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Title: Trade between Scotland and the Low Countries in the later Middle Ages
Author: Stevenson, Alexander William Kerr
ISNI:       0000 0001 3482 7645
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1982
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The aim of this thesis has been to explore economic links with the medieval territories of this area and to show the impact those links had on the Scottish economy and on Scotland's domestic and foreign policies generally. The thesis discusses the revolution in Scottish farming initiated by Flemish demand for wool in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and concludes that the Scottish economy at this period was largely geared towards supplying the Flemish and Artesian market. Burgh institutions and trading franchises are shown to have been founded mainly to control and direct this traffic, and these institutions were little altered thereafter until the end of the medieval period. It is suggested that the Scottish economy achieved a pinnacle of prosperity in the later thirteenth century and that this was due to the great demand for Scottish goods on the Flemish and Artesian markets and the development of a sophisticated burghal infrastructure. The English invasion of Scotland in 1296 is seen as a turning point in Scottish economic development. This invasion was preceded by the sealing of the first Franco-Scottish alliance and the reasons for this alliance, on the Scottish part, are shown to have stemmed from Scottish dependence on the Flemish and Artesian wool market, from which the Scots were under threat of expulsion unless they ratified the French treaty. Flanders and Artois were both within the Kingdom of France, and it is shown that the subsequent development of the Franco-Scottish alliance was directly related to the critically important role Flanders and Artois had in Scottish trade. After the Wars of Independence it is suggested that the Scots ran a severe trade deficit. Scottish burghai populations markedly contracted and Scotland became increasingly reliant on all sorts of manufactures from the Flemish market. It was early in this period that a fixed staple for Scottish wool, hides and woolfells was established at Bruges, and there it remained with brief intermissions until the abandonment of a fixed staple in 1477. The structure of this staple and the organisation of Scottish trade generally are analysed in depth. It is suggested that Scottish economic data support the theory that there was severe climatic deterioration from the early fourteenth century onwards. The very detailed statistical evidence of the Scottish Exchequer Rolls indicates that Scottish exports remained high but the prices they commanded seem to have fallen dramatically. The excellence of Scottish wool, which until the fourteenth century was ranked among the highest in Europe, second only to the finest English wool, was increasingly in doubt and it is shown that wool exports fell dramatically after the early 1390's, as major Flemish draperies banned its use in their higher quality manufactures. A further sharp fall is linked with the imposition of a ban by the Hanseatic League on the importation of cloth made from Scottish wool. All these changes greatly weakened the Scottish economy and in the later fifteenth century it is shown that the Scots started to seek out new markets. Initially these were found principally at the great Brabant fairs and in the town of Middelburg on the island of Walcheren Veere on the north coast of Walcheren provided the most suitable deep water port from which to distribute Scottish goods to the various economic centres around the Scheldt delta. The pattern of trade at this time is illuminated by the invaluable survival of the ledger of a Scottish merchant who acted as a factor in the Low Countries at the turn of the sixteenth century. Available details of traffic at that time are therefore very comprehensive, and are described at length. Finally it is shown that trade with the Low Countries was overtaken by trade with France in the first decade of the sixteenth century and in that trade commodities other than traditional staple goods were of primary importance. Even by expanding the range of Scottish exports it is, however, shown that the volume and value of Scottish foreign trade was markedly lower than it had been in earlier times. The inability to pay for the importation of so high a proportion of manufactures forced the Scots to encourage the development of native crafts in the reigns of James III and James IV. The growth of the crafts, it is argued, led to a great expansion in the size of the major Scottish burghs at this time and ended the merchants' monopoly of burgh institutions and administration. This transformation is held to mark the end of a distinctively medieval pattern of trade and the beginning of a recognisably early modern economic system.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Scotland