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In the Limelight: Knights of Commerce
In the limelight: Knights of commerce

What is your substance, whereof are you made?

—Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

In the preceding chapter, we have discussed how, in the first three centuries of the 2nd millennium, the merchant communities emerged as the moving spirit behind the development of markets in north western Europe. Associated with this was the growth of towns as the nucleus of commercial and urban expansion. Governance of the towns came to be dominated progressively by the patriciate class consisting of the nobility and large merchant groups. The mercantile culture and ethic wore down the feudal structure of stratified duties and obligations, and more remarkably, the strong ecclesiastical barriers to trade and wealth creation. This then is the theme ...

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