In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Trade Networks

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Primary Sources
  • Medieval Trade: An Overview
  • Fairs
  • Transport and Commercial Routes
  • Europe’s Trade with Asia
  • Institutions and Merchants’ Networks

Renaissance and Reformation Trade Networks
Francesco Guidi Bruscoli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 August 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0149


The discovery of America and, more broadly, the European expansion to other continents are the major events characterizing the trade networks of the Renaissance. Several scholars have discussed the impact of these factors on European development as well as on the world’s steps toward capitalism and globalization. Circa the mid-17th century (the chronological limit of this bibliography), however, inter-European trade still made up the majority of overall trade. By and large, trade was not badly affected by the otherwise disastrous consequences of the Black Death of the mid-14th century. The demands of those who survived, constantly fueled by a wider range of products available on the market, along with a much-improved transport system, led to an increase in the volume of trade. International merchants were able to set up extensive commercial networks or broaden existing ones, which extended into a number of prominent towns. Beginning in the 16th century, following the exploration of the African coast by the Portuguese, their arrival in India, and, in particular, the discovery of America, trade expanded globally. Commercial empires sprang up—first in the countries of the Iberian Peninsula, then in the northwestern European countries (notably England and Holland and, to a lesser extent, France). In the seventeenth century, merchants from these areas began to strengthen their influence in the Mediterranean, thus reversing what formerly had been the scenario in the late Middle Ages, when southern European and German merchants dominated in the North Sea.


There are no specialized journals specifically dedicated to trade. However, the main journals on economic history, such as the Economic History Review, the Journal of Economic History and the Journal of European Economic History, frequently publish on trade issues over time, though they favor modern-day topics. In addition, history journals occasionally deal with themes related to commerce and commercial relations in a local or an international context. Another sector that can be of interest concerns exploration and world history, here represented by the journal Itinerario.

  • Economic History Review. 1927–.

    Probably the most important journal on economic history; promoted by the British Economic History Society, it covers a variety of subjects—including the history of trade—from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

  • Itinerario. 1977–.

    Journal devoted to the European expansion and to world history after 1500. Published by Cambridge University Press for the Leiden Institute for History.

  • Journal of Economic History. 1941–.

    Journal of the Economic History Association. Broader in scope than most of the other publications in this section, this journal aims to attract both economists and social historians; it often publishes quantitative analyses.

  • Journal of European Economic History. 1972–.

    Ranging from Antiquity to the present day, this journal also includes articles on Renaissance trade and commercial relations.

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