Medieval Economic History
Boglárka Weisz and Tamás Pálosfalvi
Special Editors of the Thematic Issue
Florentine Families in Hungary in the First Half of the Fifteenth Century
AbstractThis essay, based on a prosopographic database backed by extensive archival research both in Florence and Hungary, offers an overview on the patterns of the presence of Florentine merchants in medieval Hungary. Among the research questions, the Florentine businessmen’s main fields of interest in the kingdom are of utmost importance, because their interests shaped the patterns of their presence in the kingdom. Also, their financial and economic background in Florence significantly influenced the opportunities they had in Hungary. Thus, the forms of cooperation within the closer local and extended international networks within which they moved prove to be revealing with regards to business as it was run in Hungary. The reconstruction of this network also allows us to identify clusters of Florentine business partners residing in Florence who were investing in Hungary by cooperating with their fellow countrymen actively present in the country. I also offer a detailed analysis of the Florentines’ use of credit in Hungary, focusing on both commercial and money credit transactions and the various forms of transactions used to run business ventures there. Finally, I examine Buda’s role as a royal seat and major trade hub from the point of view of the two major foreign trading diasporas hosted in the town, the Italian/Florentine and southern German ethnic groups. I offer a comparative analysis of their interaction and the different patterns of their social ambitions and economic activity in Buda.
Florentines’ Trade in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries: Trade Routes, Networks, and Commodities
AbstractThe article proposes to analyze some general characteristics of Florentine merchants’ trade in the Kingdom of Hungary in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries on the basis of written sources housed predominantly by various Italian archives. It opens with a new evaluation of the importance of Florentine merchants in long-distance trade by examining examples of the organizational framework of their enterprises in the town of Buda during the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387–1437). It also looks at the well-known cases of the families that were engaged in trade in Hungary, beginning with the period of Louis I (1342–82) and ending with the reign of Matthias Corvinus (1458–90). The second subchapter concentrates on the commodities transported by Florentines between the two states by describing their nature and their quantitative and qualitative features mentioned in the documents. Among the commercial goods, the article considers the import and export of metals like gold, silver, and copper, as well as Florentine silk and wool. It also mentions exotic animals and spices transported from extra-European territories. The third part of the article offers a reconstruction of the outreach of the Florentine network operating in Hungary, with particular consideration of its most important markets for raw materials and luxury goods. The fourth subchapter discusses the commercial routes used by Florentines when transporting their goods between the towns of Buda and Florence, emphasizing the importance of Venice as a major trading hub along the route. The conclusion puts the Florentines’ trade in Hungary into a broader picture of international trade, and it draws connections between the development of the Florentine silk industry, for which the city became famous, and the marketing of its finished products in Hungary.
Austrian Salt in Pozsony in the Mid-Fifteenth Century
AbstractIn this essay, I explore how the city of Pozsony (Preßburg, today Bratislava, Slovakia), which lies in the valley of the Danube River on what was once the most important trade route connecting the Kingdom of Hungary with Western Europe, managed to acquire Austrian salt, an import that, in general, was forbidden by the rulers. The city facilitated this not only by obtaining a number of privileges, but also by farming the tax collected in the city on foreign trade, the so-called “thirtieth” (tricesima). In practice, however, this could only be done in varying ways. In the course of my research, it also became clear that Pozsony needed Austrian salt for a variety of reasons. The city was distant from the salt mines, so the Transylvanian salt that was brought to the borderlands in the west was already very expensive. In many cases, however, none of the salt that was produced in the country even made it to Pozsony because of the complications posed by transportation, the deficiencies of the fiscal system, and fluctuations in production. The Austrian salt mines, in contrast, were relatively nearby, the cooked salt that was produced at these mines was essentially consistent in its quality, and it was also less expensive. In this essay, I also examine how the quantities of salt that were imported from Austria changed in various periods and how the city marketed excess salt in other parts of the country. Naturally, the people of Pozsony were not able to sell the salt in the entire territory of Hungary. My analysis indicates that the market for this salt was limited to the County of Pozsony itself, part of Nyitra County, the part of Komárom County to the north of the Danube River, and parts of Győr and Moson Counties.
Bavarian Cloth Seals in Hungary
AbstractThe import of cloth was one of the most important sectors of international trade throughout the European Middle Ages and early modern period. Its history and impact on medieval economies have been studied by scholars for quite a long time, creating the impression that there are no new sources waiting to be found. Improved methods of archaeological excavations, however, have produced data significant to the international trade connections. This data was hidden in small leaden seals that were attached to the textile fabrics indicating their quality and origin. In this paper, I examine the cloth seals originating from Bavaria that have been found so far in the Carpathian Basin and compare the information provided by them with that already known from the available written sources. This comparison leads to several important conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, the dating range of the known cloth seals can be convincingly limited within the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for all the nineteen known textile production centers. Also, the cloth marked by these seals indicates that some serious changes arose in textile consumption at the end of the Middle Ages. In this study, I identify some new places of origin not mentioned in the written sources and trace their distribution in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary.
Between “Faithful Subjects” and “Pernicious Nation”: Greek Merchants in the Principality of Transylvania in the Seventeenth Century
AbstractTowns in Transylvania were among the first in which Balkan Greeks settled in their advance into Central Europe. In this essay, I investigate the evolution of the juridical status of the Greeks within the Transylvanian principality during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in order to understand how they were integrated into the institutional and juridical framework of Transylvania. A reinterpretation of available privilege charters granted to the Greeks in Transylvania sheds light on the evolution of their official status during the period in question and on the nature of the “companies” the Greeks founded in certain towns of the principality in the seventeenth century. A close reading of the sources reveals tensions between tax-paying Greeks, whom the seventeenth century Transylvanian princes referred to as their “subjects of the Greek nation,” and the non-resident Greek merchants. Furthermore, strong inconsistencies existed between central and local policies towards the Greeks. I analyze these discrepancies between the princely privileges accorded to the Greeks and the status of the Greek merchants in Nagyszeben (Hermannstadt, today Sibiu, Romania) in particular. The city fathers of this town adhered strongly to their privilege of staple right and insisted on imposing it on the Greek merchants, but the princely grants in favor of the Greeks nullified de facto the provisions of the staple right. While they had obtained concessions that allowed them to settle into Transylvania, Greeks nevertheless negotiated their juridical status with the local authorities of Nagyszeben as well.
Production of and Trade in Food Between the Kingdom of Hungary and Europe in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Era (Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries): The Roles of Markets in Crises and Famines
AbstractOver the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Period, Western Europe was stricken by cyclical crises of subsistence or famines, related to several economic and social factors, such as the trend of production and the increasing price of wheat, the inadequate functioning of the market, the inappropriate intervention policies at the time of particular difficulties, and so on. In the Kingdom of Hungary crises and famines were caused by the same forces. But, surprisingly, cyclical large crises of subsistence and vast course famines had been nearly unknown in the kingdom between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. In this context, it is argued that the models of Ernest Labrousse and Amartya Sen may explain the emergence and development of crisis and famine not only and simply by the occurrence of exogenous forces such as a fall in crops, environmental shocks, war events and so on, but also and above all through a deeper analysis of the market, its functioning and its degree of integration with other markets. The paper thus highlights the particular Hungarian alimentary regime as characterized by a non-contradiction, but rather a thorough-penetration, relationship between agricultural and sylvan-pastoral activities. This not-contradiction was reflected by an alimentary equilibrium that characterized the kingdom throughout the period. In comparison with other parts of Europe, in Hungary alimentary alternatives such as grain, meat and fish remained accessible to most of the population, so the inhabitants’ normal diet remained diversified and not entirely based on cereals. The specific production and exchange structures of the kingdom permitted the maintenance of this alimentary equilibrium that prevented the rise of vast alimentary crises, unless a shock such as war, climatic difficulties and so on occurred. Another reason for the absence of vast course famines was the kingdom’s place in the exchange structures of Europe. The paper argues that, while wars—first of all against the Ottoman Empire—caused great damages and problems in food supplying, the complex economic interaction between crisis, famine and war that characterized the Hungary between over late Middle Ages and the early Modern Period is evidence of the kingdom’s increasing and notable maturation as a market in the European context.
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Notes on Contributors