Book Description

From Library Journal Favier (The World of Chartres, LJ 4/1/90), a medieval historian, examines Europe's transformation from a feudal economy to a nascent form of capitalism. He details the technological advances in shipbuilding and the formation of large trading companies that made possible the success of merchant entrepreneurs at the center of this story. These developments led to an expansion in intellectual horizons as well. People became less bound to an agricultural economy and were introduced to a range of exotic products, which later helped to stimulate the Age of Discovery. Forms of speculation appeared and reappeared: loans to rulers, leased monopolies, buying on credit, fixed exchange rates, etc. The merchant entrepreneurs became major players in European politics, and the owners of shipping fleets and banks produced descendants who, like the Medici, could become secular rulers or even popes. This work should appeal to interested lay readers as well as to students and scholars. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.?Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., MNCopyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. Read more From Kirkus Reviews A painstakingly detailed account of the development of capitalist institutions and practices in Europe from the 11th to the 15th centuries by a French historian. Favier's story is in many ways a heroic one. He praises those who in any period are determined to extend the limits of what is imaginable. This would seem to be his view of the great medieval trading families of Europe, who over the course of several centuries transformed themselves from, as he puts it, ``dusty-footed merchants'' to a dominant economic and political force. At the same time, there is little that is heroic here; after all, the driving force for most of the merchants was simply to make the most profit with the least risk. To do so they had to be willing to confront, or manipulate, or coopt, both religious and secular authorities. New ways of doing business had to be imagined; new methods of exchange, accounting, payment, and raising capital had to be devised. If at the end of the 15th century the capitalist class, as, say, Ricardo or Marx had imagined it, had not yet emerged, the tools it would use to rule and define the world were, Favier concludes, firmly in place. Favier's work is most of value in the detail he provides. This is not grand narrative, but a careful historical investigation of precisely how, for instance, the merchants of Genoa kept their accounts or of how the credit systems they devised to protect themselves from uncertain royal currency systems worked. This is not, however, a work for the faint-hearted; a whole chapter on the various types of coins in circulation in Europe, their comparative worth, and how this worth fluctuated is not everyone's idea of fascinating reading. Still, with a bit of forbearance, the details do accumulate into a worthwhile tale of the origins of the modern economic world. Not for everyone, but an impressive historical achievement. -- Copyright ?1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. Read more See all Editorial Reviews