DEVELOPMENT OF COMMERCE BETWEEN ENGLAND AND THE CONTINENT OF EUROPECategory: 12th century
The growing trade led to the establishment of contacts between different parts of the country and to the development of commercial contacts between England and other countries.
Through its connections with Normandy England came into closer contact with the Continent.
People travelled between England and the Continent more often than before.
A good deal of trade was carried on between England and the rest of Europe.
We shall read now how the commercial contacts of England with other countries grew in the 12th-14th centuries.
Of all trades the most important to England was the wool trade. From early times wool was exported from England to be woven in the towns of Flanders. The Flemish artisans were the greatest of all the cloth-artisans in the world and they depended largely on England’s high-quality wool for their work. Already in 1102 and 1103 England concluded the first trade agreements with Flanders and from that time on throughout the Middle Ages the best of the wool crop was exported to them.
In the 12th century England began to export wool on a large scale. Many strains of sheep were bred in England and it exported forty-five varieties of raw wool to other countries. The wool trade was a very profitable business to be in, Wool was sold by the lay feudal lords, and by the monasteries, and by the peasants. Merchants came to the villages and bought up the wool from the peasants. Many wool merchants made fortunes this way. By the 13th century this trade had grown so much that it exceeded in bulk and value all other exports combined.
The king was always interested in this trade, for the taxes on wool were an important source of the royal revenue. Foreign merchats had to pay a tax on every sack of wool they bought. The king forbade the selling of wool to foreign buyers except in certain towns so as to make it easier for his officials to collect the tax. All the wool went to these fixed town markets where the royal custom officials inspected it carefully and collected the tax on it. And all the English merchants had to go to these towns to sell their wool and all the foreign buyers had to come there to buy it.