Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Blomquist, Thomas W.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Commerce--History; Italians--Great Britain--History; Florence (Italy)--Commerce--History


This thesis attempts to answer two questions. First, was Richard Kaeuper's "Ricciardi system" only for the Ricciardi or could it be called the "Italian system?" Second, what was the Italian role in the economic history of medieval England? To answer these questions, it was necessary to investigate Florentine mercantile activity in thirteenth century England. The data was primarily gathered from the Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, Liberate Rolls and Roles Gascons of the reigns of Henry III and Edward I. In order to make the task of evaluation somewhat easier, the technique of linkage was used to separate the hundreds of Florentine merchants into identifiable companies. All such data is included in the appendices. The beginnings of Florentine mercantile activity in England occurred during the reign of Henry III. Sometime around 1224, the Florentines and other Italians were importing goods into England. Their activities quickly expanded to include importing luxury goods, exporting wool, serving as papal collectors and/or depositors as well as remitting funds to Rome. The huge sums of money that the Italians could command made them the ideal potential creditors for the English crown if it needed extra money. Henry III was the first to try to utilize this new source of extraordinary revenue during the so-called "Sicilian Crusade." Italian firms, including many Florentines, loaned the king over half of the 135,000 marks needed to finance the venture. Unfortunately, the barons' revolt and subsequent loss of control of both the government and English finance put an abrupt end to the experiment. Few Florentine firms would lend Henry III money during the last fifteen years of his reign, especially since he lacked the revenue to repay any large-scale loans. This lack was remedied by his son, Edward I, when he imposed the Old and New Customs. Using the customs dues to repay loans, he succeeded in anticipating revenues by borrowing money on a steady basis from his bankers, the Ricciardi of Lucca. Richard W. Kaeuper has called this the "Ricciardi system," implying that the system was used for the Ricciardi's exclusive benefit. However, the Ricciardi of Lucca never established a complete monopoly of governmental finance. In the period 1272-129^, Edward borrowed money from at least fourteen Florentine firms as well as other firms from Pistoria, Siena and Lucca. The Ricciardi did however, provide the greater part of the money lent during this time. A true monopoly of governmental finance was not achieved until 1300, the year in which the Frescobaldi of Florence became royal bankers. In addition to lending the king money upon security of the customs dues, the Florentines also began to lend money to private citizens. The loans hardly ever amounted to more than 50 to 100 1. and were secured by mortgages on land and chattels of the borrower. Nevertheless, the number of such transactions showed that the Florentines' money was starting to filter down at least to the nobility. Some basic conclusions result from this study. First, since the so-called "Ricciardi system" was used with profit by a.n the firms lending money to the English crown, it could probably be better labeled the "Italian system." Secondly, the Italians had a beneficent effect on the English economy as a whole. They financed war efforts which permanently attached Wales to England (without forcing Edward to raise taxes), introduced luxury goods into England, and might have indirectly spurred the expansion of the English wool industry in the fifteenth century. Indeed the English economy in the thirteenth century had developed a symbiotic relationship with the Italian merchants which would last well into the fourteenth century.


Includes bibliographical references.||Page enumeration skips number 11.


162 pages




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