Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/532

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in different places or at different seasons of the year. However imperfectly they may have been carried out, these efforts to enforce reasonable prices probably put considerable restraint on certain forms of extortion, while they tended to check the violence of the fluctuations which must occasionally occur in every kind of trade.

In the fourteenth century this elaborate system of economic regulation was organised by civic authorities; it was to a very small extent a matter for royal or national interference. Each town formed a separate economic centre, which not only regulated its own internal affairs, but pursued its own policy in its trading relations with other places. Some cities were banded together for the sake of maintaining common interests and formed confederations like that of the Hanse League; but on the whole they cherished economic independence. Each city had to deal with the problem of its own food supply; some towns, such as Nîmes, could rely on the produce of their own lands, though others, like Bordeaux, were dependent on commerce for the sustenance of the inhabitants; while many erected large granaries, to enable them to tide over occasional periods of scarcity, which might arise from the failure of crops or the interruption of trade. The diverse circumstances in which they were placed rendered it inevitable that each should, more or less consciously, devise its own economic policy, and control the machinery which regulated industrial life; some towns had special advantages for one branch of manufacture and some for others. Florence owed her prosperity to skill in the working and dressing of cloth, Genoa excelled in the production of arms, and Venice was successful in bringing the manufacture of glass and silk to a high state of perfection. The precise status of the companies and gilds and lodges of the Middle Ages varied from place to place, and the organisation of one craft might differ considerably from that of another. But this one characteristic held good generally, that all these bodies were municipal institutions which had regard to the welfare of the public, or of the trade, in each particular town.

Civic patriotism not only affected the character of the internal regulation of industry, but it also determined the policy of each town towards outsiders. The jealousy of "foreign" artisans, i.e. of those who were not burgesses, gave rise to bitter disputes in the neighbourhood of Bruges and other Flemish towns; and "foreign" merchants were seriously hampered in attempts to trade, unless they could secure special privileges, and particular establishments of their own, with accommodation for residence and for the warehousing of their goods. The cities of Aragon, Provence, and Italy had such factories in the Mohammadan towns of Morocco, Tunis, Egypt, and Syria; the members of the Hanse League had a similar establishment in London, and their settlement at Bergen became so powerful as to dominate over the native portion of the place. In the fourteenth century commerce was intermunicipal