In 1502, when rumors were circulating concerning the possible forced baptism of Valencia's Muslims, Fernando reckoned the cessation of
Mudejar commerce to be one of the most injurious consequences of the rumors: "the said Moors desist from leaving their villages and from conducting business and commerce as they were accustomed ... which things are ... damaging for our entire kingdom." Viewed from the perspective of international trade, the king's fears appear insubstantial, for the role of the Mudejars in this sphere was minimal, not significant enough for their abandonment of commerce to have had any impact. An understanding of what Fernando meant by Mudejar "business" and "commerce" and why he deemed them crucial for the kingdom's economy requires a shift of focus from international maritime commerce, where the largest profits were to be made, to the more modest domestic, land-based trade that linked town and countryside and brought the entire kingdom within the commercial orbit of the capital.
The relationship between town and rural hinterland, which included neighboring seigneuries, was necessarily reciprocal. From the countryside the urban inhabitants received victuals and raw materials for industry. For the rural folk the town was above all a market center where they sold their agricultural surpluses and purchased manufactured goods. Yet this urban-rural division of labor was not all that precise, for townsmen often invested in and cultivated land, while rural villages had their own artisans. Nonetheless, towns could scarcely survive without the importation of foodstuffs from the countryside and the business of the inhabitants of satellite villages.
The Mudejars took part in this constant interchange between urban and rural spheres, traveling freely from their seigneurial villages to the towns with their produce. The weekly trek made by Mahomat Bolagui and his wife Madoneta from the barony of Corbera to the market of Alcira was typical of the commercial activities of many a Muslim or Christian peasant: "the said Moor and Mooress [were] travelling to the town of Alcira with their animals burdened with victuals and other things which are customarily brought every Wednesday by those residing near the said town, for on that same day each week they are accustomed to have a market." Muslims from nearby Llombay also provisioned Alcira with wheat and those from Alcocer usually marketed their goods there. The commercial network linking town to regional villages prevailed throughout the kingdom. Muslims of Gilet were frequent visitors to Murviedro, while Oriheula likewise opened its gates to a Mudejar carrying merchandise from Elche. The marketing of crops in urban markets by Mudejar farmers indicates that a number of them were producing above the subsistence level. This was made possible in part by their purchasing and leasing of additional land both inside and outside of their place of residence, and by their reclamation of wasteland.
Most Muslims, when they did not bring their crops to the nearest town market, brought them to Valencia. The capital was always in need of victuals and raw materials, and as a center of massive consumption drew to it the surplus produce of farmers and stockmen from all over the kingdom. Ali Gibi traveled there from the Foya de Buñol "with certain packs of hides and other merchandise and victuals ... to sell." Açen Açanego of Torres Torres transported 104 jugs of wine to Valencia. Mudejars brought to the city a wide variety of products for sale: wheat, honey, sugar, figs, raisins, oil, wood, and so on. The large number of Muslims who came to Valencia for this purpose prompted the bailiff general to restrict their vending to the city's main market: "let no Moor or Moors dare to go through the city of Valencia or through its houses or places selling flax, linen, or any other merchandise [such as] anis, sugar, caraway, ... and other seeds but only in the market of the present City." Merchants of Valencia would pay Muslim farmers in advance for the delivery of crops. For example, Mahomat Benfat of Carlet agreed to deliver to the merchant Ferrando Vilareyal 300 arrobes of olive oil, a considerable quantity. Mudejars might act as middlemen between the farmers and Valencia's merchants. Maymol Gathneu, an oil merchant of Játiva, purchased olive oil from rural producers and delivered it to the city.
While the Mudejars found the towns and the capital a ready market for their produce, urban merchants and shopkeepers could likewise count on the patronage of Muslim customers. The records reveal a lively traffic between merchants and Mudejars, especially in the capital. Credit transactions seem to have predominated. That the merchants were compelled to extend credit to the Mudejars (and to their Christian clients as well) reflects an insufficiency of cash in the hands of the latter, or, more generally, deficiencies in the supply and circulation of coinage. At the same time, it suggests that the merchants viewed the Mudejars as safe credit risks. It is difficult to know whether the Muslims normally made a down payment upon receipt of the goods, or if their credit extended to the entire cost of their purchase. Probably both types of credit arrangement were used. Sometimes the Muslim buyers left with the merchants articles of property, frequently jewelry, as collateral.
Unfortunately, the records, primarily the bailiff general's letters of execution against Muslim debtors, seldom state what goods were being purchased by Mudejars. Naturally, there was much traffic in comestibles—grain, olive oil, cheese, fish, and so on. Grain shortages, a chronic Mediterranean problem, caused Muslims to journey from places such as Bétera and Macastre to the capital to buy wheat. In the spring of 1479 Francesch Conill sold more than 76 pounds worth of wheat to Muslims of Alicra, who were to pay him by Christmas of
that year. Along with food, clothing ranked among life's most basic necessities. Christian drapers, such as those with shops in Cuart, had a steady Muslim clientele. Of course, Muslim artisans were always in need of materials—iron, copper, steel, alum, dyes, flax, cloth, thread, and the like—and shopkeepers were more than happy to oblige them. Besides such essential articles, some Mudejars could afford to buy luxury items. Yuçeff Turis and Abdulazis Alboruch satisfied their taste for Sardinian cheeses, while other Muslims purchased spices and sugar. Some preferred garb more sumptuous than that of locally woven fabrics, and so bought silks, fine linens, and cloth imported from Bruges and Brabant.
In addition to these small purchases of a retail nature, Mudejars also made wholesale purchases of large quantities of goods with the intention of selling them retail. As retail merchants the Mudejars played an important role in the distribution of commodities throughout the kingdom from the centers of production and importation. Sometimes the large size of the purchases made by Muslims suggests that they were buying for their own retail businesses. Abdalla Xeyt of Castellnou had credits with Valencian merchants amounting to 171 pounds 3s 2d, and Abdalla Medalla purchased 100 pounds' worth of goods from the merchant Joan Allepus. Muslim fishmongers from diverse localities bought eels, sardines, hake, and other fish directly from Christian fishermen in Sueca and Valencia. Mascor Borrachet, a retailer from the Vall de Uxó, bought thirteen pounds of saffron from Gabriel Polo (an Italian?), and Amet Alami of Segorbe owed 82 pounds 16s 11d to the merchant Miguel Pérez for fifteen arrobes of pepper. Men such as Mascor and Amet probably sold the goods thus purchased to the inhabitants in or near their own towns and villages. Muslims who made such wholesale purchases were not necessarily full-time merchants. The artisan or farmer might turn retailer if the wholesale price was right and there was the likelihood of earning a profit from retail sales. A soapmaker and a linen-draper pooled their resources to buy fifteen quintars (41.5 kilograms) of cheese from the merchant Gaspar Valenti.
The Zignells, a large Mudejar family of Tabernes de Valldigna, devoted themselves to mercantile pursuits more fully, with one branch of the family eventually establishing itself in the capital. While holding land from the abbot of Valldigna, the Zignells were involved in commerce in the Orihuela-Alicante region since at least the beginning of Fernando's reign. Various members of the family traveled there to sell linen, mules, and other merchandise. The Zignells also backed other Muslims of Valldigna journeying southward for commerce (at least that is what their standing as surety for them seems to indicate). Perhaps the latter, such as the carter Abrahim Çaffont, were the Zignells' agents, in
which cases the Zignells would have furnished the merchandise and the agents their marketing skills. In the 1480s the Zignells were doing business with merchants and farmers in the capital, perhaps purchasing goods and produce wholesale for retail distribution in the south. By 1491 one branch of the family, consisting of Fuçey Zignell, his sons Yuçeff, Abdulazis, Mahomat, and Çahat, and their wives and children, set up commercial operations in Valencia. The city offered a considerably larger market for the enterprising retail merchant. Pere Eximenez, a wealthy innkeeper who had become Fuçey Zignell's partner, described Fuçey's (and his sons') retailing activities:
he has made and is accustomed to make many contracts, buying from merchants and from other persons many and diverse dry goods and merchandise of diverse kinds, having them to sell retail [per menut ] and selling them retail both in his own house and throughout the present city to those who wish to buy.
Indeed, the merchant Luis Nadal made to Fuçey and his sons "many sales of cloth from his shop ... he sold goods to the said Moors who left pledges for the said merchandise." Dionis Miguel, Francesch Miro, Berthomeu Pinos, Gaspar de Gallach, and a company of German merchants all dealt with the Zignells, selling to them in the gross Neapolitan linen, cloth, and other goods. The Zignells also retailed vegetables and sugar, which Ali Zignell, Yuçeff's son, was licensed to vend in the city. At the same time, the Zignells of Valldigna and Valencia continued their commercial dealings south of the Jijona River. In 1502 Yaye Zignell (Fuçey's grandson?) stood as surety for a Muslim of Alberique traveling to the Vall d'Elda to sell mules. It was the backing of the innkeeper Pere Eximenez that enabled the Zignells to carry on these rather far-ranging commercial operations. Eximenez stood as pledge when the Zignells bought wholesale on credit. Whenever the proceeds from the Zignells' retail sales were insufficient for the repayment of the wholesalers, Eximenez would provide the funds that kept the Zignells' business afloat. In 1494 Eximenez paid 14,000 of the 22,000s owed by Fuçey Zignell and his sons to various creditors. When Fuçey and sons proved unable or unwilling to repay the 14,000s to Eximenez—at one point the sons had fled the city—their cousins in Valldigna, Umaymat and Yaye, came forth with 100 pounds (20,000s). But this incident did not terminate the Zigne II Eximenez partnership, for two years later Eximenez interceded with the bailiff general in the Zignells' behalf and obtained for them safe-conducts against prosecution for debt.
Trading in the capital on a far more modest scale than the Zignells
was the widow Xempsi Bizqueya. Her late husband Azmet had been involved in the retailing of cloth, and Xempsi followed in his footsteps somewhat, selling the second-hand clothing of affluent Christian women. The women commissioned Xempsi to sell articles of their clothing, and, after Xempsi returned the proceeds to them, they paid her a pittance for her troubles. However meager her earnings, Xempsi still was able to offer to her daughter-in-law a bridewealth of two gold bracelets and a silk robe worth 21 pounds. The capital also had its Muslim shopkeepers, such as Amet Mathera, a botiguer , and Mahomat Fandaig, a druggist. Any town with a sizable Muslim community likely had a similar array of merchants.
The Mudejars did much to facilitate the flow of goods throughout the kingdom. Many worked as carters and muleteers, and were hired by merchants and artisans. Ali Borrachet, a carter of the Vall de Uxó, carried honey to a spice merchant in the capital. A Murcian Jew importing goods through Valencia hired a Mudejar of Alcantera to transport them, and a Jewess employed Maymo Açen to deliver paper to a Christian printer. Mudejars were sometimes commissioned as the agents of Christian entrepreneurs and were given funds en comanda for the purchase of certain commodities in bulk. For example, Simo Sánchez, a citizen of Valencia, gave 84 pounds 16s 8d to Açen Tintorer of Valldigna "for the purpose of buying for him [Sánchez] as much silk as the said ... [money] can buy." Açen was probably familiar with silk producers, many of whom were Muslims.
It was partly through the offices of the Mudejar carters and muleteers that Valencia's commercial network was extended to the cities and towns of the kingdom of Aragon. Ali and Azmet Ferriol of Benaguacil were active in transporting goods from Valencia to Calatayud. A merchant of Zaragoza entrusted 1,200s en comanda to a Muslim of Segorbe, probably for the purchase of merchandise in Valencia. Mudejar muleteers from Aragon and Castile complemented the activities of their Valencian cousins. Caçim of Avila carried "packs with diverse things" from Valencia to the king. Muleteers and carters could achieve some prosperity, as is evinced in the person of Azmet Bocayo, a carter of Castellón de la Plana who also had substantial landholdings.
In addition to merely transporting goods, Mudejars sold them as itinerant merchants. The evidence for Mudejar mercantile activity is derived largely from the licenses granted by the bailiff general to Muslims for travel to the region south of the Jijona River, often for reasons of commerce. It may be presumed that Mudejar merchants traded in areas north of the Jijona as well, where Muslims could move freely without a license. These merchants rarely worked merely on their own account; rather, they were vending on behalf of sedentary partners who furnished
the necessary goods or cash. The travel licenses reveal nothing about the details of the arrangement between the itinerant vendor and the sedentary partner. However, they do provide the names of those who acted as guarantors of the licensees, in case the latter did not return to the capital in the time specified. It seems likely that those who took the trouble to be guarantors, especially the Christians who acted in this capacity for Muslims, had some interest in the licensee's commercial venture. This is indicated in the case of Yuçeff Abducarim of Játiva, who with his son and servant traveled south "to sell pots and some other things of his trade." His guarantor was Francesch Sarria, a boilermaker (calderer ). Likewise, it may be conjectured that when March Casterellenes, a silversmith, and Alexandre Alvespi, a glassworker, acted as guarantors for Muslim merchants, their wares represented part of the merchandise to be sold by the latter. Wholesale merchants such as Francesch Sparça and Pasqual Vicent were able to extend their commercial interests from the port of Valencia to Orihuela through the marketing expertise of itinerant Mudejar retailers. The fact that the Mudejars had to come to the capital in order to obtain travel licenses worked to the benefit of Valencia's entrepreneurs who wished to expand the scope of their businesses beyond the city's limits. At times local bailiffs were authorized to grant licenses to Muslim merchants to facilitate the flow of goods not emanating from the capital. For instance, since "each day some Moors of the said place [Orcheta] have to go to the Vall d'Elda, Orihuela, and the town of Alicante with loads of some merchandise," the bailiff of Penáguila was empowered to grant the licenses.
It has been mentioned above how Mudejar artisans and merchants, like Abdalla Torralbi, Çahat Cantsevol, and the Zignells, also backed these itinerant merchants. Entire aljamas sometimes acted as guarantors for Muslim merchants, as did lords for their merchant vassals. Perhaps in such cases the merchant was vending the crops and manufactures produced on the seigneury itself.
Mudejar carters, muleteers, and itinerant retail merchants had Christian counterparts. Still, the Muslims' familiarity with the rural, seigneurial areas, where many of them resided, made them especially suitable for the role of linking the commerce of the capital to that of the outlying towns and villages. Were one to pose a mercantile division of labor between Christians and Muslims, one would conclude that the former monopolized maritime commerce and wholesale trade, while the latter moved the goods of the wholesalers and distributed them throughout the kingdom through their retailing activities. No doubt the commerce in Christian hands was substantially more lucrative. Still, the retailing of the Mudejars reaped some profits and for the regional eco-
nomy was no less essential. The king expressed concern about the cessation of Mudejar commerce in 1502, because the result would have been a considerably slower circulation of goods through the kingdom's commercial arteries.
Mudejar participation in international trade was of far lesser moment. There had been important mercantile families in the morería of Valencia during the early decades of the fifteenth century. These families—the Ripoll, Xupio, Benxarnit, and Razbayda—conducted trade with Granada and North Africa. However, as a consequence of emigration and the destruction of Valencia's morería in 1455, this Mudejar commercial elite had largely disappeared by the last quarter of the century. The inhabitants of the morería subsequently focused most of their energies on manufacture and the local retail trade.
During Fernando's reign Mudejars nonetheless continued the small-scale maritime trade with Almería in the sultanate of Granada and with Tunis and Oran in North Africa. Mudejar merchants did not have ships of their own, and so traveled with their goods on Venetian, Genoese, and Valencian vessels. The volume of this commerce was not great, and the merchandise of individual merchants only occasionally had a value of more than 50 pounds. Among the commodities sold by Mudejars in North Africa were silk, saffron, cloth, and metalware. Whereas previous to 1455 the majority of Mudejar merchants had originated from the capital's morería , most now came from seigneurial lands, the exception being those who were residents of Játiva. It is unlikely that these Muslims were full-time merchants; most probably represented only the interests of other members of their aljama. Some combined commercial pursuits in Islamic lands with family business and study. The war with Granada eventually terminated the trade with Almería and, combined with the later crusade against Africa, also seems to have slowed the movement of Mudejar merchants between Valencia and the Maghrib.
The outstanding exception to the general decline of Mudejar maritime commerce was the mercantile activity of the qadi[*] general, Mahomat Bellvis. Like other Mudejars, the Bellvis participated in the trade between Valencia, Almería, and North Africa. Sometimes Mahomat sent his sons there to conduct family business and other times agents were sent to represent Bellvis interests. However, commerce took the Bellvis much further afield, for they were also involved in the eastern Mediterranean spice trade. Mahomat's son Yahye purchased spices in Alexandria and sold them in Italy and Valencia. In one case Yahye sold spices in Naples and was given letters of exchange for repayment in Tunis. Traveling with Yahye were other members of his "company of Moors" from Valencia. Bellvis' commercial expertise seems to have
attracted other Mudejars to invest in their commercial ventures, though no doubt the Bellvis were dominant in this Mudejar company. It appears that the Bellvis shipped spices to Valencia on Venetian and Florentine vessels, or at least this is suggested by a litigation between Mahomat Bellvis and Dominic de Tella, a representative of Florentine ship patrons. Çahat Bellvis, described in the sources as a spice merchant, must have handled the Bellvis' wholesale-retail business in Valencia. By 1498 Yahye Bellvis had emigrated to Tunis, in all likelihood to facilitate his family's commercial ventures between the Levant, Italy, the Maghrib, and Valencia.
Notwithstanding the evidence of Mudejar prosperity, the great majority of the kingdom's wealth was concentrated in the hands of the Christian upper classes. Of Valencia's Muslims perhaps only the Bellvis family had attained a financial status similar to that of Christian noblemen and successful merchants. Prosperous Mudejars only rarely rose above the level of the middle class. The fact that enterprising Muslim merchants and artisans, such as the Zignells or Abdalla Torralbi, often relied on the financial backing and loans of far wealthier Christian investors and partners indicates the true locus of economic power in Valencia. The careers of Mudejar officials who farmed royal and seigneurial taxes tell much the same story, for their middling wealth was acquired mainly through their access to the fiscal machinery of the Crown and the Christian aristocracy. The inescapable fact was that the economy remained securely under Christian control, a state of affairs evident since the thirteenth century, when political conquest was followed by the wresting of economic power from Muslim hands.