Florentine merchant companies established in Buda at the beginning of the 15th century

Florentine merchant companies established in Buda at the beginning of the 15th century

By Katalin Prajda

Mélanges de l’École française de Rome – Moyen Âge, Vol. 125:1 (2013)

Buda during the Middle Ages, woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Abstract: It is not until the beginning of the 15th century that we begin to get detailed information about merchant companies set up by Florentines in the town of Buda. The senior partners of these companies were important actors of Florentine trade and played a significant role in the textile production of their homeland. Their families often maintained economic relations with each other at least for two generations and they worked together through several autonomous family partnerships. Their firms based in Buda were not real competitors, but they operated through each other, using the same merchant network and serving the same circle of costumers. The scope of the present article is to analyze the activity of these merchant companies through various sources housed by the Florentine National Archives and place them in the context of Florentine long distance trade.

Introduction: The presence of Florentine merchants in the town of Buda dates at least to the time of Louis I (1342-82). Florentines in general imported textiles to the Kingdom of Hungary and few of them also gained access to important natural resources there, such as precious metals and salt. There were other Florentines too who served the king or the pope in collection of taxes and in administration of mints, similar way to their fellow-citizens who lived in other parts of late medieval Europe. Besides Florentines, there were also other Italian merchants – for example from Arezzo, Genoa and Venice – working in Buda. Their number might have already been so significant by the last decade of the 14th century that the busy street of « Via dei Latini » (Platea Italicorum) in Buda was named after them and they were allowed to have their own representative, a consul. Therefore the local Italian trading community might have been comparable in importance to other Italian trading communities of late medieval Europe.

The question of the establishment of Florentine merchant companies in Buda during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg has never been subject of extensive studies. The researches carried out by Zsuzsa Teke in the 1990s and Krisztina Arany in recent years examine only two companies based in Buda – the Carnesecchi-Fronte and the Melanesi – mainly through the information provided by the Catasto 1427, the earliest complete census of the city of Florence. Thanks to the lack of specialist literature, the most recent works dedicated to medieval Florentine economy only mention the existence of a Florentine trading community in Buda. Therefore the scope of the present article is to analyze the activity of those merchant companies which were set up by Florentines in Buda during the first three decades of the 15th century.

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