Commercial Revolution of the Thirteenth Century

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* Book: POWER AND PROFIT: THE MERCHANT IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE. by Peter Spufford (Thames & Hudson; $39.95)


Review

"This accessible study charts the so-called “commercial revolution” of the thirteenth century, a period of rapid expansion which created much of the economic landscape we know today: holding companies, corporate shares, insurance, personal checks, and double-entry bookkeeping. Concentrations of wealth in aristocratic courts and capital cities stimulated a spectacular trade in luxury goods, and Spufford traverses Europe along the ancient trade routes by which Asian spices and Venetian glass, furs from Russia and falcons from Iceland, wines from Bordeaux and tapestries from the Netherlands were distributed. Appropriately, the book itself is opulently produced, illustrated with details from the backgrounds of altarpieces and the margins of illuminated manuscripts, depicting bankers, goldsmiths, tailors, dyers, farmers, or chandlers. Visually as well as verbally, Spufford conveys the irrepressible energy of medieval trade." (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/04/21/power-and-profit-the-merchant-in-medieval-europe)