On the Medieval Urban Economy in Wallachia

On the Medieval Urban Economy in Wallachia

By Laurentiu Radvan

Scientific Annals of the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi: Economic Sciences Series, V.56 (2009)

Abstract: The present study focuses on the background of the medieval urban economy in Wallachia. Townspeople earned most of their income through trade. Acting as middlemen in the trade between the Levant and Central Europe, the merchants in Brăila, Târgoviste, Câmpulung, Bucuresti or Târgsor became involved in trading goods that were local or had been brought from beyond the Carpathians or the Black Sea. Raw materials were the goods of choice, and Wallachia had vast amounts of them: salt, cereals, livestock or animal products, skins, wax, honey; mostly imported were expensive cloth or finer goods, much sought after by the local rulers and boyars. An analysis of the documents indicates that crafts were only secondary, witness the many raw goods imported: fine cloth (brought specifically from Flanders), weapons, tools. Products gained by practicing various crafts were sold, covering the food and clothing demand for townspeople and the rural population. As was the case with Moldavia, Wallachia stood out by its vintage wine, most of it coming from vineyards neighbouring towns. The study also deals with the ethnicity of the merchants present on the Wallachia market. Tradesmen from local towns were joined by numerous Transylvanians (Brasov, Sibiu), but also Balkans (Ragussa) or Poles (Lviv). The Transylvanian ones enjoyed some privileges, such as tax exemptions or reduced customs duties.

Introduction: The present study will look into the development of medieval urban economy in Wallachia, taking as its timeframe the 14th-16th centuries. The urban centres south of the Carpathians evolved in an unstable political climate. The throne was subject to almost constant competition, with only few longer reigns (such as that of Mircea the Old) having avoided this true curse, which brought along uncertainty and instability. Also, the frequent intermissions of neighbouring powers (Hungary, the Ottoman Empire) in the affairs of Wallachia impacted negatively the urban economy. As this study will show, this economy was grounded in trade, and towns in this area had flourished into true intermediaries between the centres of Central Europe, Transylvania, and South-Danubian land. Crafts were only secondary in nature, and, where agriculture was concerned, only viticulture was its most popular branch. Our study will look into every above-mentioned component of urban economy.

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