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south German merchants, industrialists, and financiers, who played a major role in the late 15th and 16th centuries.
The Welsers became rich through trade with the Orient and the exploitation of the Tirol silver mines. In 1505-06 they undertook a trade and plundering expedition to East India. In 1528 the Spanish government granted them the right to the colonization of Venezuela and the exploitation of its riches. In the credit operations of the Welsers, a considerable role was played by loans to monarchs (for instance, to the Hapsburgs, in particular to Charles V, and to the French kings). The failure of the venture in Venezuela, where the Welsers’ rule was definitively liquidated in 1556, and the refusal of the monarchical debtors to honor their obligations undermined the firm. The bankruptcy of the Augsburg Welsers, the main branch of the family, occurred in 1614.