HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

A merchant is a person who trades in
commodities In economics, a commodity is an economic goods, good, usually a resource, that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the Market (economics), market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who Production ...
produced by other people, especially one who trades with foreign countries. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in
business Business is the practice of making one's living or making money by producing or Trade, buying and selling Product (business), products (such as goods and Service (economics), services). It is also "any activity or enterprise entered into for pr ...
or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. In 16th-century Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: referred to local traders (such as bakers and grocers) and ( nl, koopman) referred to merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances and offering added-value services such as credit and finance. The status of the merchant has varied during different periods of history and among different societies. In modern times, the term ''merchant'' has occasionally been used to refer to a businessperson or someone undertaking activities (commercial or industrial) for the purpose of generating profit, cash flow, sales, and revenue using a combination of human, financial, intellectual and physical
capital Capital may refer to: Common uses * Capital city, a municipality of primary status ** List of national capitals, List of national capital cities * Capital letter, an upper-case letter Economics and social sciences * Capital (economics), the dura ...
with a view to fueling economic development and growth. Merchants have been known for as long as humans have engaged in trade and commerce. Merchants and merchant networks operated in ancient
Babylonia Babylonia (; Akkadian: , ''māt Akkadī'') was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area based in the city of Babylon in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and parts of Syria). It emerged as an Amorites, Amorite-ruled ...
and
Assyria Assyria (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: , romanized: ''māt Aššur''; syc, ܐܬܘܪ, ʾāthor) was a major ancient Mesopotamia, Mesopotamian civilization which existed as a city-state from the 21st century BC to the 14th century BC, then to a terr ...
,
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning the North Africa, northeast corner of Africa and Western Asia, southwest corner of Asia via a land bridg ...
,
Greece Greece,, or , romanized: ', officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the southern tip of the Balkans, and is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Greece shares land borders with ...
,
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
,
Persia Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
,
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, ancient thalassocracy, thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern Lebanon. The territory of the Phoenician city-st ...
, and Rome. During the European
medieval period In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
, a rapid expansion in trade and commerce led to the rise of a wealthy and powerful
merchant class The bourgeoisie ( , ) is a social class, equivalent to the middle class, middle or upper middle class. They are distinguished from, and traditionally contrasted with, the proletariat by their affluence, and their great Cultural capital, cultu ...
. The European
age of discovery The Age of Discovery (or the Age of Exploration), also known as the early modern period, was a period largely overlapping with the Age of Sail, approximately from the 15th century to the 17th century in European history, during which seafar ...
opened up new trading routes and gave European consumers access to a much broader range of goods. From the 1600s, goods began to travel much further distances as they found their way into geographically dispersed market-places. Following the opening of Asia to European trade and the discovery of the New World, merchants imported goods over very long distances: calico cloth from India, porcelain, silk and tea from China, spices from India and South-East Asia and tobacco, sugar, rum and coffee from the New World. By the eighteenth century, a new type of manufacturer-merchant had started to emerge and modern business practices were becoming evident.


Etymology and usage

The English term, ''merchant'' comes from the Middle English, , which is derived from Anglo-Norman , which itself originated from the Vulgar Latin or , formed from present participle of ('to trade, to traffic or to deal in'). The term refers to any type of reseller, but can also be used with a specific qualifier to suggest a person who deals in a given characteristic such as ''speed merchant'', which refer to someone who enjoys fast driving; ''noise merchant'', which refers to a group of musical performers; and ''dream merchant'', which refers to someone who peddles idealistic visionary scenarios. Elizabeth Honig has argued that concepts relating to the role of a merchant began to change in the mid-16th century. The Dutch term, , became rather more fluid during the 16th century when Antwerp was the most global market town in Europe. Two different terms, for a merchant, began to be used, referred to local merchants including bakers, grocers, sellers of dairy products and stall-holders, while the alternate term, , referred to those who traded in goods or credit on a large scale. This distinction was necessary to separate the daily trade that the general population understood from the rising ranks of traders who took up their places on a world stage and were seen as quite distant from everyday experience.


Types of merchant

Broadly, merchants can be classified into two categories: * A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between the producer and retail merchant, typically dealing in large quantities of goods. In other words, a wholesaler does not sell directly to end-users. Some wholesale merchants only organize the movement of goods rather than move the goods themselves. * A retail merchant or retailer sells merchandise to end-users or consumers (including businesses), usually in small quantities. A shop-keeper is an example of a retail merchant. However, the term 'merchant' is often used in a variety of specialised contexts such as in ''merchant banker'', ''merchant navy'' or '' merchant services''.


History


Merchants in antiquity

Merchants have existed as long as humans have conducted business, trade or commerce. A merchant class operated in many
pre-modern societies Pre-industrial society refers to social attributes and forums of political and cultural organization that were prevalent before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1750 to 1850. ''Pre-industrial'' refers to a time before ...
. Open-air, public markets, where merchants and traders congregated, functioned in ancient Babylonia and Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, Phoenicia and Rome. These markets typically occupied a place in the town's centre. Surrounding the market, skilled artisans, such as metal-workers and leather workers, occupied premises in alley ways that led to the open market-place. These artisans may have sold wares directly from their premises, but also prepared goods for sale on market days. In
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, existing from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, classical antiquity ( AD 600), th ...
markets operated within the
agora The agora (; grc, ἀγορά, romanized: ', meaning "market" in Modern Greek) was a central public space in ancient Ancient Greece, Greek polis, city-states. It is the best representation of a city-state's response to accommodate the social a ...
(open space), and in
ancient Rome In modern historiography, ancient Rome refers to Roman civilisation from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. It encompasses the Roman Kingdom (753–509 ...
in the forum. Rome's forums included the
Forum Romanum The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum ( it, Foro Romano), is a rectangular Forum (Roman), forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens ...
, the
Forum Boarium The Forum Boarium (, it, Foro Boario) was the cattle ''forum venalium'' of ancient Rome. It was located on a level piece of land near the Tiber between the Capitoline Hill, Capitoline, the Palatine Hill, Palatine and Aventine Hill, Aventine hil ...
and
Trajan's Forum Trajan's Forum ( la, Forum Traiani; it, Foro di Traiano) was the last of the Imperial fora to be constructed in ancient Rome. The architect Apollodorus of Damascus oversaw its construction. History This forum was built on the order of the empe ...
. The Forum Boarium, one of a series of ''fora venalia'' or food markets, originated, as its name suggests, as a cattle market. Trajan's Forum was a vast expanse, comprising multiple buildings with shops on four levels. The Roman forum was arguably the earliest example of a permanent retail shop-front. In antiquity, exchange involved
direct selling Direct selling consists of single-level marketing (in which a direct seller makes money by buying products from a parent organization and selling them directly to customers) and multi-level marketing (in which the direct seller may earn money f ...
through permanent or semi-permanent retail premises such as stall-holders at market places or shop-keepers selling from their own premises or through door-to-door direct sales via merchants or
peddler A peddler, in British English pedlar, also known as a chapman, packman, cheapjack, hawker, higler, huckster, (coster)monger, colporteur or solicitor, is a door-to-door and/or travelling vendor of good (economics), goods. In England, the term ...
s. The nature of direct selling centred around transactional exchange, where the goods were on open display, allowing buyers to evaluate quality directly through visual inspection. Relationships between merchant and consumer were minimal often playing into public concerns about the quality of produce. The Phoenicians became well known amongst contemporaries as "traders in purple" – a reference to their monopoly over the purple dye extracted from the
murex ''Murex'' is a genus of medium to large sized predatory tropical sea snails. These are carnivore, carnivorous marine (ocean), marine gastropod molluscs in the family Muricidae, commonly called "murexes" or "rock snails".Houart, R.; Gofas, S. (2 ...
shell. The Phoenicians plied their ships across the Mediterranean, becoming a major trading power by the 9th century BCE. Phoenician merchant traders imported and exported wood, textiles, glass and produce such as wine, oil, dried fruit and nuts. Their trading necessitated a network of colonies along the Mediterranean coast, stretching from modern-day Crete through to Tangiers (in present-day Morocco) and northward to Sardinia. The Phoenicians not only traded in tangible goods, but were also instrumental in transporting the trappings of culture. The Phoenicians' extensive trade networks necessitated considerable book-keeping and correspondence. In around 1500 BCE, the Phoenicians developed a script which was much easier to learn than the pictographic systems used in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Phoenician traders and merchants were largely responsible for spreading their alphabet around the region. Phoenician inscriptions have been found in
archaeological Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, sites, and cultural landscapes ...
sites at a number of former Phoenician cities and colonies around the Mediterranean, such as
Byblos Byblos ( ; gr, Βύβλος), also known as Jbeil or Jubayl ( ar, جُبَيْل, Jubayl, Lebanese Arabic, locally ; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋, , probably ), is a city in the Keserwan-Jbeil Governorate of Lebanon. It is believed to have been first occ ...
(in present-day
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon () or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to Lebanon–Syria border, the north and east and Israel to Blue ...
) and
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of Ancient Carthage, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in ...
in North Africa. The
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to possess. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour, assumed competence, and deference accorded to people, social group, groups, and organizations in a ...
of the merchant class varied across cultures; ranging from high status (the members even eventually achieving titles such as that of Merchant Prince or Nabob) to low status, as in
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
, Greece and Roman cultures, owing to the presumed distastefulness of profiting from "mere" trade rather than from labor or the labor of others as in agriculture and craftsmanship. The Romans defined merchants or traders in a very narrow sense. Merchants were those who bought and sold goods, while landowners who sold their own produce were not classed as merchants. Being a landowner was a "respectable" occupation. On the other hand, the Romans did not consider the activities of merchants "respectable". In the ancient cities of the Middle East, where the bazaar was the city's focal point and heartbeat, merchants who worked in bazaar enjoyed high social status and formed part of local elites. In Medieval Western Europe, the Christian church, which closely associated merchants' activities with the sin of
usury Usury () is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans that unfairly enrich the lender. The term may be used in a moral sense—condemning taking advantage of others' misfortunes—or in a legal sense, where an interest rate is ch ...
, criticised the merchant class, strongly influencing attitudes towards them. In
Greco-Roman The Greco-Roman civilization (; also Greco-Roman culture; spelled Graeco-Roman in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth), as understood by modern scholars and writers, includes the geographical regions and countries that culturally—and s ...
society, merchants typically did not have high social status, though they may have enjoyed great wealth. Umbricius Scauras, for example, was a manufacturer and trader of garum in Pompeii, circa 35 C.E. His villa, situated in one of the wealthier districts of Pompeii, was very large and ornately decorated in a show of substantial personal wealth. Mosaic patterns in the floor of his atrium were decorated with images of
amphora An amphora (; grc, , }; English ) is a type of container with a pointed bottom and characteristic shape and size which fit tightly (and therefore safely) against each other in storage rooms and packages, tied together with rope and delivered ...
e bearing his personal brand and inscribed with quality claims. One of the inscriptions on the mosaic amphora reads "G(ari) F(los) SCO SCAURI/ EX OFFI iNA SCAU/RI" which translates as "The flower of garum, made of the mackerel, a product of Scaurus, from the shop of Scaurus". Scaurus' fish sauce had a reputation for very high quality across the Mediterranean; its fame travelled as far away as modern southern France. Other notable Roman merchants included: Marcus Julius Alexander (16 – 44 CE), Sergius Orata (fl. c. 95 BCE) and Annius Plocamus (1st century CE). In the Roman world, local merchants served the needs of the wealthier landowners. While the local peasantry, who were generally poor, relied on open-air market places to buy and sell produce and wares, major producers such as the great estates were sufficiently attractive for merchants to call directly at their farm-gates. The very wealthy landowners managed their own distribution, which may have involved exporting. Markets were also important centres of social life, and merchants helped to spread news and gossip. The nature of export markets in antiquity is well documented in ancient sources and in archaeological case-studies. Both Greek and Roman merchants engaged in long-distance trade. A Chinese text records that a Roman merchant named Lun reached southern China in 226 CE. Archaeologists have recovered Roman objects dating from the period 27 BCE to 37 CE from excavation sites as far afield as the
Kushan The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, ; sa, कुषाण वंश; Brahmi: , '; Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, BHS: ; xpr, 𐭊𐭅𐭔𐭍 𐭇𐭔𐭕𐭓, ; zh, wikt:貴霜, 貴霜 ) was a Sync ...
and
Indus The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river of Asia and a trans-Himalayan river of South Asia, South and Central Asia. The river rises in mountain springs northeast of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet, flows northwest through the disputed region ...
ports. The Romans sold purple and yellow dyes, brass and iron; they acquired
incense Incense is aromatic biotic material that releases fragrant smoke when burnt. The term is used for either the material or the aroma. Incense is used for aesthetic reasons, religious worship, aromatherapy, meditation, and ceremony. It may also be ...
,
balsam Balsam is the resinous exudate (or sap) which forms on certain kinds of trees and shrubs. Balsam (from Latin balsamum "gum of the balsam tree", ultimately from Semitic, Aramaic ''busma'', Arabic ''balsam'' and Hebrew ''basam'', "spice", "perfume ...
, expensive liquid
myrrh Myrrh (; from Semitic languages, Semitic, but see ''#Etymology, § Etymology'') is a natural gum, gum-resin extracted from a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus ''Commiphora''. Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as ...
and spices from the Near East and India, fine silk from China and fine white marble destined for the Roman wholesale market from Arabia. For Roman consumers, the purchase of goods from the East was a symbol of
social prestige The reputation of a social entity (a person, a social group, an organization, or a place) is an opinion about that entity typically as a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria, such as behavior or performance. Reputation is a ubiquitous ...
.


Merchants in the medieval period

Medieval England and Europe witnessed a rapid expansion in trade and the rise of a wealthy and powerful merchant class. Blintiff has investigated the early Medieval networks of market towns and suggests that by the 12th century there was an upsurge in the number of market towns and the emergence of merchant circuits as traders bulked up surpluses from smaller regional, different day markets and resold them at the larger centralised market towns. Peddlers or itinerant merchants filled any gaps in the distribution system. From the 11th century, the
Crusades The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these Crusades are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were in ...
helped to open up new trade routes in the Near East, while the adventurer and merchant,
Marco Polo Marco Polo (, , ; 8 January 1324) was a Republic of Venice, Venetian merchant, explorer and writer who travelled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in ''The Travels of Marco Polo'' (also known as ...
stimulated interest in the far East in the 13th century. Medieval merchants began to trade in exotic goods imported from distant shores including spices, wine, food, furs, fine cloth (notably silk), glass, jewellery and many other
luxury goods In economics, a luxury good (or upmarket good) is a good (economics), good for which demand (economics), demand increases more than what is proportional as income rises, so that expenditures on the good become a greater proportion of overall spend ...
. Market towns began to spread across the landscape during the medieval period. Merchant
guild A guild ( ) is an association of artisans and merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as organizations of tradesmen belonging to a professional association. They sometimes ...
s began to form during the Medieval period. A fraternity formed by the merchants of Tiel in Gelderland (in present-day Netherlands) in 1020 is believed to be the first example of a guild. The term, ''guild'' was first used for ''gilda mercatoria'' and referred to body of merchants operating out of St. Omer, France in the 11th century. Similarly, London's '' Hanse'' was formed in the 12th century. These guilds controlled the way that trade was to be conducted and codified rules governing the conditions of trade. Rules established by merchant guilds were often incorporated into the charters granted to
market town A market town is a Human settlement, settlement most common in Europe that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the Middle Ages, a market right, which allowed it to host a regular marketplace, market; this distinguished it from a village or ...
s. In the early 12th century, a confederation of merchant guilds, formed out the German cities of Lübeck and Hamburg, known as "The
Hanseatic League The Hanseatic League (; gml, Hanse, , ; german: label=German language, Modern German, Deutsche Hanse) was a Middle Ages, medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Central Europe, Central and Norther ...
" came to dominate trade around the Baltic Sea. By the 13th and 14th centuries, merchant guilds had sufficient resources to have erected guild halls in many major market towns. During the thirteenth century, European businesses became more permanent and were able to maintain sedentary merchants and a system of agents. Merchants specialised in financing, organisation and transport while agents were domiciled overseas and acted on behalf of a principal. These arrangements first appeared on the route from Italy to the Levant, but by the end of the thirteenth century merchant colonies could be found from Paris, London, Bruges, Seville, Barcelona and Montpellier. Over time these partnerships became more commonplace and led to the development of large trading companies. These developments also triggered innovations such as double-entry book-keeping, commercial accountancy, international banking including access to lines of credit, marine insurance and commercial courier services. These developments are sometimes known as the ''commercial revolution.'' Luca Clerici has made a detailed study of Vicenza's food market during the sixteenth century. He found that there were many different types of merchants operating out of the markets. For example, in the dairy trade, cheese and butter was sold by the members of two craft guilds (i.e., cheesemongers who were shopkeepers) and that of the so-called ‘resellers’ (hucksters selling a wide range of foodstuffs), and by other sellers who were not enrolled in any guild. Cheesemongers’ shops were situated at the town hall and were very lucrative. Resellers and direct sellers increased the number of sellers, thus increasing competition, to the benefit of consumers. Direct sellers, who brought produce from the surrounding countryside, sold their wares through the central market place and priced their goods at considerably lower rates than cheesemongers. From 1300 through to the 1800s a large number of European chartered and merchant companies were established to exploit international trading opportunities. The Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, chartered in 1407, controlled most of the fine cloth imports while the
Hanseatic League The Hanseatic League (; gml, Hanse, , ; german: label=German language, Modern German, Deutsche Hanse) was a Middle Ages, medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Central Europe, Central and Norther ...
controlled most of the trade in the Baltic Sea. A detailed study of European trade between the thirteenth and fifteenth century demonstrates that the European age of discovery acted as a major driver of change. In 1600, goods travelled relatively short distances: grain 5–10 miles; cattle 40–70 miles; wool and wollen cloth 20–40 miles. However, in the years following the opening up of Asia and the discovery of the New World, goods were imported from very long distances: calico cloth from India, porcelain, silk and tea from China, spices from India and South-East Asia and tobacco, sugar, rum and coffee from the New World. In Mesoamerica, a tiered system of traders developed independently. The local markets, where people purchased their daily needs were known as '' tianguis'' while '' pochteca'' referred to long-distance, professional merchants traders who obtained rare goods and luxury items desired by the nobility. This trading system supported various levels of pochteca – from very high status merchants through to minor traders who acted as a type of peddler to fill in gaps in the distribution system. The Spanish conquerors commented on the impressive nature of the local and regional markets in the 15th century. The
Mexica The Mexica ( Nahuatl: , ;''Nahuatl Dictionary.'' (1990). Wired Humanities Project. University of Oregon. Retrieved August 29, 2012, frolink/ref> singular ) were a Nahuatl-speaking indigenous people of the Valley of Mexico who were the rulers ...
(
Aztec The Aztecs () were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec people included different Indigenous peoples of Mexico, ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those g ...
) market of Tlatelolco was the largest in all the Americas and said to be superior to those in Europe. In much of Renaissance Europe and even after, merchant trade remained seen as a lowly profession and it was often subject to legal discrimination or restrictions, although in a few areas its status began to improve.


Merchants in the modern era

The ''modern era'' is generally understood to refer to period that started with the rise of consumer culture in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. As standards of living improved in the 17th century, consumers from a broad range of social backgrounds began to purchase goods that were in excess of basic necessities. An emergent middle class or
bourgeoisie The bourgeoisie ( , ) is a social class, equivalent to the middle or upper middle class. They are distinguished from, and traditionally contrasted with, the proletariat by their affluence, and their great cultural and financial capital. ...
stimulated demand for luxury goods, and the act of shopping came to be seen as a pleasurable pastime or form of entertainment. As Britain continued colonial expansion, large commercial organisations came to provide a market for more sophisticated information about trading conditions in foreign lands.
Daniel Defoe Daniel Defoe (; born Daniel Foe; – 24 April 1731) was an English writer, trader, journalist, pamphleteer and spy. He is most famous for his novel ''Robinson Crusoe'', published in 1719, which is claimed to be second only to the Bible in its ...
( 1660–1731), a London merchant, published information on trade and economic resources of England, Scotland and India. Defoe was a prolific pamphleteer. His many publications include titles devoted to trade, including: ''Trade of Britain Stated'' (1707); ''Trade of Scotland with France'' (1713); ''The Trade to India Critically and Calmly Considered'' (1720) and ''A Plan of the English Commerce'' (1731); all pamphlets that became highly popular with contemporary merchants and business houses. Armenians operated as a prominent trade nation during the 17th century. They stood out in international trade due to their vast network – mostly built by Armenian migrants spread across Eurasia. Armenians had established prominent trade-relations with all big export players such as India, China, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, England, Venice, the Levant, etc. Soon they captured Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, the Levant, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and the Far East trade routes, carrying out mostly caravan-trade activities. A significant reason for Armenians' massive involvement in international trade was their geographic location – the Armenian lands stand at the crossroads between Asia and Europe. Another reason was their religion, as they were a Christian nation isolated between Muslim Iran and Muslim Turkey. European Christians preferred to carry out trade with Christians in the region. Eighteenth-century merchants who traded in foreign markets developed a network of relationships which crossed national boundaries, religious affiliations, family ties, and gender. The historian, Vannneste, has argued that a new "cosmopolitan merchant mentality" based on trust, reciprocity and a culture of communal support developed and helped to unify the early modern world. Given that these cosmopolitan merchants were embedded within their societies and participated in the highest level of exchange, they transferred a more outward-looking mindset and system of values to their commercial-exchange transactions, and also helped to disseminate a more global awareness to broader society and therefore acted as agents of change for local society. Successful, open-minded cosmopolitan merchants began to acquire a more esteemed social position within the political elites. They were often sought as advisors for high-level political agents. The English nabobs belong to this era. By the eighteenth century, a new type of manufacturer-merchant was emerging and modern business practices were becoming evident. Many merchants held showcases of goods in their private homes for the benefit of wealthier clients. Samuel Pepys, for example, writing in 1660, describes being invited to the home of a retailer to view a wooden jack. McKendrick, Brewer and Plumb found extensive evidence of eighteenth-century English entrepreneurs and merchants using "modern" marketing techniques, including
product differentiation In economics and marketing, product differentiation (or simply differentiation) is the process of distinguishing a product (business), product or Service (economics), service from others to make it more Demand (economics), attractive to a particul ...
, sales promotion and loss-leader pricing. English industrialists, Josiah Wedgewood (1730–1795) and
Matthew Boulton Matthew Boulton (; 3 September 172817 August 1809) was an English manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 18th century, the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton and Watt, Boulton & ...
(1728–1809), are often portrayed as pioneers of modern mass-marketing methods. Wedgewood was known to have used marketing techniques such as
direct mail Advertising mail, also known as direct mail (by its senders), junk mail (by its recipients), mailshot or admail (North America), letterbox drop or letterboxing (Australia) is the delivery of advertising Advertising is the practice and tec ...
, travelling salesmen and catalogues in the eighteenth century. Wedgewood also carried out serious investigations into the fixed and variable costs of production and recognised that increased production would lead to lower unit-costs. He also inferred that selling at lower prices would lead to higher demand and recognised the value of achieving scale economies in production. By cutting costs and lowering prices, Wedgewood was able to generate higher overall profits. Similarly, one of Wedgewood's contemporaries,
Matthew Boulton Matthew Boulton (; 3 September 172817 August 1809) was an English manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 18th century, the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton and Watt, Boulton & ...
, pioneered early
mass-production Mass production, also known as flow production or continuous production, is the production of substantial amounts of standardized products in a constant flow, including and especially on assembly lines. Together with job production and batch ...
techniques and product differentiation at his Soho Manufactory in the 1760s. He also practiced
planned obsolescence In economics and industrial design, planned obsolescence (also called built-in obsolescence or premature obsolescence) is a policy of planning or designing a good (economics), product with an artificially limited Product lifetime, useful life o ...
and understood the importance of " celebrity marketing" – that is supplying the nobility, often at prices below cost – and of obtaining royal patronage, for the sake of the publicity and kudos generated. Both Wedgewood and Boulton staged expansive showcases of their wares in their private residences or in rented halls. Eighteenth-century American merchants, who had been operating as importers and exporters, began to specialise in either wholesale or retail roles. They tended not to specialise in particular types of merchandise, often trading as general merchants, selling a diverse range of product types. These merchants were concentrated in the larger cities. They often provided high levels of credit financing for retail transactions. In the nineteenth century, merchants and merchant houses played a role in opening up China and the Pacific to Anglo-American trade interests. Note for example Jardine Matheson & Co. and the merchants of
New South Wales ) , nickname = , image_map = New South Wales in Australia.svg , map_caption = Location of New South Wales in AustraliaCoordinates: , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name = Australia , established_title = Before federation , es ...
. Other merchants profited from natural resources (the
Hudson's Bay Company The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC; french: Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson) is a Canadian retail business group. A fur trade, fur trading business for much of its existence, HBC now owns and operates retail stores in Canada. The company's namesake b ...
theoretically controlled much of North America, names like Rockefeller and Nobel dominated trade in oil in the US and in the Russian Empire), while still others made fortunes from exploiting new inventions – selling space on and commodities carried by railways and steamships. In fully
planned economies A planned economy is a type of economic system where Investment (macroeconomics), investment, Production (economics), production and the allocation of capital goods takes place according to economy-wide economic plans and production plans. A plan ...
of the 20th century, planners replaced merchants in organising the distribution of goods and services. However, merchants, increasingly labelled with euphemisms such as "industrialists", "businessmen", "entrepreneurs" or "oligarchs", continue their activities in the 21st century. The wealth and influence of figures such as
Jeff Bezos Jeffrey Preston Bezos ( ;; and Robinson (2010), p. 7. ''né'' Jorgensen; born January 12, 1964) is an American entrepreneur, media proprietor, investor, and commercial astronaut. He is the founder, executive chairman, and former preside ...
,
Bill Gates William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate and philanthropist. He is a co-founder of Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, te ...
and Jack Ma testify to the ongoing importance of merchandising.


In art

Elizabeth Honig has argued that artists, especially the Dutch painters of
Antwerp Antwerp (; nl, Antwerpen ; french: Anvers ; es, Amberes) is the largest city in Belgium by area at and the capital of Antwerp Province in the Flemish Region. With a population of 530,504,
, developed a fascination with merchants from the mid-16th century. At this time, the economy was undergoing profound changes – capitalism emerged as the dominant social organisation replacing earlier modes of production. Merchants were importing produce from afar – grain from the Baltic, textiles from England, wine from Germany and metals from various countries. Antwerp was the centre of this new commercial world. The public began to distinguish between two types of merchant, the who were local merchants including bakers, grocers, sellers of dairy products and stall-holders, and the ''koopman,'' which were a new, emergent class of trader who dealt in goods or credit on a large scale. With the rise of a European merchant class, this distinction was necessary to separate the daily trade that the general population understood from the rising ranks of traders who operated on a world stage and were seen as quite distant from everyday experience. The wealthier merchants also had the means to commission artworks with the result that individual merchants and their families became important subject matter for artists. For instance,
Hans Holbein the younger Hans Holbein the Younger ( , ; german: Hans Holbein der Jüngere;  – between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a Germans, German-Swiss people, Swiss painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered o ...
painted a series of portraits of Hanseatic merchants working out of London's Steelyard in the 1530s. These included including Georg Giese of Danzig; Hillebrant Wedigh of Cologne; Dirk Tybis of Duisburg; Hans of Antwerp, Hermann Wedigh, Johann Schwarzwald, Cyriacus Kale, Derich Born and Derick Berck. Paintings of groups of merchants, notably officers of the merchant guilds, also became subject matter for artists and documented the rise of important mercantile organisations. In recent art: Dutch photographer Loes Heerink spend hours on bridges in Hanoi to take pictures of Vietnamese street Merchants. She published a book called Merchants in Motion: the art of Vietnamese Street Vendors. File:Paolo Uccello 059.jpg, A Jewish merchant and his family by
Paolo Uccello Paolo Uccello ( , ; 1397 – 10 December 1475), born Paolo di Dono, was an Italians, Italian (Florentine) Florentine painting, painter and mathematician who was notable for his pioneering work on visual Perspective (graphical), perspective in art. ...
1465-1469 File:Van Eyck - Arnolfini Portrait.jpg, The Arnolfini Portrait, believed to be of Italian merchant, Giovanni de Nicolao Arnolfini with his wife, by
Jan van Eyck Jan van Eyck ( , ; – July 9, 1441) was a painter active in Bruges who was one of the early innovators of what became known as Early Netherlandish painting, and one of the most significant representatives of Early Northern Renaissance art. Ac ...
, c. 1434 File:Verrocchio Lorenzo de Medici.jpg,
Lorenzo de' Medici Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici (; 1 January 1449 – 8 April 1492) was an Italian statesman, banker, ''de facto'' ruler of the Florentine Republic and the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy. Also known as Lorenzo ...
, merchant, Florentine bust, 14th or 15th century File:Mathias Mulich (1470-1528), Merchant in Lübeck, by Jacob Claesz van Utrecht.jpg, Mathias Mulich (1470-1528), Merchant in Lübeck, by Jacob Claesz van Utrecht, c. 1522 File:Porträt des Anton Fugger -durch Hans Maler zu Schwaz.jpg, Portrait of Anton Fugger by Hans Maler zu Schwaz, c. 1525 File:Hans Holbein the Younger - George Gisze - 1532.jpg, Portrait of George Gisze, the merchant, by
Hans Holbein the Younger Hans Holbein the Younger ( , ; german: Hans Holbein der Jüngere;  – between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a Germans, German-Swiss people, Swiss painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered o ...
, c 1532 File:Hans Holbein d.J. - Porträt eines Mitgliedes der Familie Wedigh.jpg, Portrait of a member of the Wedigh merchant family by
Hans Holbein the Younger Hans Holbein the Younger ( , ; german: Hans Holbein der Jüngere;  – between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a Germans, German-Swiss people, Swiss painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered o ...
, c. 1532 File:The Hanseatic merchant Cyriacus Kale, by Hans Holbein.jpg, The Hanseatic merchant, Cyriacus Kale, by
Hans Holbein the Younger Hans Holbein the Younger ( , ; german: Hans Holbein der Jüngere;  – between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a Germans, German-Swiss people, Swiss painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered o ...
, c. 1533 File:A Hanseatic merchant, by Hans Holbein the younger.jpg, A Hanseatic merchant, by
Hans Holbein the Younger Hans Holbein the Younger ( , ; german: Hans Holbein der Jüngere;  – between 7 October and 29 November 1543) was a Germans, German-Swiss people, Swiss painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered o ...
, c 1538 File:Corneille de la Haye Portrait of a Merchant.png, Portrait of a Merchant by
Corneille de Lyon Corneille de Lyon (early 16th century – 8 November 1575 (buried)) was a Dutch people, Dutch painter of portraits who was active in Lyon, France, from 1533 until his death. In France and the Netherlands he is also still known as ''Corneille de ...
, c. 1541 File:Portretten van Sir Thomas Gresham en Anne Fernely Rijksmuseum SK-A-3118.jpeg, ''Sir
Thomas Gresham Sir Thomas Gresham the Elder (; c. 151921 November 1579), was an English people, English merchant and financier who acted on behalf of Edward VI of England, King Edward VI (1547–1553) and Edward's half-sisters, queen regnant, queens Mary I o ...
'' by Anthonis Mor, c. 1560. File:Anthony van Dyck - Cornelis van der Geest - WGA07391.jpg, Cornelis van der Geest, merchant of Antwerp, by
Anthony van Dyck Sir Anthony van Dyck (, many variant spellings; 22 March 1599 – 9 December 1641) was a Duchy of Brabant, Brabantian Flemish Baroque painting, Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England after success in the Sou ...
, c. 1620 File:A. van Dyck Portrait of Nicolaes van der Borght 1625-1635.jpg, Portrait of Nicolaes van der Borght, merchant of Antwerp by Van Dyk, 1625–35 File:WLANL - kwispeltail - Delcourt en Keersegieter-detail.jpg, Portrait of the cloth merchant, Abraham del Court and his wife Maria de Keerssegieter by Bartelmeus van der Helst, c. 1654 File:Rembrandt - Frederick Rihel on Horseback - WGA19157.jpg, Frederick Rihel, a merchant on horseback by
Rembrandt Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (, ; 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669), usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and Drawing, draughtsman. An innovative and prolific Old Masters, master in three art medi ...
, c. 1663 File:Jürgen Ovens - Cornelis Nuyts.jpg, Portrait of Amsterdam merchant, Cornelis Nuyts (1574-1661) by Jürgen Ovens File:Retratodejosuavanbellers8.jpg, Portrait of Joshua van Belle, merchant in Spain by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c. 1670 File:De Bataviase opperkoopman Pieter Cnoll en zijn gezin Rijksmuseum SK-A-4062.jpeg, Portrait of Pieter Cnoll, senior merchant of Batavia, with family, by Jacob Janz Coeman, c.1655 File:Abraham van Strij Merchant.jpg, The Merchant by Abraham van Strij c. 1800 File:CasparVoghtMosnier1801.jpg, Caspar Voght, German merchant, 1801 by
Jean-Laurent Mosnier Jean-Laurent Mosnier (; (Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of mor ...
File:Joshua Watson.jpg, Joshua Watson, English wine merchant, 1863 File:Jean-Léon Gérôme - The Carpet Merchant - Google Art Project.jpg, The Carpet Merchant by Jean-Léon Gérôme, c 1887 File:Merchant Sytov by anonymous (Rybinsk museum, mid. 19 c.).jpg, Merchant Sytov by anonymous (Rybinsk museum), mid-19th century File:Ferdinand Bol - Governors of the Wine Merchant's Guild - WGA2361.jpg, ''Governors of the Wine Merchant's Guild'' by
Ferdinand Bol Ferdinand Bol (24 June 1616 – 24 August 1680) was a Dutch painter, etcher and draftsman. Although his surviving work is rare, it displays Rembrandt's influence; like his master, Bol favored historical subjects, portraits, numerous self-port ...
, c. 1680 File:Rembrandt - De Staalmeesters- het college van staalmeesters (waardijns) van het Amsterdamse lakenbereidersgilde - Google Art Project.jpg, The Syndics of the Drapers' Guild by
Rembrandt Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (, ; 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669), usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and Drawing, draughtsman. An innovative and prolific Old Masters, master in three art medi ...
, c. 1662 File:Four officers of the Amsterdam Coopers and wine-rackers Guild.jpg, Four officers of the Amsterdam Coopers and wine-rackers Guild by Gerbrand Jansz van den Eeckhout, c. 1660 File:Balthasar Van den Bossche - The reception of Jan Karel de Cordes at the guild hall.jpg, Reception of Jan Karel de Cordes at the guild hall by Balthasar van den Bossche, c.1711


In architecture

Although merchant halls were known in antiquity, they fell into disuse and were not reinvented until Europe's Medieval period. During the 12th century, powerful guilds which controlled the way that trade was conducted were established and were often incorporated into the charters granted to
market town A market town is a Human settlement, settlement most common in Europe that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the Middle Ages, a market right, which allowed it to host a regular marketplace, market; this distinguished it from a village or ...
s. By the 13th and 14th centuries, merchant guilds had acquired sufficient resources to erect guild halls in many major market towns.Epstein S.A, ''Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe,'' University of North Carolina Press, 1991, pp 50–100 Many buildings have retained the names derived from their former use as the home or place of business of merchants: File:Merchant's House, Kirkcaldy.jpg, ''The Merchant's House'',
Kirkcaldy Kirkcaldy ( ; sco, Kirkcaldy; gd, Cair Chaladain) is a town and former royal burgh in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. It is about north of Edinburgh and south-southwest of Dundee. The town had a recorded population of 49,460 in 2011, ...
, Scotland File:Merchant Tower.jpg, '' Merchant Tower'',
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States and one of the states of the Upper South. It borders Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to ...
, USA File:Medieval merchant's house 2012.JPG, Medieval merchant's house,
Southampton Southampton () is a port City status in the United Kingdom, city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire in southern England. It is located approximately south-west of London and west of Portsmouth. The city forms part of the South Hampshire, S ...
, England File:Tudor Merchant's Hall - geograph.org.uk - 1428491.jpg, Tudor ''Merchant's Hall'', Southampton, England File:Drapers' Hall, Bayley Lane - geograph.org.uk - 534432.jpg, Drapers' Hall, Coventry, England File:8197 - Venezia - Scola dei fabbri in p.zza San Moisè (sec. XVI) - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, 8-Aug-2007.jpg, The Blacksmiths' Guild Hall, Venice, Italy File:Scuola dei Tessitori di Panni di Lana.jpg, Shoemakers' Guild Hall, Venice, Italy File:Einbeck-Am.Markt-Brodhaus.01.JPG, Brodhaus, Bakers' Guild, Einbeck, Germany File:Knochenhaueramtshaus Hildesheim 719-vfL-50.jpg, Knochenhaueramtshaus, Butcher's guild hall, Hildesheim, Germany File:4678 vleeshuis.jpg, The Butcher's Hall, Antwerp, Belgium File:Hansehausantwerpen.jpg, The Hanseatic League Building, Antwerp, 16th century


See also

* Businessperson *
Capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, price system, pr ...
*
Chapmen A chapman (plural ''chapmen'') was an itinerant dealer or hawker in early modern Britain. Etymology Old English ''céapmann'' was the regular term for "dealer, seller", cognate with the Dutch ''koopman'' with the same meaning. Old English ''céap' ...
* Commerce *
Costermonger A costermonger, coster, or costard is a street seller of fruit and vegetables in British towns. The term is derived from the words ''Costard (apple), costard'' (a medieval variety of apple) and ''monger'' (seller), and later came to be used to des ...
* Distribution * Entrepreneur *
Free market In economics Economics () is the social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the b ...
*
Free trade Free trade is a trade policy that does not restrict imports or exports. It can also be understood as the free market idea applied to international trade. In government, free trade is predominantly advocated by political parties that hold Econo ...
*
Guild A guild ( ) is an association of artisans and merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as organizations of tradesmen belonging to a professional association. They sometimes ...
*
Guildhall A guildhall, also known as a "guild hall" or "guild house", is a historical building originally used for guild, tax collecting by municipalities or merchants in Great Britain and the Low Countries. These buildings commonly become town halls and i ...
* Hawker * History of marketing *
Judaism Judaism ( he, ''Yahăḏūṯ'') is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots ...
*
Licensed victualler A landlord is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, land, or real estate which is Renting, rented or leased to an individual or business, who is called a Leasehold estate, tenant (also a ''lessee'' or ''renter''). When a juristic person ...
*
Market (place) A marketplace or market place is a location where people regularly gather for the purchase and sale of provisions, livestock, and other goods. In different parts of the world, a marketplace may be described as a ''souk'' (from the Arabic lang ...
*
Mercantilism Mercantilism is an economic policy that is designed to maximize the exports and minimize the imports for an economy. It promotes imperialism, colonialism, tariffs and subsidies on traded goods to achieve that goal. The policy aims to redu ...
* Merchant account * Merchant marine *
Peddler A peddler, in British English pedlar, also known as a chapman, packman, cheapjack, hawker, higler, huckster, (coster)monger, colporteur or solicitor, is a door-to-door and/or travelling vendor of good (economics), goods. In England, the term ...
*
Phoenicians and wine The culture of the ancient Phoenicians was one of the first to have had a significant effect on the history of wine. Phoenicia was a civilization centered in current day Lebanon. Between 1550 BC and 300 BC, the Phoenicians developed a Thalassocrac ...
* Pochteca * Retail *
Roman commerce Roman commerce was a major sector of the Roman economy during the later generations of the Roman Republic, Republic and throughout most of the Roman Empire, imperial period. Fashions and trends in historiography and in popular culture have tended ...
* Barker (occupation)


References

;References


Sources and further reading

* Adams Julia. ''The Familial State. Ruling Families and Merchant Capitalism in Early Modern Europe'' (Cornell University Press, 2005) * Braudel, F. ''The Wheels of Commerce: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th to 18th Century'' (U of California Press, 1992) * Burset, Christian R. "Merchant courts, arbitration, and the politics of commercial litigation in the eighteenth-century British Empire." ''Law and History Review'' 34.3 (2016): 615–647
online
* Casson, Mark. ''The entrepreneur: An economic theory'' (Rowman & Littlefield, 1982). Influential scholarly survey * Enciso, Agustín González. "The merchant and the common good: social paradigms and the state’s influence in Western history." in ''The Challenges of Capitalism for Virtue Ethics and the Common Good'' (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016). * Julien, Pierre-André, ed. ''The state of the art in small business and entrepreneurship'' (Routledge, 2018). * Lindemann, Mary. ''The Merchant Republics—Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg, 1648–1790'' (Cambridge UP, 2015) * Marsden, Magnus, and Vera Skvirskaja. "Merchant identities, trading nodes, and globalization: Introduction to the Special Issue." ''History and Anthropology'' 29.sup1 (2018): S1-S13
online
* Smith, Adam, " An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" (Bantam Classics, Annotated Edition, 4 March 2003) * Origo, Iris. ''The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City'' (Penguin UK, 2017). * Outhwaite, R. B. "Merchants and Gentry in North-East England, 1650–1830: The Carrs and the Ellisons." ''English Historical Review'' 115.462 (2000): 729–729. * Persaud, Alexander. "Indian Merchant Migration within the British Empire." ''Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History.'' (2020) * * Williams, E. N. "Our Merchants Are Princes": The English Middle Classes In The Eighteenth Century" ''History Today'' (Aug 196) 2, Vol. 12 Issue 8, pp548–557.


External links

* * * {{Authority control Business occupations Distribution (marketing)