The wine trade, piracy and maritime contract law in late medieval Southampton
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In late medieval Southampton, wine was a commodity, which was extensively traded, and quite precious to the pirates of the English Channel because it was easy to sell and the vessels loaded with wine had less protection than the ships of precious metals. Therefore, increase of wine trade in the late medieval Southampton made piracy of the time more frequent. For the wine merchants of both Southampton and England, it was a natural reaction to try to avoid piratical attacks by taking legal measures against them. This would make piracy, as one of the biggest threats to commercial maritime activities, one of the factors that causes the development of anti-piracy legal regulations. The purpose of this thesis is verifying this correlation between wine trade, piracy and the maritime contract law by especially focusing on fifteenth century Southampton. As the title mentions, this work takes three sets of source as the backbones of this research to determine the links between the commercial, criminal and legal spheres: The port books of Southampton were used as the basic sources for the late medieval wine trade section of the thesis. A database of over one thousand items was prepared and examined to reach two conclusions, one relating to the nature of the wine trade and the other relating to the Southampton merchant-elites. To reach correlation centered conclusions in the sections on piracy and maritime contract law, singular accounts and the maritime codes of late medieval England were used, as well as secondary sources. The results of this research shows the dominance of bureaucrats over the fifteenth century Southampton wine trade, their dual identity as privateers, the continuous existence of pirates in the English Channel and the improvement of general maritime law (admiralty law), is demonstrably related to piracy, rather than maritime contract law specifically.
Maritime contract law
The Port Book of Southampton
The Black Book of the Admiralty
The Rolls of Oléron