|The introduction of new consumer goods in the Northern Trade|
|With the rise in the trade in dried fish during the Middle Ages fishermen-farmers in the north of Norway based their subsistence to a considerable degree upon exchange on the market in Bergen. The fishermen-farmers themselves organised the transport of the fish to Bergen, with their own locally built ships. The peasant families were thus intimately connected to the international market when new consumer goods were introduced from the 17th Century onwards. In addition to the merchant houses in Bergen, the peasants were served from by a network of minor merchants and hawkers in the north. Most of these merchants were burghers of Bergen or Trondheim, who sailed north in the spring and returned in the autumn. Others were officials in the north, among them even priests, for whom trade was financially far more rewarding than their official income. Hawkers were most often men from the north who acquired goods in the southern towns while acting as crew for the ships transporting the dried fish. The ships’ captains, who traditionally held a stock of necessary goods to help their poorer neighbours if needs be, could also acquire goods for resale at home. Over time, increasingly more of the traders established permanent trading stations in the north. From the middle of the 18th Century, many of these stations were given special privileges in trade. The entire system has been termed “Nordlandshandelen”, or the Northern Trade.
Using material from probate records, relating both to debt among the fishermen-farmers and the estates of the traders, hawkers and the more substantial farmers, together with trading accounts held in the two towns, my paper will explore the parts played by these diverse traders in the introduction of new consumer goods to the peasant population at a fringe of the international trade network, and how this changed over the course of the 18th Century. It will also focus on the links between the elements in the trading system, and on the role played by family or other ties in the development and maintenance of particular networks.