The Economic History Review

Wedding trousseaus and cloth consumption in Catalonia around 1300

Volume 69 Issue 2
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Pages: 522-547Authors: Lluís To Figueras
Published online: July 15, 2015DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12123

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Between 1230 and 1315 a large amount of Flemish and northern French cloth reached the market of Vic, a medium-sized Catalan town to the north of Barcelona. Descriptions of cloth from a sample of over 1,000 wedding trousseaus reveal that common people were quite familiar with a wide selection of fabrics from manufacturing centres such as Bruges, Saint-Omer, Arras, and Chalons, and by the end of the thirteenth century Saint-Denis, Paris, Ypres, and Narbonne. Northern cloth had travelled over 1,000 kilometres before it reached the market stalls of Vic, reflecting the efficiency of commercial networks in bringing commodities across Europe at a reasonable transportation cost. Marriage contracts from this period specify the identity of the most frequent purchasers of these fabrics, and the identity of the women that would wear them, tailored as capes or tunics. Northern cloth was purchased by all social groups, not just the wealthy elite: even peasant households used such fabrics for their daughters’ dresses. All in all, wedding trousseaus provide exceptional evidence of how commercialized both the urban and rural populations had become by the end of the thirteenth century in a society eager to buy imported commodities.