IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/tor/tecipa/tecipa-244.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Rise, Expansion, and Decline of the Italian Cloth Industries, 1100 - 1730: a study in conjoncture, transaction costs, and comparative advantage

Author

Listed:
  • John H. Munro

Abstract

This study of the Italian wool-based textile industries (woollens, worsteds, and serges) seeks to examine its rise, expansion, and ultimate decline, over a period of five centuries (from ca. 1200 to ca. 1730) in the context of both international competition and economic conjoncture, in the context of the major macro-economic and demographic changes that the European economy experienced during these five centuries. The story commences during the so-called 'Commercial Revolution' era of the thirteenth-century when the Franco-Flemish cloth industries of north-west European dominated the international markets in a very wide range of these textiles, even in the Mediterranean basin. From the 1290s, and then into the better know period of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) the European economy suffered from the ravages of ever more widespread and debilitating warfare, throughout the Mediterranean basin and western Europe, and then from various factors, including plagues, that led to serious depopulation. The consequences led to a severe rise in transportation and transaction costs that gravely undermined the profitability of long-distance trade in cheaper textiles. That, in turn forced most textile manufacturers dependent on long-distance trade, and especially those who had operated as price-takers, to re-orient their export-based production to far higher priced, indeed luxury textiles, which could better sustain the burden of rising transactions costs, especially in acting as 'price-makers' engaged in monopolistic competition. That industrial-commercial transformation can be seen in the textile industries of northern France, the Low Countries, and England; but also those in Catalonia and above all in Italy: principally Tuscany and Lombardy. In so far as warfare and rising transaction costs limited the importation of even luxury textiles from north-west Europe, the Italian cloth industries thereby gained a far larger share of Mediterranean markets. This study focuses in particular on the ensuring history of the Florentine woollen cloth industry in the later Middle Ages. One price that all of these luxury-oriented cloth industries had to pay was steeply rising tax burdens on exported English wools; for the prime determinant of luxury quality in these textiles was the use of the finer grade English wools, the best in the world, until the development (through breeding and management) of Spanish merino wools, which finally succeeded in rivalling and then surpassing the English by the later sixteenth century. By the sixteenth century, with a reduction in European warfare and with renewed population growth, substantial economic growth, and significant innovations in transportation, transactions costs fell, and fell enough to make long-distance trade in cheaper textiles once more profitable; and that is reflected in product changes in the Florentine textile industry, which increasingly used Spanish merino wools in place of the English. But the most important events in the history of the Italian textile industries was the sudden rise of the Venetian cloth industry from the early to mid-sixteenth century, reaching a peak in the early seventeenth century, and then experiencing an equally rapid decline, in the famous of English textile competition, by the agency of the new Levant Company, which gained major advantages over the Italians in the large Ottoman Empire. The study concludes by examining the nature of those English advantages, which lay far more in the commercial (and transportation sphere) than in the industrial sphere, in terms of both traditional heavy weight woollens (made from Spanish wools) and the lighter, coarser, and cheaper fabrics of the English New Draperies (benefiting from a transformation in English wool production, from the Tudor-Stuart Enclosures). In sum: a study of comparative advantage in five centuries of international trade, in wool-based textiles, in terms of transaction costs, inputs (wools), and commercial organization.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Munro, 2006. "The Rise, Expansion, and Decline of the Italian Cloth Industries, 1100 - 1730: a study in conjoncture, transaction costs, and comparative advantage," Working Papers tecipa-244, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-244
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/tecipa-244-1.pdf
    File Function: Main Text
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    3. Grossbard-Shechtman, Shoshana & Lemennicier, Bertrand, 2000. "Marriage contracts and the law-and-economics of marriage: an Austrian perspective," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 665-690, June.
    4. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Weiss, Yoram & Willis, Robert J, 1997. "Match Quality, New Information, and Marital Dissolution," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 293-329, January.
    6. Parkman, Allen M, 1992. "Unilateral Divorce and the Labor-Force Participation Rate of Married Women, Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 671-678, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    woollens; worsteds; serges; warfare; English and Spanish wools; Florence; Milan; Venice; Ottoman Empire; Flanders; Levant Company; New Draperies;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • L79 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Other
    • L91 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Transportation: General
    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-244. 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). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.