Feudal Europe

Commercial expansion

From the 11th century onwards, Europe had the conditions necessary for the reactivation of trade: population and production had grown, wealth had increased and there were the necessary conditions of peace and security in the continent, unlike ¡n previous centuries.

Regional trade

Regional trade was based on exchange between cities and the surrounding lands. From the 11th century onwards, these commercial links increased.

The improvements in the countryside led to an agricultural surplus for trade. At the same time, the cities needed food for their inhabitants and provided craft work for the rural areas.

Interregional trade

Urban trade implied the necessity of bringing products from places which were increasingly more remote and looking for other markets where the manufactured products made in the cities could be sold. Thus, contacts were established between different regions in Europe. Commercial links with the Muslim world, the Byzantine Empire and the Far East also increased.

The merchants gathered periodically in commercial fairs, where products from all the continent were taken. The most important fairs were he in Champagne (France) throughout the year.

Medieval market

Rivers were the main means of transport. However, land routes were improved and sea trade underwent important technical changes.

The birth of banking

The development of trade meant the appearance of new commercial and financial techniques.

  • As of the 11th century, rich merchants started to do commercial transactions by credit, lending money in exchange for high interest.

  • Another typical activity was the exchange of currency, the origin of banking. The great number of coins in circulation and their different values led to the appearance of a new figure, the moneychanger, who was specialised in the valuation and exchange of currency. They soon accepted deposits from their clients.

  • In the l3th century, many commercial activities were made through written contracts with no use of cash money. This was the origin of bills of exchange, which were created at the beginning of the l4th century.

The urban rebirth                                                                             Craftsmen