Thursday, September 17, 2009

Struggle of Maritime Powers

Venice and Genoa, two maritime trade and sea powers existed in competence for centuries, as well as part of the “Big Four”. As Abu-Lugbod describes, “both cities played pivotal roles in joining Europe to the ongoing world economy of the east.” The referred reference is that of mainly China, Mongolia, India, and a few others. There were three main passages used create the eight zones of trading, until the Portuguese circumnavigation of Africa. Genoa is eventually supplanted by Venice in the 14th century. So, why did Genoa fall to Venice in terms of monopolizing when Genoa predates Venice as preexisting port?
There is no question that when it came to terms of resources, that these two key city-ports spent as much money and time on trading and expanding their connections as they did fighting with each other(Genoa-Venetian Wars). Genoa and Venice both sought to monopolize trade. Genoa motivated by more likely greed then religious factors joined the crusades, as did Venice, though much more reluctant, created a want for eastern goods. These goods included silk, spices, pottery, and more. Ironically, even though Venice was reluctant to join the crusades until it seemed a sure victory, they ended up being the hegemonic force controlling the route that allowed them access to spices and silks. Genoa, although rewarded for their help in the crusades, did not gain such a victorious benefit from the crusades.
Another factor in the downfall of Genoa was its wavering supplies of slaves and it poor choice in the Black Sea. Genoa at one point supplied much of the slave labor for the Egyptians, thus granting them trade rights and routes into the East. Genoa was unable to continue the supply of slaves, where as Venice capitalized on this situation picking up the slave trade into Egypt, along with routes to the East. Genoa, trying to fully exclude Venice and vice versa, attempted to use the Black Sea as another entry to the Northern Route. Thus, at this point in history in the world system both were hegemonic powers yet located in different regions of trade, creating in essence a world system. Genoa’s attempt at using the Black Sea is crushed by the rebellions and fragmentation of the Mongol Empire. The Mongol empire collapsed on itself due to an insufficient system of relying on resources of its conquered, and no export production. In essence without the continual conquest of new people the system would eventually have to collapse on itself. The downfall of the Mongol Empire proved to render the Black Sea, and the Northern Route less then mediocre, due now to unsafe conditions of traveling the route.
The perpetual downfall of Genoa is marked in my opinion by start of the Black Plague. The Black Plague wiped out two-thirds of the world’s population including Genoa and Venice. Again, why did Venice prevail over Genoa? Well, the Black Plague created a contraction in the world system. Genoa was not able to reform its political issues, and government to account for the change. Venice recovered from the Black plague because it provided state support to its maritime merchant’s investments such as convoys, warships, weapons, and more where as Genoa was not did not. Basically, Venice had a “safety net” to insure its overall trade. Genoa on the other hand was not located in as prime of a position as Venice. Venice’s overall choice on the Southern Route, trade with Egypt, and state insurance allowed them ultimately to overcome Genoa.

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