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By Heather Swanson (auth.)
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Additional info for Medieval British Towns
The wool ports of the east coast, conveniently near the major international fairs, best served the interests of the Flemings; Southampton was the favoured port of the Italians. The financial expedients of the English Crown were one of the factors that contributed to the shift of overseas trade away from alien merchants and into the hands of denizens, for the Crown's financial interests were ultimately best served by fixing monopolies in wool on a group of indigenous merchants, rather than by promoting aliens.
This means that there was not always a direct correlation between the size of a town and whether it can be ranked as a first- or second-order centre. The point can be illustrated by a comparison between Exeter and Southampton in the later middle ages, where a great deal is known about the distance to which each town's commercial tentacles extended. 2100. But Exeter's sphere of influence was far narrower than that of Southampton. Seventy per cent of the shipping coming into Exeter in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was coastal trade, and Exeter merchants were occupied in the redistribution of goods imported through other ports: Plymouth, Dartmouth or Southampton.
37 Overseas trade was extremely important in shaping the pattern of town foundation and urban distribution. Most Irish trade was connected to the European network through English ports before the fifteenth century, so that the most successful Irish towns were to be found along the south and east coasts: Dublin, Waterford, Cork. Limerick and Galway only came into their own with the growth of direct trade between Ireland and the Mediterranean in the late fifteenth century. Scottish trade that was not directed towards England was almost entirely focused on northern Europe, with a triangular trade between Scotland, the Low Countries and the Baltic in the later middle ages.