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From the seventeenth century, the world’s finest wools have been those produced by descendants of the Spanish merino. During the middle ages, however, England produced Europe’s finest wools. Not until the fourteenth century does a distinct merino breed appear in Spain; and, before then, ‘Spanish’ wools were amongst the very worst in Europe, used in the production of only the very cheapest fabrics. By the late fourteenth century, some merino wools were being used in some Italian draperies; but, in the north, long-held historic prejudices against ‘Spanish’ wools hindered their introduction, especially into the Low Countries’ draperies, which, because of structural changes in international trade, had become re-oriented to manufacturing luxury woollens, most woven from the finest English wools. From the 1420s, however, disastrous changes in England’s fiscal policies so increased the cost of these exported wools that many of the younger Flemish draperies, the so-called nouvelles draperies, producing imitations of the finer woollens from the older established draperies, decided to switch to Spanish merino wools (often mixed with English wools). By the mid-fifteenth century, the merinos had indeed improved enough in quality to rival at least the mid-range English wools. Most of the traditional draperies, however, did not adopt merino wools until much too late, and thus, by the early sixteenth century found themselves displaced by the nouvelle draperies as the leading cloth manufacturers in the Low Countries.