Fugger

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Fugger

(fo͝og`ər), German family of merchant princes. The foundation of their wealth was laid by Hans Fugger, allegedly a weaver, who moved to Augsburg in 1367. His descendants built up the family fortune by trade and banking. With Jacob Fugger II, 1459–1525, called Jacob the Rich, the house entered its zenith. It owned extensive real estate, merchant fleets, and palatial establishments throughout Europe. Jacob's fortune was largely built on a virtual monopoly in the mining and trading of silver, copper, and mercury. He lent immense sums to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and helped secure the election (1519) of Charles V as Holy Roman emperor by bribing the electors. Charles ennobled the family and granted them sovereign rights over their lands, including that of coining their own money. Then the richest family in Europe, the Fuggers were generous patrons of the arts and learning and philanthropists, notably at Augsburg, their residence. Under Raimund Fugger, 1489–1535, and Anton Fugger, 1493–1560, the house reached the limits of its power and fortune. Its decline paralleled that of the Hapsburgs, whose wars the Fuggers financed. Several descendants were prominent, but, except for some real estate, little is left of the once fabulous wealth.

Bibliography

See R. Ehrenberg, Capital and Finance in the Age of the Renaissance (tr. 1928); J. Strieder, Jacob Fugger the Rich (tr. 1931, repr. 1966); G. T. Matthews, ed., News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959); G. Steinmetz, The Richest Man Who Ever Lived (2015).

Fugger

 

a large mercantile and banking house in southern Germany that flourished from the 15th to 17th centuries.

The first Fuggers were weavers. Circa 1367 the family moved to Augsburg where, in addition to plying their trade, its members dealt in the cloth produced by the city’s other weavers, to whom they advanced raw materials imported from Venice. The financial operations of the Fuggers reached their greatest extent under Jakob II Fugger, “the Rich” (1459–1525), and his nephew Anton Fugger (1493–1560). Beginning in 1488, loans granted by the Fuggers to the Hapsburgs were repaid in Tirolean silver and copper at considerably lower than market prices. The Fuggers gradually seized virtual control of these metals in Hungary and in the Tirol.

In their metal transactions the Fuggers profited from the exceptionally favorable conditions for silver and copper prevailing on the world market in the 16th century. Between 1511 and 1527 they increased their capital from approximately 200,000 Rhenish guldens to 2 million; in 1546 their assets exceeded 7 million Rhenish guldens. In order to consolidate their monopolistic position in the metal market, in the 1520’s the Fuggers became shareholders in a number of Tirolean mining operations and acquired and built smelters.

Although largely based on feudal monopolies and privileges, the activities of the Fuggers were important in the primitive accumulation of capital and the emergence of the early forms of capitalism. The Fuggers had ties to feudal monarchs and acted as bankers not only to the Hapsburgs, financing the imperial election in 1519 of Charles V, but also to the popes. Through the Hapsburgs the Fuggers extended their business into Spain, where they bought up royal incomes from the property of religious and knightly orders.

During the last decades of the 16th century, the Fuggers’ business activities went into decline, in part because of Spain’s bankruptcy in the 1570’s; the decline accelerated in the 17th century. Having been made counts in the 16th century, the Fuggers increased their investments in land and became large-scale feudal landowners.

REFERENCES

Smirin, M. M. K istorii rannego kapitalizma v germanskikh zemiiakh (XV–XVI vv.). Moscow, 1969.
Nekrasov, Iu. K. “Ocherk iz ekonomicheskoi istorii Germanii kontsa XV–nach. XVI vv.” In Problemy sotsial’no-ekonomicheskoi istorii Germanii i Avstrii XV–XVI vv. Vologda, 1969.
Ehrenberg, R. Das Zeitalter der Fugger, 3rd ed., vols. 1–2. Jena, 1922.
Pölnitz, G. von. Jakob Fugger, vols. 1–2. Tübingen, 1949–52.
Pölnitz, G. von. Anton Fugger, vols. 1–3. Tübingen, 1958–67.