In Before European Hegemony, Janet Abu-Lughod attempts to explain how Europe rebuilt after the fall of the Roman Empire into the dominant power of today. Europe regained its former economic glory starting in the sixteenth century however the thirteenth century played a crucual role in them returning to the world stage as an economic power. Up until the thirteenth century Europe was plagued with the "fall of Rome" and subsequently the invasion of foreign forces and unstable government leadership. Meanwhile the Middle East and Orient were experiencing good economic fortune through their trade routes. At the turn of the thirteenth century most invading forces had either been forced back into their homelands or were now integrated in their new homelands; allowing European cities to start expanding once again. Once cities started expanding new trade routes were opened up throughout Europe, the ones mentioned being Champagnes, Italy, and cities in Flanders. These trade routes helped to establish the first worldwide trade network, or what the world consisted of during the time period. While Europe was regaining their footing in the economic world, other powers started to lose thiers. The Middle East and Orient started to decline partially due to the Black Death, which was a detriment to the sea ports along these trade routes. The first part of the novel mostly dealt with Europe starting to regain its former glory but highlighting key cities and places where trade was prosperous. People from all over Europe, as well as people from countries as far away as Cyprus came to check out the trade fairs. During the thirteenth century Europe became a central trading market, while becoming more economically secure. Throughout the novel Abu-Lughod will explain in more detail how the other trade centers started declining while Europe made a comeback.
An abundance of new information was presented to me in the first part of the novel. It was interesting to learn about economic powers and ideas of the past. What became interesting to me was how Europe overcame the loss of an empire and rebuilt themselves from the ground up. Europe dealt with invaders from other countries and cities being ruled unfairly. Once cities started growing the progression was slow and steady back to their former glory. I also started to learn more about European cities and places around during the thirteenth century that are no longer around today. Also the principle of credit and borrowing of funds came up and I found it interesting how a complicated matter was handled during the times.
One aspect not really elaborated on was how other areas of Europe were affected during th thirteenth century. Going over every part of Europe would have been a tedious procedure, however only three areas were explained. Were these three areas the only major trade cities or were they the only ones discusswed? Also, hopefully more about how the three systems became interconnected will be explained later, because most of part one dealt with Europe and how they rose up and not about the relationship between all three.