Genghis Khan reopened the Silk Road. Julius Caesar brought Gaul into the Roman economy. Alexander the Great forged the Hellenistic world, a cosmopolitan, Greek-speaking culture that linked cities around the Mediterranean. Conquerors have always created new trade patterns and altered economies. By mere fact of bringing large numbers of people across continents—soldiers, craftsmen, merchants, families—they […]
16th-century Genoa was in an odd spot. The previous two centuries (part 1 on Genoa is here) had been a series of disasters for the interests of the trading republic. The splintering of the Mongol empire made overland routes from the Far East hazardous, reducing the flow of merchandise to the eastern Mediterranean. The Ottoman conquest […]
Archaeologists in Vietnam have discovered a 4,500-year-old trading network. The network stretched hundreds of miles across several river systems, down to the Mekong Delta. Several stone tools quarried in the Southeast Asian highlands were found at the site in southern Vietnam, where such stone is completely absent. Long-distance trade in the ancient world was usually associated […]
The story begins with Arab and Persian sailors establishing trade colonies in East Africa, but its antecedents lie much earlier. Arabian, Egyptian, and Greek traders had long been making expeditions across the Red Sea and down the East African coast.
The Republic of Venice earned its place in history through its consummate mastery of Machiavellian scheming and diplomacy. Creating its trade empire amidst the ceaseless wars between Christians and Muslims in the East, agents of the Serene Republic were well-versed in playing one rival off another to their commercial advantage. But surely as piglets shove and jostle at their mother’s teat, the Venetians had to ward off other claimants to so rich a prize as trade with the Orient. Among all the other Italian mercantile city-states, only one was potent enough to mount a formidable challenge: the Republic of Genoa. (more…)