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Economic Success And Political Influence Of The Fuggers And Medicis

1230 words - 5 pages

In the late fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries the first economic Golden Age began. Two families, the Fugger's and Medici's were of immense wealth and power. Both helped to finance projects for certain people and institutions of power, like the Pope, English Monarchy and the Holy Roman Empire. Their economic success and political influence caused much turmoil then, and even more in the future. Because of the Fuggers' and Medici's wealth and power in society they easily influenced politics, especially ecclesiastical governance by usury and sale of indulgences.

In the early sixteenth century the Fugger family of Augsburg, was the wealthiest and most influential financial organization in Europe. They started making money by importing raw cotton from Mediterranean ports. The Fugger family then moved into more lucrative trades such as silk and herbs, controlling most of Europe's pepper market. "The Fuggers virtual monopoly on all gold, silver, and copper mining in central Europe endowed its leaders with great political influence" (Encarta Encyclopedia).

Jacob Fugger the son of a weaver also known as "Jacob the Rich," realized how to capitalize on family partnerships. By age fourteen he started working with his brothers trading spices, silks and wool. He had major trading ventures with the port of Venice where he learned how to use double entry bookkeeping. This type of bookkeeping was a skill in which the majority of people were not aware existed, or how to use it. Fugger's popularity was widespread, "in every kingdom and every region, even among the heathens. Emperors, kings, princes and lords sent emissaries to him; the pope hailed him and embraced him as his own dear son; the cardinals stood up when he appeared" (Merriman, 3). Because of his great monetary status Jacob was known to lend money to many powerful figures, in most cases to cover the expenses of wars. Fugger lent money to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I for his wars with France and Italy. His workers branched out all over Europe and collected payments due the Vatican and issued letters of credit that were taken to Rome by papal agents" (Jacob Fugger the Rich).

On the contrary, Fuggers' success was not popular with some individuals like Martin Luther. The sin of usury and sale of indulgences were largely debated topics and Fugger committed these acts freely. A good example of indulgences and bribery took place in 1519; by Jacob helping bring Charles V to the throne. This was when Martin Luther wrote his Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German nation concerning the reform of the Christian State in which Luther referred to Fugger specifically on the topic of usury. After Luther was excommunicated in 1521, Fugger went on to fund Charles V's war on Protestantism and became an even richer man by usury from this ordeal. "Loaning money to ambitious rulers, as well as popes and military entrepreneurs, the Fugger family rose to princely status and facilitated the...

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