Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The West European Woollen Industries and their Struggles for International Markets, c.1000 - 1500

Contents:

Author Info

  • John H. Munro

Abstract

Although this paper is, ostensibly, a macro- and micro-economic historical study of competition in the West European woollen textile ind ustries, in France, the Low Countries, England, Italy, and Iberia (Catalonia and Aragon), and of their related wool and cloth trades, covering all of Europe and the Mediterranean basin, from the eleventh to early sixteenth centuries, this paper is actually focused upon four fundamental inter-related questions and theses set forth to furnish some answers to the problems posed: (1) It seeks to explain why the textile industries of the Low Countries -- Flanders above all -- gained, held, but then ultimately lost their dominance in the production and export of luxury woollen textiles, those based upon the production of fine English wools, the finest before the advent of improved Spanish merino wools, by the 16 th century (from sheep whose modern descendants provide the world s best quality wools today). (2) It seeks to show why, from the early 14 th to mid 15 th centuries, the majority of the prominent textile industries in Western Europe were forced to abandon export-oriented production of cheap, light, mass-market textiles, especially says and other semi-worsted fabrics, formerly sent to distant international markets, in order to concentrate more fully upon far higher-priced luxury woollen textiles (those with a far-higher value:weight ratio); and why the components of these industries were transformed from their former role essentially as passive price-takers to become, though fewer in number as survivors, aggressive price-makers, engaging in fierce monopolistic competition. The model employed to explain this industrial and commercial transformation is essentially a North-based transactions-cost model: to demonstrate that, for most of western Europe from the 1290s to the 1450s, the spreading stain of chronic, widespread and violent warfare, involving far greater state involvement in fiscal, monetary, and trade policies, raised the transport, marketing, and transaction costs of long-distant trade in cheap textiles to prohibitive levels: i.e. that so many of these West European producers found that only the trade in luxury textiles could bear the freight and continue to be profitable, for much of the later medieval-era, at least for the few survivors. At the same time, changes in wealth and income distributions resulting from these structural economic changes favoured sales of luxury cloths. (3) It seeks to explain why and how the English cloth industry, producing good quality woollen textiles, but with an export trade aimed at lower-echelon luxury markets, finally gained supremacy, by the late 15 th century, over the Low Countries; and how the Low Countries s textile industries, forced to obey the law of comparative advantage, so successfully engaged in and prospered from a revived sayetteries industry based on producing, once again, those lighter, cheaper semi-worsted textiles. Contrary to the traditional theories that still ascribe the English success to a combination of rural locations and technological innovations (water-driven fulling-mills), this paper argue that the ultimate English victory was instead based upon: (i) the unintended consequences of fiscal policies, in tax differentials imposed on the wool- and cloth-export trades; but more so, given the century that it took the English to gain this victory, (ii) structural changes in the European international economy that brought about the restoration of relative security, demographic and economic revival, changes in income distributions and market demand, innovations in overland transport and marketing, falling transaction costs, and new continental trade routes, based on South Germany, the Rhineland, and the Brabant Fairs that favoured the English cloth trade over its chief Flemish, Brabantine, and Dutch (and Italian) rivals. (4) This paper also revisits the proto-industrialization thesis and the related debates about the advantages of rural vs. urban location: to show that even for the victorious English cloth industry, and also for the Flemish sayetteries and related worsted industries, the chief participants in their respective international textile trades were fundamentally more urban than rural based (despite a rural-urban symbiosis in the production processes).

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/UT-ECIPA-MUNRO-00-04.pdf
File Function: MainText
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number munro-00-04.

as in new window
Length: 170 pages
Date of creation: 22 Nov 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:munro-00-04

Contact details of provider:
Postal: 150 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario
Phone: (416) 978-5283

Related research

Keywords:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Munro, John H., 2005. "I panni di lana: Nascita, espansione e declino dell’industria tessile di lana italiana, 1100-1730
    [The woollen cloth industry in Italy: The rise, expansion, and decline of the Italian cloth indus
    ," MPRA Paper 11038, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Sep 2006.
  2. Munro, John H., 2007. "Hanseatic commerce in textiles from the Low Countries and England during the Later Middle Ages: changing trends in textiles, markets, prices, and values, 1290 - 1570," MPRA Paper 11199, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Jun 2008.
  3. John H. Munro, 2009. "Coinage and Monetary Policies in Burgundian Flanders during the late-medieval 'Bullion Famines',. 1384 - 1482," Working Papers tecipa-361, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  4. Munro, John H., 2004. "Spanish Merino wools and the Nouvelles Draperies: an industrial transformation in the late-medieval Low Countries," MPRA Paper 15808, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 22 Mar 2005.
  5. Börner, Lars & Quint, Daniel, 2010. "Medieval matching markets," Discussion Papers 2010/31, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  6. Munro, John H., 2004. "Builders’ wages in southern England and the southern Low Countries, 1346 -1500: a comparative study of trends in and levels of real incomes," MPRA Paper 11209, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Jul 2004.
  7. John H. Munro, 2008. "Necessities and Luxuries in Early-Modern Textile Consumption: Real Values of Worsted Says and Fine Woollens in the Sixteenth-Century Low Countries," Working Papers tecipa-323, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:munro-00-04. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (RePEc Maintainer).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.