Litigation Strategies and the Law of Commerce in Later Medieval Bruges

01 January 2019 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • History
Medieval Bruges
Project description

Fifteenth-century Bruges is a case in point to study a medieval law of commerce. Already in the later
thirteenth century, Bruges had become the main commercial hub between the Mediterranean and
the North Sea and attracted more foreign merchants than any other European town. Both princely
and city governments tried to offer foreign merchants market peace, physical protection and legal
security through legislation and granted collective privileges to foreign ‘nations’ (including a degree
of ‘consular justice’ to some degree autonomously organized among the merchants in their
'nation'). But the question remains which legal and institutional level guaranteed the lowest
transansaction costs and thus best promoted commercial growth. Therefore we must: 1° study the
law of commerce before on the one hand the urban courts of Bruges and on the other hand the
central courts of Flanders and the Burgundian state; 2° study the policies of the urban and princely
governments in creating a secure climate for commerce; 3. study the legal strategies deployed by
the international merchants in Bruges and the institutions and mechanisms at their disposal to
defend their interests. Our hypothesis is that litigants in fact ‘forum shopped’ at different levels of
law in order to obtain the most favourable results, to avoid the possibility of appeal, or because
rules of evidence were different.