REM, Lucas (Lukas) (1481-1541)
German merchant; factor of the Welsers in Lisbon.
Born in 1481 to a family of aristocrats and merchants established in Ulm and Augsburg, he trained as a merchant in Venice, between 1494 and 1498. He acquired additional commercial experience, first in Milan, then in Lyon. In this major international financial center, he was hired in the autumn of 1499 by the Anton Welser and Konrad Vöhlin company; the following year, he was given responsibility for administering their trading post in that city. At the end of 1502, the Welsers sent Rem to the Iberian Peninsula. In May 1503, he arrived in Lisbon; there, in September of the same year, he established the first German-owned trading post in Portuguese territory. For five years, he functioned in the position of factor of the Welsers, traveling to the Portuguese colonies as well.
His autobiographical report, entitled “Diary of Lucas Rem,” is counted among the principal records that shed light on the history of Portuguese-German relations at the beginning of the 16th century. According to it, on 1 August 1504, Rem signed “a contract with the King of Portugal, regarding equipping three ships for India.” This was in reference to the Armada commanded by Dom Francisco de Almeida, which departed for India in 1505. The Welsers belonged to a consortium comprised of several German commercial establishments and some Italian merchants. The group invested 65,400 cruzados in this overseas enterprise and the Welsers made the greatest investment, contributing nearly one third of that sum. After the return of the fleet to Lisbon in 1506, business with the Portuguese Crown became quite complicated, because King Dom Manuel I had decided to monopolize the pepper trade. Fearing that pepper prices would drop, the Portuguese monarch, was refusing to deliver to the German merchants the goods to which they were entitled. Lucas Rem complained greatly in his diary about the “[…] numerous, vast and complicated legal processes, in which I battled for three years.” When a settlement was reached, the Welsers received only a portion of their pepper and, in exchange, were compensated in sugar. Despite these obstacles, according to Rem’s notes, the company managed to realize a profit of approximately 150%. However, the financial results of the second Welser investment in equipping a fleet for India were less favorable. Along with the Imhoffs of Nuremberg and the Portuguese Rui Mendes, the Welsers invested in three of the fifteen ships that departed under the command of Tristão da Cunha but did not profit at all, because two of them were lost on the way to India.
Rem reports very interesting details about the business he conducted with the Portuguese Crown and regarding his stays in the Portuguese colonies. In his “Diary” one reads: “In the time I spent in Portugal, from 8 May 1503 to 27 September 1508, I made a series of abundant and important transactions, to sell copper, lead, rouge, mercury and various things, especially Flemish cloth. For three years, many ships came from the Low Countries, England, Brittany and the lands to the East, loaded with cereals for me to sell. To trade, I traveled to Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, as well as to Barbary. In Portugal, I bought many spices and did big business with the King. I also bought olive oil, wine, ivory and, cotton. On multiple occasions, I ordered the purchase of figs in Algarve […]. I conducted voluminous and considerable trade. I also had many employees, always three, four and even six […].”
Lucas Rem left Portugal in September 1508, returning in the summer of the following year, against his expressed wishes. His second stay in Portuguese territory, which was much shorter than his first, started mid-August 1509 and ended late March 1510. The German commercial agent’s main task then must have been to reorganize the Welser trading post in Madeira, where they traded in sugar. In Lisbon he instructed his brother, Hans, who replaced him in the duties of factor. After a stay of nearly two months in King Dom Manuel I’s court in Almeirim and Santarém, he returned to Augsburg by land.
Lucas Rem remained in the service of the Welsers, traveling almost constantly from the time of his admission to the company in 1499 to his departure in 1518. This was precisely the year that Lucas Rem, along with his brothers Endres and Hans and two more partners, Ulrich Hanolt and Jörg Meuting, founded their own commercial establishment, whose business also extended to Lisbon; there, they established a trading post in 1520. Perhaps the business that the Rem company conducted in Portugal stagnated beginning in 1525, which led to the closure of the trading post, in late 1527 or early 1528, and the company’s permanent departure from Portugal.
EHRHARDT, Marion, A Alemanha e os Descobrimentos Portugueses, Lisboa, Texto, 1989; GREIFF, Benedikt (ed.), Tagebuch des Lucas Rem aus den Jahren 1494-1541. Ein Beitrag zur Handelsgeschichte der Stadt Augsburg, Augsburg, Hartmann’sche Bruchdruckerei, 1861; GROSSHAUPT, Walter, “Commercial Relations between Portugal and the Merchants of Augsburg and Nuremberg”, in: Jean Aubin (ed.), La découverte, le Portugal, et l’Europe: actes du colloque, Paris, CCP, 1990, pp. 359-397; POHLE, Jürgen, Deutschland und die überseeische Expansion Portugals im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert, Münster, Lit, 2000.
Author: Jürgen Pohle
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel