Skip to main content
Contribution to Book
Antwerp Commercial Law in the Sixteenth Century: a Product of the Renaissance? The Legal Facilitating, Appropriating and Transforming of Mercantile Practices
Provincializing the Renaissance? Tradition, Innovation, Translation and Appropriation in Antwerp, c. 1400-1600 (2016)
  • Dave De ruysscher
Abstract

In the course of the sixteenth century, Antwerp commercial law underwent important changes. Its ‘renaissance’ consisted of a formulation of commercial law, which came in the place of an earlier and concrete forensic support of contracts of merchants. At first, proof of customs of merchants could be brought in the City Court. Later, after 1550, written law regarding commercial contracts developed. The Antwerp 1570, 1582 and 1608 costuymen formulated precepts of law that were impregnated with learned law terminology and ideas, even though most of the normative contents were inspired by practice. Commerce delivered the raw materials; the City Council transformed them, with concepts and principles found in the academic literature, into legal products that could be used in the court. This was the case for new techniques such as indorsement of bills of exchange, but also expropriation procedures benefited from the newly acquired insights.
 
Renaissance legal literature, which is the legal-humanist scholarship that appeared after 1550, had a limited influence in the Brabant city, where rules that were inserted into the Antwerp law compilations were often adopted from late-medieval academic doctrine. Even the 1582 and 1608 Antwerp law books did mostly not, for their sections on commercial arrangements, refer to new views propagated within the contemporary literature. Doctrinal solutions from thirteenth-, fourteenth- and fifteenth-century sources marked therefore the Antwerp private commercial law of the later 1500s. Even so, Antwerp commercial legislation was a product of a legal revolution that profoundly transformed the city’s law. New mercantile techniques such as indorsement of bills of exchange and transfers of bearer bills were sustained with this legal doctrine, which provided the theoretical backbone of the Antwerp legal constellation. The official rules of law were, due to the sophistication of academic law, a considerable improvement from the customs of merchants.
Disciplines
Publication Date
Winter 2016
Editor
B. Blondé, G. Marnef, B. De Munck en M.F. Van Dijck
Publisher
Brepols
Citation Information
Dave De ruysscher. "Antwerp Commercial Law in the Sixteenth Century: a Product of the Renaissance? The Legal Facilitating, Appropriating and Transforming of Mercantile Practices" TurnhoutProvincializing the Renaissance? Tradition, Innovation, Translation and Appropriation in Antwerp, c. 1400-1600 (2016)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/deruysscher/18/