It is a pity that there are no “water-coaches” today running between Montereau and Paris on the one side, and between Mantes and Paris on the other. For those two towns marked the limits of the power of a 12th-and 13th-century organization, called the Paris Hansa (or Union).
Whoever brought his merchandise by river route had, at these two towns, to unload it and reload it upon boats belonging to the Hansa and to pay it well for the privilege, besides paying all the feudal lords whose estates ran down to the water’s edge. And the king got his share, too.
Skip this list of dutiable merchandise, if you wish, but here are a few of the ninety-two articles which the Hansa, with the consent of the king, brought into Paris in the 13th century, and duties were imposed every quarter of a mile:
Wheat, oats, and all other grains; six kinds of wine, including Burgundy and Spanish; vinegar, cider, salt, her-rings (salted and pickled), codfish and salted salmon, mackerel, bacon, suet and fat, nut-oil, olive-oil, honey, butter, cheese, rice, figs and raisins from Spain and from Malta (The merchants of Rouen were famous importers!). Wax, lead, tin, steel (Yes, steel in the 13th century, for although the English claim to have produced it before anyone else in the 14th, the Carthusian monks had already been making it in France for two hundred years!), iron and alloys, dyestuffs and potash; leather from Seville, Cordova, Morocco, Ireland, and Scotland; millstones, grindstones; fruits, nuts, hides, and pelts (among them squirrel skins), English goose feathers, coal, wood, barrels and barrel hoops, wheels entire and in parts, carts, iron pieces for wagons, turned wood, tools, wool from England, from Ireland, and from Scotland, as well as domestic wool; copper, brass, and copper wire; hemp, canvas, linen sheeting (Rouen was enormously prosperous from her linens), Lyons thread, hempen thread and Spanish hemp and so on and on and on until you begin to realize as I did the first time I read this, reproduced from the original documents, that the 13th century was not wanting in raw materials nor yet in finished products; and that the fact that all these articles were destined for Paris merchants and craftsmen is an explanation of its early commercial success and of that increasing wealth which determined its place as capital of France.