Silver and Spices in the Runtinger Trade with Prague
In the late medieval period, a prominent trade route led from Prague through Regensburg to Venice. Silver mined in the Bohemian hinterland was traded for luxury items from the Near East. The Regensburg merchant house of Runtinger made vast profits by buying cloth and luxuries cheaply in Venice—in particular spices from India—and selling them in exchange for comparatively large quantities of silver in Prague. This study treats their ledger, Das Runtingerbuch (1383–1407), as a case study for an analysis of the Prague economy. The Runtingers sold the same types of spices and cloth in Regensburg and in Prague during the same span of years, which makes it possible to use their records as sources with which to compare the two markets. The Runtingers are shown to have market power in the Prague spice market but no market power in the Prague cloth market or the Regensburg markets. The reasons for these market differences are theorized in reference to the socioeconomic positions of the Regensburg and Bohemian elites. Luxury items were traded for silver or silver coins, constituting a continuous drain of silver from Bohemia towards Regensburg, which led to a degree of stagnation in the local economy in Bohemia.
Keywords: Runtingers, Das Runtingerbuch, silver, spices, long-distance trade