Friday, September 18, 2009

Genoa vs. Venice : the battle for trade supremacy

The main idea set forth by Abu-Lughod in this week's reading is that, at one point, Genoa and Venice were the main ports of call for the world trade system. They became the middlemen. Pushing goods from Europe to Asia and visa versa. She goes into great detail as to how these two cities became the major places of interest they are known to have been. Sadly, the majority of the evidence leads the reader to the conclusion that these cities were born and flourished on goods brought to them through the bloody and merciless crusades that ravaged so much of the thriving Muslim world. The Crusaders left their homes and families, off to "do good" and restore the Holy Land to the church. In doing so they exposed themselves and later their home markets to the goods and resources they encountered along the way; but at a great price. The Crusaders probably permenatly damaged the image of western traders in the eyes of the Muslim community with their antics brought about through the Crusades. The pillaging, raping, burning, killing, canibalism, and other such atrocities witnessed and experienced by these people can not have been easy to forget or forgive. This created a strained relationship between the societies down the road.

As we can see, both Venice and Genoa could not maintain their prestige as the main stage of world trade. For Genoa, the change was much more drastic. Abu-Lughod gives clues and ideas as to why this decline may have occured. She mentiones the age old excuse of the Black Death taking it's toll. Political problems within Genoa and in the Mongol empire also made it on to the list of issues that may have caused the decline in trade in the area. I find it particularily interesting that two such geographically close cities could experience such different fates on the world stage.

The question that pops to my mind is this; is there any one reason for the fall of Genoa? Can we really pinpoint one issues that caused it's demise? It seems to me that it was just a chain of unlucky events for the port city, but it had to have started somewhere.

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