What my credit can do in (medieval) Venice

January 2, 2013

Mueller, Reinhold C. (1987) I banchi locali a Venezia nel Tardo Medioevo. Studi Storici, 28/1: 145-55.


There is a lot to be admired in Austrian economists, their resilience, their attachment to simple elegant ideas and their sound understanding of the long-term factors that give the economy its cyclical nature. But one must admit that their Ludite-like hatred for finance is to the very least puzzling. They claim to trust nothing but gold and they would like to see the activity of banks restricted to little more than a locker service. Their trust in free market and in the adaptive nature of human ingenuity ends at the door of their local branch of HSBC. Read the rest of this entry »

Maitte C. (2009) Migration and secrets of the glass-making communities

June 13, 2009

Maitte, Corine (2009) Les Chemins de verre. Les migrations des verriers d’Altare et de Venise (XVIe-XIXe siècles), chap. 7, Migrer et livrer ses secrets? Secrets et transmission technique, Rennes: Presses Universitaire de Rennes, p.201-238.

souffleursouffleur-verrePicture 12

The first book dedicated to the “secrets” of glass-making was published in 1612 by the Italian priest Antonio Neri (p.202). Numerous authors during the 16th century had undertaken to reveal the secrets of several industries, in particular metallurgy but alchemy (p.203).  These books had theoretically the ability to go beyond the usual oral father-to-son or master-to-apprentice transmission of techniques (p.206). Read the rest of this entry »

Blanchard I. (1986) The 16th-century European cattle trade

March 14, 2009

Blanchard, Ian (1986) “The Continental European Cattle Trades, 1400-1600”, The Economic History Review, 39/3, 427-460.



The European international cattle trade arose in the 1470s out of a “context of a network of regional markets” for locally grazed animals (p.428). Antwerp for instance drew its supplies mostly from Zealand and Holland. The diminutive livestock trade was limited to the Hungarian exports to Venice and some Rhenish towns (Frankfurt, Cologne; p.429). “As gold production recovered in Hungary during the second quarter of the 15th century, […] the economy was subject to the dual pressures of a hard exchange and an excessive money supply which caused its export products to be overpriced on international market and turned a previously strong balance of trade into a decidedly weak one” (p.430). The northern Polish (Breslau, Poznan, Gniezno) products partly replaced the Hungarian cattle after the 1420s, they were exported through the fair of Leipzig. The Hungarian solely retained the south European markets. Read the rest of this entry »

Munro J. (2006) A non-mercantilist approach to the balance of payment problem

March 5, 2009

Munro, John H. (2006) “South German silver, European textiles, and Venetian trade with the Levant and Ottoman Empire, c. 1370 to c. 1720: a non-Mercantilist approach to the balance of payment problem”, in Relazione economiche tra Europea e mondo islamico, seccoli XII – XVII, ed. Simonetta Cavaciocchi, Florence: Le Monnier, 905-960.


This article is available on line


For mercantilists, gold and silver are not just mediums of exchange but the most tangible form of wealth (store of value) and a country’s veritable life-blood. In their view, the economic contraction of the later 14th and 15th centuries were caused by the outflow of precious metal to the East (p.905). But according to J. H. Munro, there was no such thing as a ‘bullion famine’, at worst some “periodic scarcity of coined money” in 1320-1340, 1370-1420, and 1440-1470 (p.906). Read the rest of this entry »

Greene, M. (2000) Beyond the Northern invasion

February 12, 2009

Greene, Molly (2000) Beyond the Northern invasion: the Mediterranean in the seventeenth century, Past and Present, 174, 41-70


At least since Fernand Braudel, the 17th century is supposed to be the moment the moment the Northern Europeans (English, Dutch and later French) ‘invaded’ the Mediterranean pushing aside effortlessly the old regional powers Spain, Venice and the Ottoman Empire. In this article, Molly Greene shows that it was not that simple, nor one-sided (p.42). Read the rest of this entry »

Davis R. (1991) The workers of Venice’s arsenal

February 4, 2009

Davis, Robert C. (1991) Shipbuilders of the Venetian Arsenal. Workers and workplace in the preindustrial city, Baltimore/Londres: John Hopkins University Press, 270p.


While medieval and Renaissance Venice have fascinated historians, less has been written about the city in the 17th century. This book is about the community of the workers of the Arsenal (aka the arsenalotti) from 1620 to 1670.

The Arsenal was created in the 1100s and grew steadily until the 1300s. By that time, it had became a production plant and warehouse reaching a dimension unique in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Rapp R. T. (1975) The unmaking of the Mediterranean trade hegemony

May 11, 2008

Rapp Richard T. (1975) “The Unmaking of the Mediterranean Trade Hegemony: International Trade Rivalry and the Commercial Revolution”, The Journal of Economic History, 35/3, 499-525.

“It was the invasion od the Mediterranean, not the exploitation of the Atlantic, that produced the Golden Ages of Amsterdam and London” (p.501).

Even if the expression of “commercial revolution” has been somewhat demonetized, but the author maintains that there was a “shift in the locus of European trade from the markets of the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic overthrew a centuries-old pattern of commerce and established the basis for the predominant role of North Atlantic Europe in the era of industrialization.”(p.499) This shift is often credited by scholars to the sole geographic discoveries of the 15th and 16th century, while internal factors are deemed secondary. The author hypothesises that the rise of Antwerp and London may have more to do with the Northerners aggressive competition in the Old World’s marketplaces than with their proximity with those of the New World.. (p.500) In his view, production capacities are what gave the Dutch and English traders an edge on their Mediterranean competitors. Thus, for the Mediterraneans perspective, it was not a decline relative to a competitor’s unmatched growth, but rather an active destruction of their hegemony. (p.501)
Read the rest of this entry »