‘Eating the bread out of their mouth’: Antwerp's export trade and generalized institutions, 1544–5

Jeroen Puttevils
Published Online:
17 Apr 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 68 Issue 4

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This article studies the distribution of exports from mid‐sixteenth‐century Antwerp at the individual and group level (grouped by merchant origin). Recently, scholars have argued that sixteenth‐century Antwerp, and in its wake a series of other cities, hosted an open‐access market as a result of an evolution towards open‐access institutions. However, the direct effect of this institutional change on merchant enterprise is hard to measure. Relying on detailed tax records, preferences at the individual merchant level for particular destinations and commodities are documented, to evaluate whether exporters had equal chances in Antwerp's export market. A few exporters had large export shares next to a multitude of smaller merchants. The exports of these smaller merchants to distant destinations and their participation in the export of important products demonstrate a fairly level commercial playing field with regard to their larger‐scale colleagues. Foreign traders had access to trade in Low Countries products, while local merchants were active in the export of major transit products. The activities of the latter group are particularly important; contrary to previous literature, Low Countries traders did not differ in their preference for home‐grown products.

© Economic History Society 2015

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