In the week’s reading, Abu- Lughod explains the importance of Venice and Genoa in Europe’s short-lived success over the Middle East. Abu-Lughod explains how it was that Europe came out on-top; first, Venice and Genoa were rivals, as both made for excellent port cities. The struggle for power between Venice and Genoa lasted for decades; one always trying to get the upper hand on eastern trade. The Crusades was one event which really separated one city from the other. Genoa, in contrast to Venice, recaptured Palestine and Jerusalem. Yet, Venice, who had better relations in the mid-east, was much more reluctant to cause conflict in Palestine. Venice eventually did answer the pope’s call only after it was clear that the West (Genoa) had control over the region. Venice and Genoa were both rewarded with territory; power-hungry Venice continued to feed until Constantinople was in its own reach.
Having control of Constantinople gave Europe an edge. Europeans were more able to control trade in the East, by directing trade and calling for European goods/ controlling the sale of Eastern goods to Europe. These two cities were very influential to Europe and were probably the most powerful cities in the west at the time. When the Bubonic plague hit, both of the trading cities lost masses of their population, undoing many of the developments which occurred when the cities were on-top.
One of the more interesting things Abu-Lughod writes about is Europe’s reliance on force and war. I think the Pax Mongolica era that Abu-Lughod describes portrays and exemplifies Europe’s long history of conquest through battle. If the Crusades hadn’t been so successful, would Europe have found another way to go about the process of gaining economic success? Could that possibly have started a completely different era of European idealism, possibly influencing the ways of Kings for centuries to come? Or, would the Middle East have continued to trade so much to the point that they became the most dominant and wealthy region in the World System? Had the Crusades not been so successful, I believe our world today, and our history would be infeasible.
There is one thing I am slightly confused about. We discussed in class, that the Middle Easterners believed they were better than the Westerners. Many people said yes, because they were ‘more civilized, and had more luxurious goods.” I was wondering, what about spices, silks, and superficial items actually makes a “better culture?” These things are so unnecessary, and hardly make a difference in life except for maybe showing off money. Also, what does this question “Did the people of the middle east believe they were better than the west?” really relate to the overriding topic of the book we’re examining?