Traditie of innovatie? Wouter Ameyde, een makelaar in het laatmiddeleeuwse Brugge (1498-1507)

Date: 19 June 2014

Venue: UAntwerpen - Stadscampus - Hof van Liere- Tassiszaal - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerpen

Time: 3:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Departement Geschiedenis

PhD candidate: Botho Verbist

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Peter Stabel, prof. dr. Ann Jorissen

Short description: Doctoraatsverdediging Botho Verbist, Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte - Departement Geschiedenis - Centrum voor stadsgeschiedenis


This research focuses on two main research questions. First of all, what was the function of medieval brokers? Did they form an institution which facilitated (international) trade, or did they only leech on the profits these activities generated? This research suggests brokers were one of the cornerstones of Bruges’ trade.

The second research question focuses on trade as well. Much has been written about the debate regarding the function commercial techniques and more especially  double-entry bookkeeping (DEB) fulfilled during its rise in the pre-modern period.  The traditional discussion focuses on the question whether DEB’s function should be regarded along the lines of the ‘Sombartian’ views and hence as a powerful managerial tool which, by its superior character, led to more rational decision-making and hence to a more successful business. Or was it purely a mnemonic and organizational tool as Basil Yamey has contended? By looking at which requirements and needs Ameyde needed the accounts to fulfill, we hope to shed some light on the question to which purpose this broker employed DEB.

When applied to the ledgers of Wouter Ameyde, a textile broker who was active in late-medieval Bruges (1498-1507), it becomes clear both visions are unable to adequately explain why Ameyde decided to use this complex and labor-intensive system.

Ameyde’s accounts also suggest another reason why this broker decided to employ this bookkeeping method: DEB enjoyed a unique reputation. There was a widespread belief it reduced the possibility of fraud or even made fraud impossible altogether. Hence that reputation could also be a motivation to choose this bookkeeping method, as an extra means to convince partners and clients of one’s trustworthiness.