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Cities of CommerceThe Institutional Foundations of International Trade in the Low Countries, 1250-1650$
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Oscar Gelderblom

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142883

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142883.001.0001

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Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders

(p.76) Chapter 4 Crossing Borders
Cities of Commerce

Oscar Gelderblom

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the role played by local magistrates in the governance of cross-border trade in Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. To organize cross-border transactions, international traders relied on relatives and friends who either traded on a commission basis or became their formal partners. Merchants instructed these foreign agents using extensive correspondence and keeping private accounts to monitor their operations. The chapter first considers the commission trade in Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam, with particular emphasis on the writing of commenda contracts, before discussing the merchants' creation of specific purpose partnerships to limit their liability and their use of double-entry bookkeeping for their business. It shows that urban magistrates always lent support to the network-based trade of international merchants and promoted the central position of their own city in the European economy.

Keywords:   cross-border trade, Bruges, Antwerp, Amsterdam, international trade, commission trade, commenda, merchants, double-entry bookkeeping, urban magistrates

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