The Wool Trade

MTI15D Balducci Pegolotti. .     Louisa Willers

Balducci Francesco Pegolotti was a Florentine wool merchant, an employee of the Bardi banking house. One of the most notable aspects of his career is the treatise he wrote on la Practica Della Mercatura, roughly translated as the practices of the market/trade.

At this point in time Florence was exceedingly prosperous, with huge industries, although small by today's society. These enterprises were always looking for new resources for raw materials.

The Bardi is a good example of the capitalists that were at the head of European finance and trade. The Practica reflects the companies broad interests abroad and on the home market. Pegolotti was an official representative of the Bardi, and his name is listed on the Calender of Patent Rolls in August 4th 1317. He was also involved in other banking transactions, for example the private loans and papal taxation.

The Practica shows the problems in trade caused by the various currencies and coinage. It highlights the problems created by the debasement of coinage, and the subsequent problematic intricacies of fitting new currencies into exiting systems for monies of account.

One of the key trades written about in the Practica is the wool trade. The Practica has been described as a 'guide for the uninitiated'(Pounds). The Practica is useful for all aspects of the wool trade, for example the difference in sizes of cloth, information about purchasing wool, advise as to which areas produced the best wool and wool prices. For example in mentions the wool produced in Shropshire and Lincolnshire was almost three times the price of that produced in Cornwall. Another example is the list produced for 195 monasteries in England and Scotland, and eleven separate regions known. Thus the Practica demonstrates the relative values for wools in addition to the government list, for example some clients received as much as 15 for a sack of wool and others as little as 3 or 3 10s. His lists are sometimes supported by other sources, for example a Flemish price list of woos from English monasteries for the thirteenth century. All this demonstrates the abilities of Pegolotti in the commercial transactions of his bank, as well as his capabilities as a business man .

His work must have taken some time and this is reflected by the two rates of exchange listed. It also lists hundreds of converted weights and measures of spices and other objects. The information available to Pegolotti was vast all the records of the Bardi would have been at his disposal . The Practica in turn acted as a source and a guide to others. This is shown by the later additions and corrections made to the Practica at later dates. This is not to say that there were not inaccuracies in the Practica Allan Evans' extensive study has proved that there were, but suggests that they may be problems that were encountered by problems in translations from original sources.

Pegolotti is also noted to have had dealings in local government. It is notable that he was made a gonfaloniere di compagnia, or city councilor. He was to preside over local assemblies, and later, after the amalgamation of a group of the gonfalonieres he was an even more senior official. The embroilment with politics did not stop him working with the Bardi .

Pegolotti is seen to be making transactions in Cyprus and he may also have been in Armenia before further political movement when the Bardi tried to overthrow the government, an action that would prove to be disastrous,

Pegolotti's role in government continued to be prosperous. He went on to become the head of the signory residing over the quarter of Santo Spirito, which happened to be the same region in which the Bardi head office was based. This position was later succeeded to by his son, grandson and great grandson.

It was Balducci Pegolotti that issued the bankruptcy proceedings against the Bardi after they crashed, due to the problems of lending to royalty who did not repay their debts and the actions within politics. Such as the attempted 'coup' which had led to many of the leaders of the group being exiled. Something which Pegolotti managed to avoid, evidently remaining in favour with the oligarchic government. This is shown by the responsible position he held in government afterwards. All this adds to the picture of Pegolotti, suggesting a shrewd and competent business man.