IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Dual Crises of the Late-Medieval Florentine Cloth Industry, c. 1320 - c. 1420


  • John H. Munro


During the hundred-year period from about 1320 to about 1420, the Florentine woollen cloth industry underwent two closely connected crises. The first crisis was the consequence, direct and indirect, of the ravages of warfare and falling population, afflicting the entire Mediterranean basin and western Europe from the 1290s, which raised transportation and other transaction costs to such an extent that long-distance trade in cheaper textiles became unprofitable, thereby forcing West European cloth producers to reorient their export-oriented production to very high priced luxury woollens (and silks) and also to shift from being price-takers to price-makers. Initially, the first crisis seemed to have had beneficial consequences for Florence: for its luxury woollens industry soon became late-medieval Italy's single most important export-oriented manufacturing industry, with large spill-over benefits for Italian commerce, banking, and finance. Indeed, by the third quarter of the 14th century, the Florentine woollen industry (Arte della Lana) was rivalling and then surpassing the previously pre-eminent leaders - those in the southern Low Countries (Flanders and Brabant); and in Mediterranean markets of this era, Florentine woollens reigned supreme over all rival textiles. But the consequences of that first economic crisis, in the ensuing transformation of the Florentine cloth industry, contained the very seeds that spawned the second and far more major crisis, which led to the inexorable downfall of this once majestic industry, by the early 15th century. The chief factors in that decline were: the accelerating population decline (especially after the Black Death), further raising transaction costs; the reorientation to very narrow luxury markets, with very restricted demand; and especially the complete dependence on imported, tax-burdened English wools (as the prime determinant of both luxury quality and the very high prices of Florentine woollens). All of these adverse factors led to drastic reductions in Florentine cloth production: from about 75,000 bolts in the 1330s to only about 9,500 in the 1420s - an overall fall of 87% (far more than the decline in the Florentine labour supply, or the European population). The Florentine cloth industry never regained its former if transitory glory. How the industry did, however, manage to achieve some recovery in the later 15th and 16th centuries, by resorting to domestic and then Spanish wools, is beyond the scope of this study.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Munro, 2013. "The Dual Crises of the Late-Medieval Florentine Cloth Industry, c. 1320 - c. 1420," Working Papers tecipa-487, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-487

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Main Text
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
    2. V. Joseph Hotz & Robert A. Miller & Seth Sanders & Jeffrey Smith, 1994. "A Simulation Estimator for Dynamic Models of Discrete Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(2), pages 265-289.
    3. John Rust & Geoffrey Rothwell, 1995. "Optimal Response to Shift in Regulatory Regime: the Case of the U.S. Nuclear Power Industry," Industrial Organization 9508002, EconWPA.
    4. Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1984. "An Estimable Dynamic Stochastic Model of Fertility and Child Mortality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(5), pages 852-874, October.
    5. Patrick Bajari & C. Lanier Benkard & Jonathan Levin, 2007. "Estimating Dynamic Models of Imperfect Competition," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1331-1370, September.
    6. Newey, Whitney K, 1994. "The Asymptotic Variance of Semiparametric Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1349-1382, November.
    7. Sung‐Jin Cho, 2011. "An empirical model of mainframe computer investment," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 122-150, January/F.
    8. Sanghamitra Das, 1992. "A Micro-Econometric Model of Capital Utilization and Retirement: The Case of the U.S. Cement Industry," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(2), pages 277-297.
    9. Che‐Lin Su & Kenneth L. Judd, 2012. "Constrained Optimization Approaches to Estimation of Structural Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 80(5), pages 2213-2230, September.
    10. V. Joseph Hotz & Robert A. Miller, 1993. "Conditional Choice Probabilities and the Estimation of Dynamic Models," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 497-529.
    11. McFadden, Daniel, 1989. "A Method of Simulated Moments for Estimation of Discrete Response Models without Numerical Integration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(5), pages 995-1026, September.
    12. Jerome Adda & Russell Cooper, 2000. "Balladurette and Juppette: A Discrete Analysis of Scrapping Subsidies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 778-806, August.
    13. Steven Stern, 1997. "Simulation-Based Estimation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 2006-2039, December.
    14. Russell Cooper & John C. Haltiwanger & Jonathan L. Willis, 2010. "Euler-Equation Estimation for Discrete Choice Models: A Capital Accumulation Application," NBER Working Papers 15675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Miranda, Mario J & Schnitkey, Gary D, 1995. "An Empirical Model of Asset Replacement in Dairy Production," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(S), pages 41-55, Suppl. De.
    16. Víctor Aguirregabiria, 1997. "Estimation of dynamic programming models with censored decision variables," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, vol. 21(2), pages 167-208, May.
    17. Pakes, Ariel & Pollard, David, 1989. "Simulation and the Asymptotics of Optimization Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(5), pages 1027-1057, September.
    18. Rust, John & Rothwell, Geoffrey, 1995. "Optimal Response to a Shift in Regulatory Regime: The Case of the US Nuclear Power Industry," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(S), pages 75-118, Suppl. De.
    19. Victor Aguirregabiria & Pedro Mira, 2007. "Sequential Estimation of Dynamic Discrete Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 1-53, January.
    20. Daniel Ackerberg & Xiaohong Chen & Jinyong Hahn, 2012. "A Practical Asymptotic Variance Estimator for Two-Step Semiparametric Estimators," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 481-498, May.
    21. Kennet, D Mark, 1994. "A Structural Model of Aircraft Engine Maintenance," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(4), pages 351-368, Oct.-Dec..
    22. Gourieroux, Christian & Monfort, Alain, 1997. "Simulation-based Econometric Methods," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198774754, June.
    23. Kasahara, Hiroyuki & Shimotsu, Katsumi, 2008. "Pseudo-likelihood estimation and bootstrap inference for structural discrete Markov decision models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 146(1), pages 92-106, September.
    24. Victor Aguirregabiria & Pedro Mira, 2002. "Swapping the Nested Fixed Point Algorithm: A Class of Estimators for Discrete Markov Decision Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1519-1543, July.
    25. Rust, John, 1996. "Numerical dynamic programming in economics," Handbook of Computational Economics,in: H. M. Amman & D. A. Kendrick & J. Rust (ed.), Handbook of Computational Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 619-729 Elsevier.
    26. Gourieroux, Christian & Monfort, Alain, 1993. "Simulation-based inference : A survey with special reference to panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1-2), pages 5-33, September.
    27. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1982. "Generalized Instrumental Variables Estimation of Nonlinear Rational Expectations Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1269-1286, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    warfare; depopulation; transaction costs; woollens; worsteds; says; serges; scarlets; silks; English wools; Spanish merino wools; Arte di Calimala; Arte della Lana; lanaiuoli; luxury markets; Florence; Tuscany; Lombardy; the Levant;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • 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
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • L67 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Other Consumer Nondurables: Clothing, Textiles, Shoes, and Leather Goods; Household Goods; Sports Equipment
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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-487. 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) or (Rebekah McClure). 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.