Legalized Plunder in 14th Century Venice

Venice, as much as any other city, was founded on international trade and commerce. Even today, the outward-oriented and freewheeling worldview that commerce inspires is that lagoon city’s defining characteristic. From p. 287 of Roger Crowley’s City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas:

For Venice, piracy was the most detested crime, an affront to business and the rule of law. The Republic preferred its maritime violence organized at state level.

Crowley goes on to describe state-approved instances of piracy by and against Venetians, and other nations’ grievances about the same. If all this sounds familiar in the context of today’s trade debate, you’re not alone. History is alive, and this is a good reason to study it closely.


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