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Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe [Hardcover]

Peter Spufford
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct 2002
The years between 1200 and 1500 saw the economy of Europe transformed from being rural, feudal and localized to being urban, capitalist and expansionist. Professor Spufford, who has made a lifelong study of these changes, here brings together a vast amount of material from archives all over the world - letters, account books, legal documents, civil records - to build up a comprehensive general picture. He has also personally travelled many of the roads, rivers and mountain passes that were the arteries of medieval trade, bringing the whole subject to vivid life. The eight chapters of the book cover the financial revolutions of the 13th century that led to the rise of modern banking, borrowing and insurance; the market in luxuries and the role of the great courts; international fairs; trade routes and the hazards of transport; raw materials; manufactured goods; the wealth of cities and nations; and the balance of trade between countries.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd (Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500251185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500251188
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 18.9 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Thank you so much for the copy of Power and Profit, which I have greatly enjoyed. It has made me realize that, in fact, most of my commercial inspirations and bright ideas were merely following the paths set by our predecessors!' - Sir John Harvey Jones

About the Author

Peter Spufford is Professor of European History, University of Cambridge, and the author of definitive studies of money in the Middle Ages.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Peter Spufford’s beautifully written, deeply researched and richly illustrated Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe involves the reader in a series of vivid journeys which the author himself boldly made across Europe in the tracks of the travellers he describes, by road, by sea, through great cities, across bridges and over mountain passes. He draws an unfailingly entertaining picture of life in the 13th and 14th centuries, and gives an encyclopaedic account of their trading patterns. Covering topics from the way in which trade forced a drive towards literacy and numeracy, to the overruling of the Christian prohibition on slavery that allowed rich Florentines to buy slave girls as objects of conspicuous luxury, he is always surprising, enlightening and thought provoking. His book is a joy to read and destined to become a classic.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A grass-roots History of Medieval Europe 25 Mar 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is an expensive looking book, printed on high quality paper with an amazing number of illustrations. Many of them are in colour and include reproductions of paintings, pictures, maps, statues, manuscripts, engravings and photographs.
I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the trade routes across the mountains which explained amongst other things why some routes fell out of favour, how bridges and road maintainance was financed or not. Also how trade changed the use of builings and why.
Some parts of the book can seem a bit like a long list of goods and places but on the whole I would recommend it to anyone interested in this period - it shows how ordinary people lived not just Kings and Princes.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating account of the creation of modern Western civilisation as we know it. Though not always the easiest read it is very well worth persevering. It has really made me want to get out and visit so many places I'd never have thought interesting, or even heard of. A great read and a wonderful companion when visiting Europe.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A PROFITABLE ENTERPRISE 1 Jan 2012
By Stephen Cooper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Peter Spufford is an Emeritus Professor in Cambridge, and has been the leading authority on medieval monetary history for a generation; but this book is a labour of love as well as of scholarship. It has a wealth of beautiful illustrations and the text is full of information, much of it new to me.

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.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Search of Seekers of Ducats 17 July 2008
By Jason S. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The distribution business as it was of old still hangs on in some places. In out of the way places like the Karakoram Highway and the old Silk Road, traders are still small nomad-like businessmen struggling to survive in a dangerous world. But that world has gone away for the most part.
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 14 Aug 2012
By N. P. Collins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent book. A case where the very well chosen illustrations, not all grouped together in the middle, but illustrating the text, really show what he is explaining. Good job.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Commerce in the middle ages 6 Dec 2008
By Jackal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a history about European commerce in the Middle Ages. It is serious but not scholarly, i.e. not many references provided. However, the book is well written and I can really recommend it. However, the illustrations are maybe the best part of the book. They are very well chosen and makes the reading much more pleasurable. I wish there had been more and all of them in colour. (A side thought: Why don't we have history books that are overloaded with pictures?)
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