Thursday, September 17, 2009

Venice vs Genoa

Venice and Genoa became great naval powers over the Mediterranean and each was trying to broaden their power to do business and monopolize the markets for money. Genoa, who had always been a port, was subject to many invasions. She fell during the Second Punic War, was rebuilt, and then destroyed again by the Ostrogoths. Genoa had also been at war with the Muslim states during the 10th century, but by the end of the 11th century, she gained de facto independence from the Eastern Roman Empire. Genoa did not have a very good relationship with the Middle East states and the Muslims looked down upon her. Genoa, a key trader, lost most of her population to the plague that hit.
Venice, who was 'less eager to enter that struggle' (the struggle involving the conquest of Palestine), was considered a new town. Venice gained trade privileges in Byzantine ports, but was still unable to take full advantage of more commercial opportunities. Venice could only offer salt, fish, and timber to trade with. Before the Crusades began, Venice was starting to play an important role in commerce. She broke the blockade of the Norman Kingdom that controlled the lower waters of the Adriatic. Because she came to the rescue of the Byzantine fleet, she was granted full trading privileges and exemptions from tolls.
Despite the main focus on Venice and Genoa during the past readings, I found the mid-century depression more interesting. An economic collapse followed the plague. The collapse of the economy started with the decline in crops. Also, pulic debt of city-states increased and could not be turned around. Both Venice and Genoa suffered a population loss, but one indicator was the physical changes in the port facilities (Venice's work on waterfront). The second indicator was the declining size of the convoys of merchant galleys leaving the Venetian port. The numbers of these galleys significantly dropped, which led to the collapse.
Overall, this section of the book we were instructed to read was boring and repetitive to me. I did not find it as interesting as last weeks reading. I started to confuse Venice and Genoa and I found myself having to keep going back so I knew which area Abu-Lughod was talking about.

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