Thursday, September 17, 2009

Commentary 2

This week's reading from Janet Abu-Lughod's "Before European Hegemony" consisted mainly of the point that the two riveling cities of Genoa and Venice were huge middlemen that supported the world trade system. They pulled and pushed goods between Europe and Asia and became practically indispensable. They dominated the Mediterranean Sea, pushing Milan and Florence out of the way as their lesser competitors. And in the position for the possibility of absolute power, both struggled to gain monopoly and put in much time and finance and blood into the Genoa-Venetian Wars. In the end though, Venice gained the upper hand but that power did not last for long; this trade with the Middle East was dismantled by the European Crusades, seeing as the Middle East believed themselves as having a superior culture.

I find the question of "superiority" very interesting. The Middle East, trading silks and spices and other assortments of rare materials, looked down upon the European Trade which consisted mainly of furs and things that the Middle East thought was less significant. Also, the Crusaders smothered their own name in mud when they pillaged, raped and burned their way through the "holy route" to "do good." This show of atrocities dampened, to say the least, the relations between them and the Middle East (and other societies as well) and furthered their idea of superiority. Like we discussed in the first class, each culture is thinks that it itself is superior to all other culture. China is named the "Middle Kingdom" and almost every country drew its eary maps centered around itself. Likewise, the Crusaders believed that their culture was superior too, therefore giving them the right to "help" the less fortunate and become the world police. This thought carries on into modern society and is the fuel for much of the conflict going around in the world today. Take the War in Iraq for example: who gave us the right to barge into someone else's home and claim that we are there for "their own good?"

One question I had was whether or not just one thing could be blamed for the downfall of Genoa. Most things happen as a result of one key event that led to a domino effect. Was Genoa just a victim of unlucky events that happened too quickly for it to react or catch up, or was there really one event that triggered it all and brought a once- powerful maritime trading center to the ground?

~Helena Li

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