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Title:Genoese women, family business practices, and maritime commerce, 1155-1216
Author(s):Angelos, Mark John
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Queller, Donald E.
Department / Program:History, European
Women's Studies
History, Medieval
Discipline:History, European
Women's Studies
History, Medieval
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, European
Women's Studies
History, Medieval
Abstract:By the mid-twelfth century, the revitalized cities of northern Italy joined the well-developed cycle of Mediterranean trade dominated in previous centuries by Moslems and Byzantines. Roberto Lopez and others have argued that this "Commercial Revolution" of the Middle Ages signalled the point when western Europeans began the slow but steady transition from the agrarian-centered economy of early medieval society to the money economy of the world today. The State Archive of Genoa holds the oldest and one of the largest collections of medieval notarial records in Europe. An examination of the earliest documents reveals that Genoese women were actively involved in their city's most important commercial operations through the use of the popular commenda partnership contract. In fact, women recorded investments in nearly one-quarter of over 4000 surviving contracts dating from 1155 to 1216. This investigation demonstrates the importance of women in Genoa's expanding maritime trade, both as individuals and as active members of family enterprises.
Like men, women often took part in commercial ventures as part of a larger family operation. The study of family investment patterns reveals two especially important connections involving women. Women married to travelling merchants invested their husbands' property during their husbands' long periods of absence and widows sought to increase both their own property and the patrimony left to their sons by putting capital from both sources into trading ventures. Although Genoese women at this time faced increasingly strong limitations on their ability to inherit real estate, the substitution of movable property (either cash or commodities) for real estate meant that women had access to the type of capital best suited for investment in lucrative Mediterranean commerce. Many Genoese families skillfully utilized the talents of all available members, sending men as merchant traders to various ports while their female kin acted as home agents in Genoa, investing and reinvesting the profits from their voyages.
Issue Date:1992
Rights Information:Copyright 1992 Angelos, Mark John
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9305452
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9305452

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