The Fruits of Civilization (22-7) Finance


As maritime commerce grew, financing and risk-spreading was arranged for merchants unable to afford their own ship, or without sufficient merchandise to fill a ship. Ship owners might lease their ships to several separate merchants who joined forces, or an entrepreneur might lease an entire ship then sublease to other merchants.

Sea loans were devised that gave investors a share of the trading profits without violating usury laws. Maritime insurance was common by the end of the 13th century.

A major reason for widespread dependence upon credit owed to coinage confusion. Europe has no stable currency until the famous gold florin, first issued in 1252 in Florence. Nonetheless, credit had already become an indispensable mainstay of commerce.