Commercial Revolution

The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages was the growth of Europe’s economy. “Before agricultural expansion stalled in the thirteenth century, however, it stimulated an impressive expansion of trade and industry.”

There was a population increase during this period. “Sooner or later ascetics ran out of hermitages, frontiers got crowded, and isolated farms were enmeshed in villages.” It looks like the people were freer to make decisions. As new agricultural tools were invented, fewer men were needed to cultivate the same areas and they were able to expand into a new land. This was perhaps the reason why slavery slowly decreased. The people’s consumption of food increased regardless of their social status. “To the inmates of a Champagne house in 1325, meat three times a week and either eggs or herring besides bread, oil, salt, and onions.”

Women immigrated to towns and were able to work. “A master’s wife and daughters could learn his skills just as his apprentices did.” The Jews strengthened their position in trade in every locality of Europe. Although they were not fully accepted in Muslim and Christian society, they helped “quickened the economic development of every country where they lived.” The Italians who belonged to the upper class were also involved in maritime trade.

French dukes, English kings, and German emperors encouraged weekly markets and annual affairs that attracted an international array of merchants and goods. Feudalism’s characteristics “had a direct bearing on the organization of agrarian communities.” Landowners were given governmental powers and were able to keep “the agents of the central government off their land.” On the other hand, communes in Italy forced the feudal rulers of its district to become their members and offered employment and protection to their serfs. “In the twelfth century, Italian communes were essentially governments of the merchants, by the merchants, for the merchants – the ideal platform for the Commercial Revolution.”

The people who were making the money couldn’t make them fast enough for the people who needed them. The prices of goods and services also quickly increased. In England, the cost of living between 1150 and 1325 had quadrupled. “Unstinting credit was the great lubricant of the Commercial Revolution.” Giving people credit helped them do more things than just with their money. The ever-increasing flow of money helped “built the great cathedrals, supported the crusades, financed the charities of Christian princes, and gave substance to the magnificent religious culture of the thirteenth century – money and, of course, ardent faith.