The readings this week discussed the crucial roles of Genoa and Venice in the economy and their naval powers across the Mediterranean during the 12-13th centuries. Abu-Lughod explains the differences in origin from the two cities. First, Genoa was under the rule of Constantinople from the 6th-10th centuries and gained independence in the 11th century. In addition, Genoa was eager to take part in the Crusades due to the Pope’s vision for the conquest of Palestine. Genoa commanded the west of the Mediterranean, trading with Muslims of Spain and North Africa. On the other hand, Venice was already effective in commerce before the Crusades began because the Byzantine Emperor granted Venice full trading privileges and exemptions from tolls. Venice played more of a role in the eastern Mediterranean basin.
After the Crusades, both cities reaped benefits and expanded their trading routes. However, Genoa lost ties with Egypt and when this connection ceased to exist, Venice took control. Abu-Lughod also explains technological advances at sea and the need for more military protection from states. The Crusades were a factor in a heightened demand for more ships and bigger ships. This called for a regulatory role from the state. Finally, Abu-Lughod examines the “great debate” on the origins of capitalism. She provides a few arguments that support the view of capitalism being shown through the Genoa and Venice economic systems. However, Abu-Lughod agrees more with the view, that Genoa and Venice could be considered “pre-capitalist.” This debate is interesting because I do not see how one would could disregard the two cities as not having capitalistic systems, when Abu-Lughod talks about how both cities used a pubic debt system. Citizens voluntarily lent money to the commune and were granted stocks that paid interest. The use of this system definitely generated more profit than any one individual could provide, which in part is the definition Abu-Lughod uses to define capitalism.