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The Evolution of Commercial Law in Europe (1250-1650)

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This paper analyses to what extent changes in legal procedures and contracting law in the Low Countries between 1250 and 1650 amounted to the creation of a law merchant. The paper focuses on three issues: (1) changes in the body of commercial law recognized by local and central courts; (2) the gradual acceptance of private documents, such as contracts, letters, and eventually even account books, as legal proof; and (3) the attempts of legislators to balance the opposite interests of debtors and creditors through changes in the procedures for arrests and attachments. Local and foreign merchants alike benefited from these changes as they created an unequivocal set of contracting rules to organize their long-distance trade within Europe.

This talk is part of the Economic and Social History Seminars series.

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