Elizabethan London

Elizabethan London
Tyburn was an infamous execution spot west of London, used since medieval times. The Tyburn "tree" - a unique, multi-person gallows - erected in 1571 became a popular public spectacle, drawing crowds of thousands.Tyburn Tree blog is less blood-thirsty but hopefully topical, interesting and informative, if slightly bent to my personal topics of interest - books, writing, history, technology, with a smattering of politics and dash of pop culture, science and the downright strange. So "take a ride to Tyburn" and see what happens...

Monday, November 5, 2012

City of Fortune

City of Fortune by Roger Crowley is a vivid, engrossing historical account of the rise (and eventual fall) of the the city of Venice.  Crowley traces the establishment of Venice as a small trade port and pulls together the fine threads of profit, technology, commercialism, power and hubris that allowed Venice to build an empire, without any natural resources to draw upon but themselves.

"The sea was at once their protection, their opportunity, and their fate; secure in their shallow lagoon with its deceptive channels and treacherous mudflats that no invader could penetrate, shielded if not insulated from the surge of the Adriatic, they wrapped the sea around them like a cloak."

At the height of its power, the Venetians sat at the epicentre, controlling the crossroads of the spice trade between the Christian west, and the markets of Islam, the Mongol, China and India.  From Asia and the Middle East,  to the European markets of France, Italy and Germany - Venice was the linchpin.  This then was Venice's famous "stato da mar", the dominion of the sea, an empire born of trade, inculcated on profit and ruled by commerce over all.

Well-written, concise and filled with deftly drawn historical figures  and incidents, Crowley examines the Venetian arc of history from their "hijacking" of the Fourth Crusade, the fracturing (at their hands more than anyone) of the Byzantine Empire, into their long commercial feud/war with Pisa and Genoa, and their abrupt decline in the face of Ottoman expansion and Portuguese technology.

City of Fortune is a brisk, epic and superlative account and well worth a look.

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