of compulsory service in all the rougher work connected with building. The carrying dues, which peasants so generally owed, were available for this purpose; and for castle-building in conquered districts the subject population might be drawn upon. Voluntary and unpaid labour on the fabric of churches and monasteries is also not infrequently recorded. The slowness of the operations, in almost all religious and in most civil buildings, put the industry as a whole into a class distinct from that of the building of ships of war and of fortifica­tions, in which time might be an object. In cathedral and other records, from the thirteenth century onwards, the deliberate accumulation of materials and the leisurely process of construction can sometimes be traced. There can be no doubt that these instances are typical. Every large foundation had its permanent staff of repairing masons and other craftsmen, who served as a nucleus round which migratory workers might be grouped when some great piece of building was undertaken. Owing to the slowness of the work, it would not as a rule be necessary to call in outsiders in very large numbers at any one time. Besides the ordinary working mason or carpenter, experts were often summoned from great distances. Such a man was Estienne de Bonnueil, mason, who went from Paris to Upsala in 1287; or William of Hurle, master carpenter, who worked for Edward III at Westminster, Windsor, and the Tower, and whose consulting fee put a strain on the resources of Ely; or the German masters, to secure whose advice Gian Galeazzo Visconti sent letters and even embassies over the Alps, to such famous architectural centres as Strasbourg, Cologne, and Prague. Sometimes these experts brought trained subordinates. Estienne de Bonnueil had a band of “compagnons” and “bacheliers.” John of Gloucester and at least six “of his men” came to cast the bells of Ely in 1341-2; Johann Nexemsperger of Graz brought a staff of thirteen to help him in a series of difficult problems at Milan. For a much earlier period, the affiliation of architectural styles throughout Europe proves, or suggests, the influence of such experts: we know how even in the seventh century Benedict Biscop brought foreign masons to Jarrow.


Whether attention is fixed on the expert and his subordinates or on the humbler migratory artisan, the medieval building industry in its prime furnishes an important instance of true mobility of labour. In combating the undue stress sometimes laid upon the stagnant character of medieval life, care must be taken not to exaggerate the mobility which undoubtedly existed. Yet even when Crusade and pilgrimage, the wandering scholar and the international Churchman, are put on one side together with all permanent migrations, a great amount of economic movement of the modern kind can everywhere be discerned. The larger towns, created by this movement, continued to be fed from the country or from other towns. Bucher has shown how the majority of the people admitted as burghers at Frankfort and Cologne, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, had been born elsewhere; many came from the near neighbourhood, but many from distant towns and villages. Less exact English evidence points in the same direction. In a list of 59 master cordwainers, and in another of 128 tailors, of York, from the latter part of the fourteenth century, the great majority are named after Yorkshire towns and villages, from Bridlington to Skipton. The lists include also a number of place-surnames from other counties, of which the most remote is that of Robert de Bristowe. That movement between town and town was common in England is further shewn by the widespread type of gild regulation providing for the admission of competent strangers.

England never developed that systematised migration of journeymen which produced the “tour de France'" of the French compagnon and the compulsory Wanderjahre of the German Geselle. This is a late medieval development in both countries, and cannot be traced with any certainty before the latter part of the fourteenth century. It is connected with the growing exclusiveness of the gilds, which called into existence journey­men’s associations to resist the tyranny of the masters in possession, and is contemporary with considerable migrations of German and Flemish labour into Italy and England. But, whatever special causes may have come into operation during this later period, with which the present chapter is not directly concerned, it is certain that compulsory wandering could hardly have developed had not the industrial, life of an earlier age been tolerably familiar with voluntary wandering.

That the commercial classes were mobile needs no proof, and has been illustrated extensively in the foregoing pages. The records of every fair in Europe provide additional evidence. Nor need such evidence be taken from the great central fairs, from Troyes or Paris or Frankfort. Between 1270 and 1329 the visitors to the English fair of St Ives (Huntingdon) include traders from Ghent, Bruges, Douai, Ypres, and Lille; from St Omer, Caen, and Dinant; they include also Florentines, Scotsmen, Germans, and Spaniards.

A few scraps of evidence, from different parts of Europe, suggest that in the fourteenth century and perhaps earlier, even the peasant was not everywhere so completely immobilised as the conditions of medieval agriculture are often held to imply. The reference is not to movements from the country to the town, which were very common, nor to movements of half-nomadic herdsmen, such as those who accompanied the wandering flocks of Spain or the flocks which moved year by year from the Abruzzi into Apulia, but to recurring migrations of agricultural labourers. Wends travelled regularly from Lusatia and elsewhere to help in the woad-harvests of Thuringia in the fourteenth century; and in the fifteenth Polish harvesters helped to get in the crops about Breslau. The descent of labourers from the Alps and the Apennines, to earn a living in the plains, was probably no new thing when it comes to light at the beginning of modern times. This probability is increased by the evidence of a clause in Edward III’s Statute of Labourers, which provides for the continued movement of harvesters from the hill districts of England—Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Craven, and the Welsh and Scottish Marches—into the richer agricultural counties. For how long these movements had existed is not known; but a habit so well established as to secure preferential treatment from legislators whose object was to check what they regarded as improper migrations can hardly have been of recent growth.