Cover image for A history of business in medieval Europe, 1200-1550
A history of business in medieval Europe, 1200-1550
Hunt, Edwin S.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
ix, 277 pages : map ; 24 cm.

Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Central Library HF3495 .H86 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This book demolishes the widely held view that the phrase 'medieval business' is an oxymoron. The authors review the entire range of business in medieval western Europe, probing its Roman and Christian heritage to discover the economic and political forces that shaped the organization of agriculture, manufacturing, construction, mining, transportation and marketing. Businessmen's responses to the devastating plagues, famines, and warfare that beset Europe in the late Middle Ages are equally well covered. Medieval businessmen's remarkable success in coping with this hostile new environment was 'a harvest of adversity' that prepared the way for the economic expansion of the sixteenth century. Two main themes run through this book. First, the force and direction of business development in this period stemmed primarily from the demands of the elite. Second, the lasting legacy of medieval businessmen was less their skillful adaptations of imported inventions than their brilliant innovations in business organization.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Medieval Europe is commonly depicted as an environment fundamentally adverse to business ventures. In challenging this view, Hunt and Murray devote the first half of their book to describing the commercial expansion in Europe between 1200 and 1350. In the second half, they argue that despite the disruption caused by plague, famine, and war, the period between 1350 and 1550 saw sufficient innovation and vibrancy in business ventures to lay the groundwork for subsequent European pursuit of exploration and empire. The book provides concise but incisive descriptions of the agrarian economy as well as the political and social environment for medieval business activity. Hunt and Murray emphasize that demands for credit frequently led the church and aristocracy to be supportive rather than antagonistic to business. Unfortunately, the book fails to mention influential work published in recent years by economists on medieval business. Lower-division undergraduate students may find the level of detail in this volume daunting, but on the whole, Hunt and Murray provide a very well informed and intelligent exposition of medieval business developments for the nonspecialist. Public and academic library collections. D. Mitch University of Maryland Baltimore County

Table of Contents

List of illustrationsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Part I Before the Black Death: progress and problems
1 Economics, culture, and geography of early medieval tradep. 11
2 Tools of trade: business organizationp. 31
3 Traders and their toolsp. 52
4 The politics of businessp. 75
5 Business gets bigger: the super-company phenomenonp. 99
Part II Business in the late Middle Ages: a harvest of adversity
Introductionp. 125
6 The new business environment of the Middle Agesp. 132
7 Business responses to the new environmentp. 151
8 The fifteenth century: revolutionary results from old processesp. 178
9 Sources of capital in the late Middle Agesp. 204
10 A new age for businessp. 226
Conclusionsp. 246
Notesp. 250
Further readingp. 260
Indexp. 269

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