Bruges was an important trade center for centuries. The port and the prosperous and densely populated hinterland provided ideal conditions. Even when, during the 12th century, the port became less accessible because of silting; Sluis and Damme were forced to transport their goods to Bruges.
Many trades were practiced: the textile trade was internationally leading. The extensive international trade attracted bankers. Merchants could open accounts with bankers in Bruges, transfer large sums of money, change coins and even pay with paper currency.
Mercantile houses from Bruges maintained close relations with wealthy Italian houses, which also opened branches in Bruges and vice versa. European politics were turbulent; the rulers of several countries were at (armed) conflict with each other or with each other’s potential heirs. For a clever merchant, this meant great opportunities but also the risk of immense losses.
This is the setting of the British Dorothy Dunnett’s series of novels centered around a trading firm in Bruges. The stories paint a vivid picture of the society in Bruges, and of all kinds of international matters directly or indirectly influencing business.