By the 1300s the European merchant class were no longer pedlars who hawked goods from town to town but were dealers, ship owners and guild members. The guilds enabled merchants to create trading posts and apply pressure for special trading privileges. Some guilds were so powerful they had their own private armies and dominated specific trading routes, such as the German Hanseatic League’s monopoly over maritime trade in the Baltic and North Sea. By the 1300s trade routes linked major European cities, with barges taking goods to and from ports. Cargo ships would ply the sea-routes around medieval-1001-1450 Europe, the Byzantine Empire and North Africa. Silk was transported from the new silk factories in northern Italy, using the Genoese route. Wool was the most common textile in medieval-1001-1450 Europe and was imported from England via Bruges, where it would be turned into cloth in urban centres in Flanders, France and Italy. At the beginning of the 14th century the dukes of Brabant gave freedom to trade to English, Genoese and Venetian merchants and Antwerp became an important entrepôt between northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
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