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

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

Oscar Gelderblom

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780691142883

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

This book develops a model of institutional change in European commerce based on urban competition. Cities continuously competed with each other by adapting commercial, legal, and fin ancial institutions to the evolving needs of merchants. The book traces the successive rise of Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam as commercial cities between 1250 and 1650, showing how dominant cities feared being displaced by challengers while lesser ones sought to keep up by cultivating policies favorable to trade. It argues that it was this competitive urban network that promoted open access institutions in the Low Countries, and emphasizes the central role played by the urban magistrates in fostering these inclusive institutional arrangements. The book describes how the city fathers resisted the predatory or reckless actions of their territorial rulers, and how their nonrestrictive approach to commercial life succeeded in attracting merchants from all over Europe. It intervenes in an important debate on the growth of trade in Europe before the Industrial Revolution. Challenging influential theories that attribute this commercial expansion to the political strength of merchants, the book demonstrates how urban competition fostered the creation of inclusive institutions in international trade.