The Squirrel Fur Trade in 14th Century Novgorod

The Squirrel Fur Trade in 14th Century Novgorod

Schiller, Marie

University of Minnesota Libraries (2010)


In the early part of the 14th century, high-quality, brilliantly-colored woolen fabrics became available in Western Europe. It was discovered that lush, gray-white, northern squirrel fur was an ideal complement to this type of cloth. Squirrel fur was relatively inexpensive compared to sable, marten, etc. and therefore was available to a more economically and socially diverse population. As a result, these squirrel pelts, which came only from Scandinavia and Northern Russia, were in demand. In 14th century London, the highest prices paid for fur were for winter squirrel pelts imported from Novgorod.1 Through the Hansa, merchants from Novgorod were the principal suppliers of squirrel fur to Western Europe in the 14th century, and indeed devoted most of their efforts to the procurement and sale of this single product. In this paper, I will address the involvement of Novgorod in this market and the implications of squirrel fur export for the town itself.

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