Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blog 2- Genoa and Venice

The focus of this section is the Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice. Genoa was a port city from inception. It was one of the most enthusiastic cities to embark on the Crusades when the Pope called for the reconquest of Palestine form the Muslims. The Crusaders were barbaric in their ways;they burned towns and slaughtered people, even engaging in cannabalism by boiling adults and grilling impaled children. Venice did not participate in the Crusades for many years, wishing to maintain the peace between the nations with whom they had enjoyed a great trading network with. It wasn't until it appeared that the Crusaders would prevail, that Venice joined the action.

In the twelth century, Italians embarked on a series of imperialistic endeavors. In a sort of piracy, they attacked weaker sea vessels (Muslim and Christian) to capture treasures or ports that were unable to defend themselves from invasion. Two of the most imprtant destinations were Levant and Constantinople. As the Crusaders began to lose the battle with the Muslims, competition between the Venetians and the Genoese heated up. Venetians took control of Constantinople and the Genoese dominated North Africa and western Europe. The Crusades were also important because they stimulated a remarkable increase in naval operations. Genoa and Venice vied to build the best and most technologically advanced ships. With this increase, there was a substantial need for the state to play a larger role in ship builiding. Improvements were also made in navigation, protection (through the employment of convoys) and economics. While both cities made use of the public debt, Venice funded naval ventures through state capitalism assisted by private entrepeneurs, while Genoa's funding was the oppostite. Genoa funded their ships primarliy through provate interest with a lower portion of the funding coming from the assistance of the state. This is one of the main distinctions between these two city-states and why Genoa was unable to fully recover from the subsequent problems that arose, while the Venetians were able to enjoy their hegemon after the Genoese could no longer threaten them.

Changes in the eastern system of trade removed the economic center and destroyed the Venetian monopoly which prompted them to ally with the new ruling party. Particularly those in Egypt. By the end of the 14th century, wesstern Europe had also joined the trade system and a unification and pandemic prosperity became evident. In the first half of the 14th century, both Genoa and Venice declined as a result of the physical changes to their ports, decreases in convey availability, political factionalism and of course, the Black Plague.

What I found interesting about this section was the discussion of the Crusades. Crusaders operating under the principles of reconquering Palestine, seemed more interested in wealth and glory than any holy purpose. Venice illustrates these motives as they hung back wanting to maintain piece for trading reason and then chose to join the fight once it seemed as if the Crusaders would pull of the reconquest. This seems to be similar to what is happening today with our war in the Middle East, but instead of launching the war under religious pretenses, the war was launched as a human rights and freedom campaign. Do you think that the real reason that we are fighting wars in the middle east is because of human rights or is it more about capturing oil and controlling the land?

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