Thursday, September 17, 2009

Genoa and Venice

I think one of the most important points Abu discusses is the influence the crusades had on the boating industry. The crusades brought out great advancements in ship building and technology. They needed to be constructed to carry as many soldiers and supplies as possible, while maintaining speed and durability. Abu mentions that the biggest ships the Genoese presented was only 83 feet long and carried only about 100 crusaders and their supplies. This does not seem significant, but the carrying capacity did not increase much into the 14th, 15th, and 16th century. Another factor that came along with the crusades and better ships was the improved navigation techniques. The stars worked for years and continued to work, but the compass, or “floating magnetic needle” allowed for year round sailing. The last improvement that can partially be attributed to the crusades was the social and economic techniques employed. This enhanced the security of ships which brought in many more investors so that risk could be more distributed and not on one person. Abu responds to this last point stating, “The first involved the convoy and the fighting merchant marines; the latter required new forms of capitalism” (112-113). The protection of the ships was so important during such a war time period. In order for the privatized investors to gain protection from tyrants and pirates they needed to put trust into the state. Abu describes the Genoese institution being like a joint stock company, investing also in protection of their goods to help establish sea trade as a dominant trading system. This great rise in technology, navigation, and economic techniques only came and quickly left for the powerful areas like Genoa and Venice. The Black Death has been estimated to kill up to three-fifths of Venice and up to 60 percent of Genoa’s inhabitants. This crushed shipping because not only did the disease spread greatly because of boats and ports, but because investors lost money as ships disappeared and no one wanted to leave their homes because of the fear of such a horrible disease.
Abu makes very good points on the crusades and its influences. I think that they had one of the greatest influences on the great expansion of “the big four” and the shipping industries. I think Abu could go into greater detail on the crusades explaining which crusades brought the greatest and most influential improvements to trade overseas. This could be the improvements in ship engineering (which she goes into briefly), or more importantly the protection of ships. The larger the vessels got the slower they moved which made them very easy targets. The social interactions of men on the same ships, and the men interacting in ship fleets is very interesting and different for this time period. Not only do they have to stay with in close proximity with each other for long periods of time (with no women!), but they had to work as a team to sail and navigate the ship while protecting it.
These new social interactions are very interesting to me, but I would like to know how the Black Death once again changed these interactions. I feel like before the Black Death children would love to grow up and become a sailor and travel the world for its riches. Even though many did not know that the Black Death was mainly spread by boats, I believe a great fear of sailing was brought upon many areas that were greatly affected such as Genoa and Venice and this fear resulted in a greater decline than we could ever imagine today.

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