Area of Study
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
The early 16th century saw the rise of a wealthy middle class fueled by a new and expanding global textile industry. With this expansion came opportunities for exploitation fueling the rise of a new economic nationalism at odds with the ideals of a unified Christian church. In this essay, I shall be looking at the popular alum trade in Italy, Spain, and England from the 14th to the 17th centuries and explore how the lucrative trade profoundly shaped early modern economies, social hierarchies, governance, and law.
Alum, a dye fixative was one of the first and most important global commodities prior to the industrial revolution. Despite their spiritual callings, a series of popes maintained a lucrative alum monopoly, which contributed to growing distrust for the Catholic faith in the 16th century. Many Christian rulers contested the Pope's regulation of this commodity, even going so far as to import it illegally, leading to the eventual loss of English Royal autonomy.
Zapf, Kyra, "Some Papal Bull: 16th Century Alum trade and English Royal Autonomy" (2020). Summer Research. 379.
University of Puget Sound