Coinless exchange and foreign merchants in medieval Iceland (AD 900-1600)

Mehler, Natascha and Gardiner, Mark (2021) Coinless exchange and foreign merchants in medieval Iceland (AD 900-1600). In: Merchants, Measures and Money. Wachhotz Verlag, Hamburg, pp. 35-54. ISBN 9783529035418

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Coinless exchange and foreign merchants in medieval Iceland (AD 900-1600)
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The nature and operation of medieval trade in Iceland over seven centuries is examined in this paper. Three phases of trade can be distinguished. The first, from c. 900 was marked by the growing dominance of Norwegian traders who came to dominate oversees commerce and culminated with the union with Norway. The second from c. 1250 is marked by the growing importance of dried cod (stockfish) which superseded coarse cloth (vaðmál) as the major export from Iceland. The third phase in the 15th and 16th centuries was marked by the capture of the stockfish trade by the English and German merchants. The modest level of trade prevented the emergence of a merchant class in Iceland, but the demand for vaðmál and stockfish had a profound effect on Icelandic society and in the measures of value used. Coins were not employed, and trade was carried out by barter. The units for the measurement of value were successively silver, cloth and then stockfish. As the items of trade changed, so did the units of value.
The rate of exchange (or value) of goods was set by the local or national assemblies. The harbours had little infrastructure and were marked only by protected anchorages and by booths for the merchants to occupy and store goods. Trade was a high-risk activity. The long, sometimes stormy voyage to Iceland and varying levels of violence in the country made it an uncertain venture.

Keywords:Medieval exchange, Iceland, Coinless exchange, Medieval merchants, Medieval economics
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V310 Economic History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V400 Archaeology
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (Heritage)
ID Code:44739
Deposited On:10 May 2021 15:28

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