Family of prominent early south German capitalists, enjoying immense wealth and great, if not commensurate, political influence. Ulrich Fugger, who moved to Augsburg in 1367, and his son Johann (d. 1409) were prosperous fustian weavers. Ulrich's grandsons, Jacob I (d. 1468) and Andreas (d. 1457), founded separate lines, though the latter soon died out. Through his in-laws, the Bässinger family, Jacob became interested in the silver mines of Schwaz in the Tyrol and extended his financial activity to the gold trade and to speculation in stock. During the last quarter of the 15th century the family wealth was increased enormously by Jacob's three sons, Ulrich I (d. 1510), Georg (d. 1506), and Jacob II (d. 1525). The acquisitive instincts of the youngest son, Jacob, made him an archetype of the early modern capitalist. He studied commerce in Venice, married the granddaughter of the merchant Ulrich Arzt the Rich, participated in the East India spice trade, and enlarged the family's mining and land holdings. The Fuggers became involved in ecclesiastical finance, organizing the transfer of money resulting from traffic in indulgences and other revenues, financing the travels of papal legates and nuncios, and making large loans to churchmen. The Fuggers secretly lent albrecht of brandenburg the 34,000 ducats that he needed in order to obtain the papal dispensation and the pallium, and to take care of related expenses, when he wished to add the archbishopric of mainz to his offices. This transaction led to the sale of indulgences for repayment and precipitated Martin luther's protest in 1517. Fugger money influenced papal elections and in 1519 was a decisive factor in securing the election of charles v as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Jacob remained neutral at the start of the Reformation, but after 1525 he became increasingly firm in his support of the Catholic Church. In Augsburg, he built the Fugger tomb chapel of St. Anna, hired Renaissance artists to decorate the Fugger palace, and in 1519 founded the Fuggerei, the first social settlement for poor workers, consisting of 106 houses at nominal rent. Jacob was childless and willed his holdings to his brother Georg's sons, Raymund (d. 1535) and Anton (d. 1560). Anton involved the family in risky political loans for the wars against the Turks and for the Hapsburg struggles with the Valois Kings of France. He supported Charles V against the German Protestants in 1546 and 1547 and again in 1552, losing large sums by default. Although Raymund's son, Ulrich II the Younger, decided in favor of the reformation, the family as such remained with the Catholic Church, helping to establish a Jesuit College in Augsburg and supporting a number of prominent clergymen in later years, notably Sigmund Friedrich (d. 1600), Bishop of Regensburg, and Jacob (d.1626), Bishop of Constance. Although lineal descendants of the family are still active today in finance and commerce, the family's power and influence waned rapidly after the thirty years' war.
Bibliography: r. ehrenberg, Das Zeitalter der Fugger, 2 v. (Jena 1896). a. schulte, Die Fugger in Rom, 1495–1523, 2 v. in 1 (Leipzig 1904). j. strieder, Jacob Fugger der Reiche (Leipzig 1926); Eng. tr. m. l. hartsough, ed. n. s. b. gras (New York 1931). e. hering, Die Fugger (Leipzig 1939). g. von pÖlnitz, Die Fugger (2d ed. Frankfurt am Main 1960).
[l. w. spitz]