Making the Crusades possible: craft, trade and organisation


The agricultural revolution described in an earlier blog resulted in a change in the land use that allowed the subsistence farmer to go with his surplus crop to the market, originally at the local church, to buy and sell. The creation of markets at the churches gave way to more defined market places that specialized in certain products. Trade chains developed. For instance, sheep were a good investment, for their wool was appreciated especially in the colder northern climates. Sheep’s wool was sheared by the shepherd, which wool was sold in the fairs and markets of Champagne (France) and later Flanders (Belgium) for processing and weaving. The product was bought by Italians from Northern Italy for further refinement, and from there sold in international trade.

The tradesmen, artisans, and workers did organize. The first labor laws protecting selected trades in "guilds" were enacted in Ghent in the 11th Century. Normally groups of property owners, burgers, and representatives of the guilds and associations, shared power with the titular feudal authority except when they went their own way. These "Communes" controlled the means of production in their towns and the association with other towns. The wool producing towns in France, Belgium and Germany were either dominated by such communes or independent as “communal republics”.

Many Italian city states used the communal republic as a form of governance. As such, Florence, Genoa and Venice were republic in form. These Italian cities provided the banking, trading and maritime skills for the wool producing regions in Champaign (France), Flanders (Belgium) and England.

This text consists of slightly edited quotes from the blog The Cistercian Connection by Gordon S Fowkes. The illustration is from the same source.

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