Long before the 20th century there was a pan-European economic network, the threads of which ran together in the hands of a few families.
The Medici from Florence, who managed the largest banking and trading house in Europe and owned about 300 workshops in the cloth trade alone with more than 10,000 employees, are still known today.
But there were also families north of the Alps who achieved unimaginable wealth. The most important of these was the Fugger family, which was so successful in the first half of the 16th century that its name was synonymous with wealth throughout Europe.
Her house was founded by Hans Fugger, a member of the weaving guild who exported Bavarian linen from Augsburg to Italy as early as the end of the 14th century.
In the middle of the 15th century the family split up and the two brothers Jakob and Andres founded the Fugger “of the lily” and the Fugger “of the deer”.
While the Fuggers “of the lily” became the richest people of their time by skillfully operating, the Fuggers “of the deer” were to be driven into ruin because of a single wrong decision (they trusted in the creditworthiness of Archduke Maximilian I.).
Jakob Fugger “the rich” was the head of the Fugger “of the lily” from 1495 to 1525. As the most important merchant and mining entrepreneur of his time, he rose to become the house banker of the Habsburgs and the Roman Curia and financed, among other things, the rise of Emperor Maximilian I and his grandson Charles, for what he was finally elevated to the nobility.
He gained lasting fame through his foundations in Augsburg, such as the Fugger Chapel of St. Anton or the Fuggerei, the world’s first social settlement.
Since he had no descendants, his nephew Anton Fugger took over the business.
He continued to support the Habsburgs under Charles V and Ferdinand I and extended the trade of his house to Mexico and the West Indies.
In addition, he set the course for the future of his family by massively expanding their land and dominion and by connecting his children with the landed gentry.
Thus the Fuggers became the only merchant family in Germany that could secure a firm place in the world of the nobility.