MTI6B -Towns and trade

6b SHOPS Louisa Willers

With the growth of the medieval commerce, economy, industry and urbanisation, there was a movement from the itinerant trader to settled trade. This was apart from the markets and fairs that took place daily, weekly and monthly. It is not the first time that shops can be seen in towns. As they can be seen in civilised Greece and Rome etc, but for Europe they were urbanisation on a new scale.

These shops were a response to the demands of the increased industrial and agricultural populations. More people now relied on the market economy and industry rather than farming. The industrialized population were no longer producing their own produce and bread, urban living was becoming more usual. This led to the rise of the production of staple goods and trade in them. Even in small towns there were windows for the display of goods, for example bread, meat and fish. Millers needed to be near water the powered the mills so bakeries often could be found on the riverbanks etc (Pounds).

Other than foodstuffs there were crafts which were needed as a necessity, cloth, metalworking etc. People had begun to specialise in certain trades, and these craftsmen extended their workshops as shops. These sometimes grouped in towns, so as to be notable, for example tanning stank.

As commerce grew luxury goods from abroad which had come through the merchants' movements abroad, and these shops and warehouse traded throughout the year.

Shops alongside other accounts, can document the rise and fall of the economy. Like the harbours and other areas of trade, shops too were the subject of rents and taxes. When business was poor some shops ceased trading and the fall in revenue from rents show how some businesses suffered during crisis years. For example after the Black Death swept Europe, when lack of population affected demand, some shops closed due to lack of income from sales. The same is true for those shops whose suppliers were affected by the murrain of sheep and failure of crops. These shops closed despite efforts to stop this by reduction of tolls. However this is not to overlook those instances helped by the Black Death. Older and more established towns often had an increase in business. People gravitated towards those areas that were still working. Therefore market decay is not always a direct result of depopulation. In some cases it improves as there is more money left to those left.

The increase in certain types of trades and shops show changes in trends and increased affluence. For example in the fourteenth century in England the increases in standards of living can be seen by the increase in jewellers shops, book binders, mirrorers ( Britnell). Conspicuous enough to cause an Italian visitor in 1497, Andreas Franciscus to write 'throughout the town are to be seen many workshops of craftsmen in all sorts of mechanical arts, to such extent that there is hardly a street which is not graced by some shop of the like'. Aside from the commodities this list implies, it also gives and insight to the number of shops and their distribution in towns by the fifteenth century.

Shops are a good example of the fairly steady increase in settled trade, changes in trends, economies, population decline and movement during the twelfth to the fifteenth century. They exist because of demand and their diversity reflects the society and the affluence of the community they serve. In a similar way to today's high streets, from Bangor to Oxford Street.