International Trade and Capital Movements

International trade was important in the economic ascension of Western Europe, and much less significant in the history of Asia or Africa. Venice played a key role from 1000 to 1500 in opening up trade within Europe (to Flanders, France, Germany and the Balkans) and in the Mediterranean. It opened trade in Chinese products via the caravan routes to ports in the Black Sea. It traded in Indian and other Asian products via Syria and Alexandria. Trade was important in bringing high value spices and silks to Europe, but it also helped the transfer of technology from Asia, Egypt and Byzantium (silk and cotton textile production, glassblowing, cultivation of rice in Italy, cane sugar production and processing in the Venetian colonies of Crete and Cyprus). To a significant degree the maritime expansion of Venice depended on improved techniques of shipbuilding in its Arsenal, use of the compass and other improvements in navigation.

Institutional innovations — the development of banking, accountancy, foreign exchange and credit markets, creation of a solvent system of public finance, creation of a competent diplomatic service were all instrumental in establishing Venice as the lead economy of that epoch. Venice played an important part in fostering the intellectual development of Western Europe. It created manuscript libraries and pioneered in book publishing. Its glass industry was the first to make spectacles on a large scale. It played a leading role in the Renaissance by making Greek works known in the West. The University of Padua was a major centre of European learning, with Galileo as one of its distinguished professors.

International Trade and Capital Movements

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