If the history of Mediterranean trade during the period c800-1200 is one of decline and reluctant recovery that of Northern Europe is decidedly one of growth. One reason for this is the different points of departure. By c700, Europe’s northern seas had never witnessed a system of exchange on the scale and complexity of that in the Mediterranean during Antiquity. During the following centuries, however, the development of commerce in the North corresponded ever closer to that of the Mediterranean, resulting in a twelfth-century economy no less advanced or extensive than that of Imperial Rome, but within an even wider geographical frame. Intriguingly, and hardly by accident, this process was set in motion at the very moment when the Late Antique economy ceased in the Mediterranean, in the closing decades of the seventh century. Throughout much of the period concerned here, trade remained a modest appendage to traditional forms of exchange. Its key historical importance was as a steady motor of social change and innovation
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