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A merchant is a person who trades in
commodities In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods ...
produced by other people, especially one who trades with foreign countries. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in
business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." Having a business name A trad ...

business
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 most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minusc ...
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 () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
and
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a n kingdom and of the that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BCE (in the form of the city-state) until its collapse between 612 BCE and 609 BCE; thereby spanning ...

Assyria
,
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning the and the of . It is bordered by the to , the () and to , the to the east, to , and to . In the northeast, the , which is the northern arm of the R ...

Egypt
,
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2021; Athens is its largest and capital city, followed ...
,
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 ...

India
,
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...
,
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3.0 ...
, and Rome. During the European
medieval period In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of w ...
, a rapid expansion in trade and commerce led to the rise of a wealthy and powerful
merchant class Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous French term that can mean: * a sociologically defined social class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the soc ...
. The European
age of discovery The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), is an informal and loosely defined term for the early modern period approximately from the 15th century to the 18th century ...
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 Business ethics (also known as corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics, that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business cond ...
were becoming evident.


Etymology and usage

The English term, ''merchant'' comes from the Middle English, , 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; ''dream merchant'', which refers to someone who peddles idealistic visionary scenarios; ''merchant of war'', which refers disparagingly to proponents of war. 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 Merchant services is a broad category of financial services Financial services are the Service (economics), economic services provided by the finance industry, which encompasses a broad range of businesses that manage money, including credit union ...
''.


History


Merchants in antiquity

Merchants have existed as long as humans have conducted business, trade or commerce. A merchant
class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Class (philosophy), an analytical concept used differently f ...
operated in many
pre-modern societies Pre-industrial society refers to social attributes and forms of political and cultural organization that were prevalent before the advent of the Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing process ...
. 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 civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
markets operated within the
agora Image:TyreAlMinaAgora.jpg, upAgora of Tyre, Lebanon, Tyre The agora (; grc, ἀγορά ''agorá'') 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 accom ...

agora
(open space), and in
ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...

ancient Rome
in the
forum Forum (plural forums or fora) may refer to: Common uses * Forum (legal), designated space for public expression in the United States *Forum (Roman), open public space within a Roman city **Roman Forum, most famous example *Internet forum, discus ...
. Rome's forums included the
Forum Romanum The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Throug ...

Forum Romanum
, the
Forum Boarium today. before conservation work. The Forum Boarium (, it, Foro Boario) was the cattle Cattle, taurine cattle, Eurasian cattle, or European cattle (''Bos taurus'' or ''Bos primigenius taurus'') are large domesticated Domestication is a sus ...

Forum Boarium
and
Trajan's Forum Trajan's Forum ( la, Forum Traiani; it, Foro di Traiano) was the last of the Imperial fora The Imperial fora (''Fori Imperiali '' in Italian) are a series of monumental '' fora'' (public squares), constructed in Rome , established_title ...

Trajan's Forum
. 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 Exchange may refer to: Places United States * Exchange, Indiana Exchange is an Unincorporated area, unincorporated community in Green Township, Morgan County, Indiana, Green Township, Morgan County, Indiana, Morgan County, in the U.S. state of In ...

exchange
involved
direct selling Direct selling consists of two main business models: 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 Multi-level marke ...
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 traveling vendor of good (economics), goods. In England, the term was ...

peddler
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 Tyrian purple ( grc, πορφύρα ''porphúra''; la, purpura), also known as Phoenician red, Phoenician purple, royal purple, imperial purple, or imperial dye, is a reddish-purple natural dye; the name Tyrian refers to Tyre, Lebanon. It is a ...
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. (20 ...
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 Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of handwriting) * Script (Unicode), historical and modern scripts as organise ...
which was much easier to learn that 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 study of human activity through the recovery and analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complexity, complex topic or Substance theory, substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better underst ...

archaeological
sites at a number of former Phoenician cities and colonies around the Mediterranean, such as
Byblos Byblos ( ar, جبيل ''Jubayl'', locally ''Jbeil''; gr, Βύβλος; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋 (GBL) , (probably ''Gubal'') is a city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of Lebanon Lebanon (), officially known as the Lebanese Republic,''Republic ...

Byblos
(in present-day
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part ...

Lebanon
) and
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading hub of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the . The city developed from a n colony ...

Carthage
in North Africa. The
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour Honour ( British English) or honor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng ...
of the merchant class varied across cultures; ranging from high status (the members even eventually achieving titles such as that of
Merchant Prince ''Merchant Prince'' is a turn-based strategy, turn-based 4X strategy game, strategy video game media franchise, franchise set in the Republic of Venice during the Renaissance. The first was published in 1994; in 1995; and in 2001. All three were ...

Merchant Prince
or
Nabob A nabob is a conspicuously wealthy man deriving his fortune in the east, especially in India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by populat ...

Nabob
) to low status, as in
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...
, 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
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 s 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 charg ...
, criticised the merchant class, strongly influencing attitudes towards them. In
Greco-Roman The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spelled Graeco-Roman in the ), as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to geographical regions and countries that culturally—and so historically—were directly and ...
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 fish sauce (also known as
garum Garum is a fermented Fermentation is a metabolic Metabolism (, from el, μεταβολή ''metabolē'', "change") is the set of life Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological proces ...
) 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, ἀμφορεύς, ''amphoreús''; English plural: amphorae or amphoras) 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 ...
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
i
i
NA SCAU/RI" which translates as "The flower of garum, made of the mackerel, a product of Scaurus, from the shop of Scaurus". Scauras' 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 Marcus Julius Alexander (16 - 44 CE), the son of Alexander the Alabarch and brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander, was a distinguished and wealthy Alexandrian Jewish merchant. Ancestry and Family Marcus was born and raised in Alexandria ) , na ...
(16 – 44 CE),
Sergius Orata Caius Sergius Orata (fl. c. 95 BC) was an Ancient Roman who was a successful merchant, inventor and hydraulic engineer. He is credited with inventing the cultivation of oysters and refinement to the hypocaust method of heating a building to provid ...
(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, kus, khasano, ; Late Brahmi Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language o ...

Kushan
and
Indus#REDIRECT Indus River
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalisation {{R unprintworthy ...

Indus
ports. The Romans sold purple and yellow dyes, brass and iron; they acquired incense,
balsam Balsam is the ous exudate (or ) which forms on certain kinds of trees and shrubs. Balsam (from balsamum "gum of the balsam tree", ultimately from Semitic, Aramaic ''busma'', Arabic ''balsam'' and Hebrew ''basam'', "spice", "perfume") owes its n ...
, expensive liquid myrrh 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.


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 term refers especially to the Eastern Mediterranean campaigns in the period between 1095 and 1271 that h ...

Crusades
helped to open up new trade routes in the Near East, while the adventurer and merchant,
Marco Polo Marco Polo (, , ; September 15, 1254January 8, 1324) was a merchant, explorer, and writer who travelled through Asia along the between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in ' (also known as ''Book of the Marvels of the World '' and '' ...

Marco Polo
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 Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant ...
. Market towns began to spread across the landscape during the medieval period. Merchant
guild A guild is an association of artisan Wood carver in Bali An artisan (from french: artisan, it, artigiano) is a skilled craft worker who makes or creates material objects partly or entirely by hand. These objects may be functional ...
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 The Hanseatic League (; gml, Hanse, , ; german: label=German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Au ...
'' 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 European that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the , a market right, which allowed it to host a regular ; this distinguished it from a or . In Britain, small rural towns with a hinterland of villages are still com ...
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; nl, label=Dutch language, Dutch, De Hanze; la, Hansa Teutonica) was a Middle Ages, medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchan ...
" came to dominate trade around the Baltic Sea. By the 13th and 14th centuries, merchant guilds had sufficient resources to have erected
guild halls
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 The Company of Merchant Adventurers of London was a trading company founded in the City of London in the early 15th century. It brought together leading merchants in a regulated company in the nature of a guild. Its members' main business was expor ...
, 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; nl, label=Dutch language, Dutch, De Hanze; la, Hansa Teutonica) was a Middle Ages, medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchan ...
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 A is an open-air market or bazaar that is traditionally held on certain market days in a town or city neighborhood in Mexico and Central America. This bazaar tradition has its roots well into the pre-Hispanic period and continues in many cases es ...

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 (; ),The Classical Nahuatl word (noun stem ''nāhua'', + absolutive ''-tl'' ) is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl (the standard spelling in the ...

Mexica
(
Aztec The Aztecs () were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec peoples included different Indigenous peoples of Mexico, ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those g ...

Aztec
) 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 Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
stimulated demand for luxury goods, and the act of shopping came to be seen as a pleasurable
pastime A hobby is considered to be a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time, not professionally or for pay. Hobbies include collecting The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, org ...

pastime
or form of entertainment. As Britain continued
colonial expansion
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; c. 1660 – 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 i ...

Daniel Defoe
( 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 Caravan or caravans may refer to: Transport and travel *Caravan (travellers), a group of travellers journeying together **Caravanserai, a place where a caravan could stop *Camel train, a convoy using camels as pack animals *Convoy, a group of vehi ...
-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
nabob A nabob is a conspicuously wealthy man deriving his fortune in the east, especially in India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by populat ...
s belong to this era. By the eighteenth century, a new type of manufacturer-merchant was emerging and modern
business practices Business ethics (also known as corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics, that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business cond ...
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 Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods a ...
, sales promotion and
loss-leader A loss leader (also leader) is a pricing strategies, pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services. With this sales promotion/marketing strategy, a "leader" is ...
pricing. English industrialists,
Josiah Wedgewood Josiah Wedgwood (12 July 1730 – 3 January 1795) was an English potter, entrepreneur Entrepreneurship is the creation or extraction of value. With this definition, entrepreneurship is viewed as change, generally entailing risk beyond wha ...
(1730–1795) and
Matthew Boulton Matthew Boulton (; 3 September 172817 August 1809) was an English manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt James Watt (; 30 January 1736 (19 January 1736 OS) – 25 August 1819) was a Scottish inventor, mecha ...

Matthew 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 material to recipients of postal mail. The ...
, 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
 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 James Watt (; 30 January 1736 (19 January 1736 OS) – 25 August 1819) was a Scottish inventor, mecha ...

Matthew Boulton
, pioneered early
mass-production Mass production, also known as flow production or continuous production, is the production of large amounts of standardized products in a constant flow, including and especially on assembly lines. Together with job production and batch product ...
techniques and product differentiation at his Soho Manufactory in the 1760s. He also practiced
planned obsolescence In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of good ...
and understood the importance of " celebrity marketing" – that is supplying the nobility, often at prices below cost – and of obtaining
royal patronage
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 New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...
. 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, now American-owned, retail Retail is the sale of goods In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with va ...
theoretically controlled much of North America, names like
Rockefeller
Rockefeller
and
Nobel
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 To invest is to allocate money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted with th ...
of the 20th century, planners replaced merchants in organising the distribution of
goods and services Goods are items that are usually (but not always) tangible, such as pens, salt, apples, and hats. Services are activities provided by other people, who include doctors, lawn care workers, dentists, barbers, waiters, or online servers, a book, a ...
. 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 ( ; né Jorgensen; born January 12, 1964) is an American entrepreneur, media proprietor A media proprietor, media mogul or media tycoon refers to a successful entrepreneur or businessperson who controls, through person ...

Jeff Bezos
,
Bill Gates William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate A business magnate is someone who has achieved great success and enormous wealth through the ownership of multiple lines of enterprise. The term characterist ...
and
Jack Ma Jack Ma Yun (; born 10 September 1964) is a Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group Alibaba Group Holding Limited, also known as Alibaba Group and Alibaba. ...
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 ) is a city in Belgium and the capital of Antwerp (province), Antwerp province in the Flemish Region. With a population of 520,504,
Antwerp
, 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 German painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered one of the greatest portraitist ...
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 a Florentine painter and mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes th ...
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 ( , ; – 9 July 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. Acc ...
, 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 ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is ...

Lorenzo de' Medici
, 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 Anton Fugger (June 10, 1493 – September 14, 1560) was a German merchant and member of the Fugger family. He was a nephew of Jakob Fugger. Biography Anton was the third and youngest son of George Fugger and Regina Imhof. He was born in Augsb ...
by
Hans Maler zu Schwaz'', by Maler Image:Annajagiello.jpg, ''Anne of Bohemia and Hungary, Portrait of Queen Anne of Hungary'', by Maler Hans Maler zu Schwaz (1480/1488–1526/1529) was a German painter born in Ulm and active as portraitist in the village of Schwaz, near ...
, c. 1525 File:Hans Holbein the Younger - George Gisze - 1532.jpg, Portrait of Georg Giese, George Gisze, the merchant, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 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, c. 1532 File:The Hanseatic merchant Cyriacus Kale, by Hans Holbein.jpg, The Hanseatic merchant, Cyriacus Kale, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533 File:A Hanseatic merchant, by Hans Holbein the younger.jpg, A Hanseatic merchant, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c 1538 File:Corneille de la Haye Portrait of a Merchant.png, Portrait of a Merchant by Corneille de Lyon, c. 1541 File:Portretten van Sir Thomas Gresham en Anne Fernely Rijksmuseum SK-A-3118.jpeg, ''Sir Thomas Gresham'' 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, 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 Anthony van Dyck, 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 Bartholomeus van der Helst, Bartelmeus van der Helst, c. 1654 File:Rembrandt - Frederick Rihel on Horseback - WGA19157.jpg, Frederick Rihel, a merchant on horseback by Rembrandt, 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 Jansz. Coeman, 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 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, c. 1680 File:Rembrandt - De Staalmeesters- het college van staalmeesters (waardijns) van het Amsterdamse lakenbereidersgilde - Google Art Project.jpg, Syndics of the Drapers' Guild, The Syndics of the Drapers' Guild by Rembrandt, 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 European that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the , a market right, which allowed it to host a regular ; this distinguished it from a or . In Britain, small rural towns with a hinterland of villages are still com ...
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, Scotland File:Merchant Tower.jpg, ''Merchant Tower'', Kentucky, USA File:Medieval merchant's house 2012.JPG, Medieval merchant's house, Southampton, 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 * Chapmen * Commerce * Costermonger * Distribution (business), Distribution * Entrepreneur * Free market * Free trade * Guild * Guildhall * Hawker (trade), Hawker * History of marketing * Landlord#Licensed victualler, Licensed victualler * Market (place) * Mercantilism * Merchant account * Merchant marine * Peddler * Phoenicians and wine * Pochteca * Retail * Roman commerce * 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, "The Wealth of Nations, 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) Merchants,