Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh that Genoa...

Who would have thought that two maritime cities would be the ones to “bridge the gap” and connect Europe to the rest of the world system, in particular the Middle East?

Genoa and Venice, who at one point – dominated the Mediterranean trade, played key roles both in trade and crusade. Venice was bound to become a key leader in trade. After being able to survive being conquered, the city was provided immense amounts of protection. This shield over their city enabled them to prosper and become more powerful than before. On the other side of the fence, Genoa was city that was all too familiar with being involved in battle. They had been to battle several times, sometimes resulting in evening being conquered. However, it was because of this prior experience that they excelled in the crusades. With these two cities being dominant in two fundamental areas of the world system, they were bound to expand – eventually coming in contact with the Middle East. Trade increased vastly in that area, requiring production to pick-up (more than expected – as we will see), and not only production but in commercial shipping, too.

What continued to keep Genoa strong after its expansion were its ties to Egypt via its expertise in the slave trade. Genoa had a monopoly over this area, and without it Genoa could be no more. Their monopoly with Egypt had diminished, and now several attempts (Black Sea, Western Mediterranean, and the Atlantic) were made to replace what they had lost, but failure was all that could be found. Venice, which some may argue could have been headed in the same direction as Genoa, stepped in and took control of their ties to Egypt thus allowing them to sustain their city. With Venice now having the monopoly, it was only a short matter of time before they conquered Genoa.

Something that I wish Abu-Lughod would have explained a little further in depth was Venice managed to stay afloat while Genoa came to a crashing hault. It seemed that for a while the two cities were parallel with each other, running neck and neck, but we slowly witness Genoa fall far behind and pretty much be “rescued” by a city one could say that use to “compete” with. Any thoughts?

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