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LUPE — Result In Brief

Project ID: 284340
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

How northern Europe supplanted shipping powers in the Mediterranean

In 16th and 17th century Europe, Mediterranean economies gave way to northern European commercial capitalism, particularly in the maritime sector. An EU initiative explored how this occurred.
How northern Europe supplanted shipping powers in the Mediterranean
With few remaining economic documents from early modern Europe that allow serial analysis and thus scarce research on the maritime sector, little is known about how English and Dutch shipping outpaced regional Mediterranean powers during the seventeenth century.

To address the issue, the EU-funded LUPE (Sailing into modernity: Comparative perspectives on the sixteenth and seventeenth century European economic transition) project analysed the economic shift in early modern Europe through a comparative study of the contractual circumstances and economic handling of sailors active in the Mediterranean.

To achieve its aims, LUPE studied alternative documentary evidence from judicial and notarial archives. Findings show that the contractual conditions of northern crews provided a relative advantage for English and Dutch merchants who wished to penetrate the Mediterranean.

Project partners established how the English legislative response to disputes involving maritime employment substantially curtailed seamen’s customary systems of payments – a mixture of wages and micro-entrepreneurship. By substantially restricting seamen’s traditional freedoms, legislators created a contractual structure which was later employed for wage labourers overall when the Industrial Revolution began. The various strands of the project’s researches across Europe revealed how the legal environment with regard to wages and wage litigation was much more complex than previously thought. To this effect, a database was set up containing wage figures that will be publicly available.

The LUPE team found that micro-entrepreneurial activities performed by crews were unexpectedly resilient. It also demonstrated a direct link between seaman litigation in the Mediterranean and law-making advances in northern Europe. This concerned governments' efforts to expand their jurisdictional reach and control the economic actions of their own subjects beyond state boundaries.

LUPE successfully proved that the legal and financial differences in the treatment of crews were key to boosting northern European economies. Such insight has bearing on modern-day issues, particularly on how mature economies respond to structural crises and fierce competition from emerging economic and political powers.

Related information


Shipping, Mediterranean, maritime, LUPE, economic transition
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