Early Medieval Europe
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Early medieval port customs, tolls and controls on foreign trade
The objective of this paper is to offer a fresh perspective on the nature and organization of international trade in early medieval ports from the evid- ence of documentary sources on tolls and customs, trading practices and controls on foreign merchants. In particular, the paper considers the evid- ence for continuities and borrowings from the Roman and Byzantine worlds and the extent to which they inﬂuenced trading practices in the west and especially in Anglo-Saxon England.
Knowledge about early medieval ports and trade comes mainly from thepioneering work of archaeologists and numismatists.
From the late sixthand seventh century onwards, large-scale trading settlements, sometimesoccupying areas in excess of forty hectares, were beginning to develop along the coasts of southern and eastern England and of northern Europe andScandinavia.
These ports, now commonly called
), weremarkets and centres for international exchange on the frontiers of kingdoms(Fig. 1). Written sources, some later, indicate that
were located atplaces under the inﬂuence or control of kings and other rulers.
wereactively involved in international trade and clearly on a scale implying much more than the provision of small luxuries for elites. There is evidence
*I would like to take this opportunity to thank James Campbell, Paul Fouracre, Ally Jones,Ken Lawson, John Maddicott and the editors of
Early Medieval Europe
for much helpfuladvice and encouragement. The views expressed here and any remaining errors are my own.
For general reviews see A. Verhulst,
The Rise of Cities in North-West Europe
(Cambridge and Paris,1999); R. Hodges,
Dark Age Economics: The Origins of Towns and Trade AD 600–1000
(London,2001); R. Hodges,
Towns and Trade in the Age of Charlemagne
(London, 2000); D. Russo,
Town Origins and Development in Early England, c.400–950 A.D
. (Westport, CT and London, 1998);C. Scull, ‘Urban Centres in Pre-Viking England?’, in J. Hines (ed.),
The Anglo-Saxons: From the Migration Period to the Eighth Century
(Woodbridge, 1997), pp. 268–98 and the related discussionat pp. 298–310.
J. Haslam (ed.),
Anglo-Saxon Towns in Southern England
D. Hill and R. Cowie,
Wics: The Early Medieval Trading Centres of Northern Europe