- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1st ed. edition (April 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0500251185
- ISBN-13: 978-0500251188
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.5 x 10.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #870,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe Hardcover – April, 2003
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From The New Yorker
This accessible study charts the so-called "commercial revolution" of the thirteenth century, a period of rapid expansion which created much of the economic landscape we know today: holding companies, corporate shares, insurance, personal checks, and double-entry bookkeeping. Concentrations of wealth in aristocratic courts and capital cities stimulated a spectacular trade in luxury goods, and Spufford traverses Europe along the ancient trade routes by which Asian spices and Venetian glass, furs from Russia and falcons from Iceland, wines from Bordeaux and tapestries from the Netherlands were distributed. Appropriately, the book itself is opulently produced, illustrated with details from the backgrounds of altarpieces and the margins of illuminated manuscripts, depicting bankers, goldsmiths, tailors, dyers, farmers, or chandlers. Visually as well as verbally, Spufford conveys the irrepressible energy of medieval trade.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Spufford has written the definitive history of commerce in the Middle Ages. -- Atlantic Monthly, June 2003
Spufford...Lays out in a clear yet expert manner the quotidian dimensions of [the commercial] revolution. -- Choice, D. Mitch, July 2003
[Among] the most beautiful and intelligently designed works of scholarship I've encountered in recent years. -- Atlantic Monthly, June 2003
Top customer reviews
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The Preface is different from most. Instead of merely paying tribute to those who helped, it tells us about the author's trials and tribulations, experienced during the many journeys he made by way of research, during a period of some 30 years. This introductory section is written in a delightfully engaging and personal way, which makes it clear that Spufford sacrificed many family holidays, except that for him it was clearly no sacrifice at all.
The journeys were his library; and during that time, Spufford learned to `read' all over again, not just by looking at places, but by studying the background detail in paintings, to discover the economic realities behind what the artist was commissioned to paint. It is this deep understanding which gives the book such power and authority.
It may even cause the reader to alter his view of medieval Europe. Traditionally, we were taught that England and France became the most powerful and progressive countries of the early modern age because they were politically united in the High Middle Ages. By comparison, Italy and Germany were `late developers'; but if we switch the focus of attention from politics to economics and commerce, as this book does, Italy and Germany emerge as the dominant powers of the Late Middle Ages, long before they were politically united.
This book gives an informative glance at the life of the trader in Europe during the Middle Ages when there was no law, no dependable travel or communications, and every merchant had to live by his wits and sometimes by his sword. It is a collection of facts rather then of entertaining anecdotes and would be an aquired taste. For those that desire to learn however, it is well worth the effort.
As a by the way, one amusing anecdote the author gives is that in Eastern Europe security often looked suspiciously at him taking pictures of bridges. To be fair, that was of course their job, bridges are important for military traffic as well as commercial and if they were a bit more paranoid then Western security would be, it would have been a fine cover. Of course the author might really have been working for the CIA, heh, heh, heh.