The Economic History of Renaissance Italy : Florence, Venice, the Papal State
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Table of Contents
Chapter 3 , Dec 1st 2009
Chapter 4 , July 9th 2009
Chapter 2 , July 9th 2009
Introduction , Dec. 22nd 2008
Working Table of Contents , Dec. 22nd 2008
Working Table of Contents , Nov. 25th 2008
Bibliography , Nov. 25th 2008
Chapter 3 (as of December 1st 2009) . . .
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From the 14th to 16th centuries, Florence was the one of the major sources of the Renaissance. Armed with wealth created by its banking
(double entry bookkeeping system) and trade system, Florence acted as the origin of the Renaissance and benefited both materially and
culturally from it. The city's economy and its writers, painters, architects, and philosophers all made Florence a model of Renaissance culture.
They fostered economic patronage to many Renaissance artists and spent most of their large wealth on their great art collections they used
to decorate the city of Florence, which virtually fueled the artistic Italian Renaissance as we know today.
Florence was a city with wool as its main industry. Of the estimated population of 80,000 in the year 1340, over 25,000 people of Florence
were related the woolen industry. In the industry, there were two groups: 1) textile-manufacturing guild, 2) ciompi, a class of wool carders in
the textile industry who were not represented by any?guild. The?ciompi were among the most radical of the lower-class groups. The ciompi
initiated a strike in 1345, revolted in 1378 to demand a voice in the commune's ordering against the oligarchy.  Then, the Albizzi family
came into power from 1382 to 1434. However, this ended when Cosimo de¡¯ Medici took control of the city without occupying public office.
After a year of exile, the Medici family rose into power in 1434. The Medici were bankers to the pope and many other monarchies; they
also formed a patronage network to the new immigrants. This continued by his son and grandson. His grandson, Lorenzo de¡¯ Medici, was a
great patron of the arts, supporting Leonardo da vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo. After Lorenzo's death, a republic was restored;
Lorenzo's sun, Piero, went into exile and was executed in 1498. The Medici family regained power in 1512, was kicked out again in 1527.
However, Florence was still indirectly in the power of the Medici family ? popes Leo X and Clement VII ? during the 16th century. The
Medici also became hereditary dukes of Florence in 1537, Grand Dukes of Tuscany in 1569.
A. Banking and Finance
One characteristic of the Medici was the double entry bookkeeping system, a new system of rules to record financial information. Introduced
by Giovanni Bicci de Medici, the double entry bookkeeping system records each transaction in the two accounts affected by the exchange. 
Two main hallmarks of double-entry systems are that 1) each transaction is recorded in two accounts, and 2) each account has two columns. 
In a double-entry system, two entries are made for each transaction; one entry as a debit in one account and the other entry as a credit in
another account. This made the recording of debts and credit more accurate and increased the liquidity of money. It allowed merchants to trade
based on the credits instead of solid money; consequently, this system led the Medici Bank to become the top banking business during the
Renaissance. International trade and fund transfers became much more convenient and precise. As the Medici Bank performed banking and
accounting based on economic credit, the liquidity and flexibility of monetary movement was maximized. Credit-based money circulated to a
degree impossible to achieve by solid money, and business was done without ¡®money¡¯. This gave an advantage over the other banks in Europe,
and the currency of Florence became standard coinage in Europe with the help of many branches in major cities of Europe such as London,
Geneva, and Bruges (Belgium).  This superiority in the banking industry made Florence once the economic center of Renaissance.
B. Textile Industry
Of the many guilds in Florence, the most powerful guilds were those that represented textile industries. Putting banking out of the way, much of
Florence's wealth was dependent on the manufacture or trade of wool and silk.  Wool of superior quality was often purchased unfinished and
untreated from England and Iberia. Florentine textile workers then cleaned, carded, spun, dyed, and wove the wool into cloth of excellent quality.
Then, they sold the finished material in Italy and northern European cities.  Some textile experts purchased inferior cloth from northern cities
and refinished it to create a superior product, selling it back to the northern cities. The wool industry of Florence acted as a solid foundation of the
strength of its economy during the Renaissance.
Reference List (Chapter III)
Brucker, Gene A. Renaissance Florence, Updated Edition, 1983?
Christopher, Duggan. A Concise History of Italy. 1994.
Goldthwaite, Richard A. The Economy of Renaissance Florence. 2009.
Hibbert, Christopher. The House of the Medici: Its Rise and Fall. 1980.
Lerner, Joel. Schaum's Outline of Bookkeeping and Accounting. 1994.
Najemy, John M. A History of Florence 1200-1575, 2008.
Richard A. Goldthwaite, The Building of Renaissance Florence. An Economic and Social History, 1981.
Chapter 4 (as of July 9th 2009) . . .
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Accompanied with a strong navy and hegemony over the Mediterranean, Venice was one of the wealthiest and powerful cities in
Europe during the Italian Renaissance. It was the center of international trade; situated on the Adriatic Sea, Venice traded with the
Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world extensively. With this overwhelming wealth, the leading families of Venice competed with
each other as patrons to make great works by the most talented people such as Leonardo da Vinci and Titian.
Venice rose to power due to its control over the trade route between Europe and Middle Asia, eventually expanding to a larger degree.
This was especially effective during the Crusades; The Venetian Republic gained extensive trading privileges in the Byzantine Empire
that there were several efforts to overthrow their power and influence in the Empire. The fact that the Crusades were transported by
Venetian ships was to their advantage, since the crusaders had to pay back in some method to the venetians. Their military power was
abused to capture cities such as Zara or Constantinople. As the Byzantine Empire fell, Venice rose. Many naval battles were fought
over the Mediterranean, but having a solid trade system accompanied with a strong navy, Venice ruled as a prominent position in the
Venice further expanded herself in the fifteenth century, especially along her trade routes. With a navy of 3,300 ships, Venice took over
Verona, Padua, Cyprus and many more regions. However, Venice was obstructed by the Ottoman Empire from the late 15th century.
The Ottoman Empire took over Rhodes and Otranto; the Ottoman-Venetian War broke out and resulted in the surrender of Venice,
losing the bases of Lepanto, Modon and Coron. Venetia also collided with the Papal State over Romagna. The League of Cambrai
was formed by several countries ? The Papal State, Habsburg, Spain, France, Hungary ?, and Venice suffered a huge defeat in the
Battle of Agnadello. Although Venice was secured, regaining Brescia, Verona, and Pauda; as the Pope realized the fact that Venice
was the only force in Italy to fight forces like France and the Ottoman, Venice eventually held a victory. However, this war became the
end of the Venetian expansion. Despite victories in battles such as the Battle of Lepanto, the dominant position of Venice was eventually
passed on to the Ottoman Empire
B. Glass Industry
C. Silk Industry
D. Textile Industry
E. Book Printing
Chapter 2 (as of July 9th 2009) . . .
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II. The General Economic History of Renaissance Italy
1. Definition of Renaissance
The Renaissance, in Italian, Rinascimento (¡°rebirth¡±), is a period located between the Late Middle Ages and the Reformation. It acted
as a movement that intended to recall the culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. The?Italian Renaissance?began the opening phase of the?
Renaissance; it occurred in different time spans for different regions, beginning in 14th century Italy and spreading to the rest of Europe
by the 16th century. The change took place various subject areas, from sciences to literature; economy was greatly affected as well.
The Renaissance was not a period that started or ended by a definite event. It was a transitional period between the Middle Ages and the
Modern Era, and thus have the characteristics of both periods.
B. Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance was the beginning of the Renaissance, most known for its cultural achievements. Originating in Tuscany, it centered in
the cities of?Florence?and?Siena and later had a great impact in?Venice. The Italian Renaissance peaked in the late 15th century as foreign
invasions plunged the region into the turmoil of the?Italian Wars. The ideas and ideals of the Renaissance spread into the rest of Europe,
igniting the same in other parts such as the?Northern Renaissance and the?English Renaissance.
2. Prior to the Renaissance
A. The Middle Ages
Economy prior to the Renaissance ? the Middle Ages ? is important since economical changes during this period stimulated the Renaissance,
which in reverse fueled economical development, forming a cycle. The Middle Ages was divided into three parts: the Early Middle Ages,
High Middle Ages, and Late Middle Ages. The Early Middle Ages was the period after the collapse of Rome and emergence of the Catholic
Church. As the Roman Empire fell, the central force that maintained control broke down as well, leading to unsafe trade routes and conditions,
eventually leading to the decrease of economic activities. The High Middle Ages was when a predominantly religious order took place; towns
were built, trade associations were created. Italian city states such as Venice expanded their trade in the Mediterranean region along with the
Crusades. The Late Middle Ages was the period when the foundation for the Early Modern Era was laid out.
The main economic characteristic of the Middle Ages derived from feudalism, a political system in which there exists a set of reciprocal legal
and military obligations between a lord and a vassal. Feudalism was in essential the granting of land (fiefs) in return of service. There would
be a king on top of the hierarchy, layers of knights, and peasants. A knight would be a vassal to the king and a lord to a peasant, thus forming
a pyramid-shaped system. In this sort of system, the economic criterion of wealth was land ? consequently, there were numerous battles to
acquire the land of others.
This feudalism took change with the introduction of the Late Middle Ages. In the feudal system, the status of the peasants was tied by an
economical bond. However, as commerce grew and the monetary system was introduced, cities expanded. This enabled the serfs to find a
method to cut the bond. As cities were born and the people residing in cities concentrated in commerce and industry, food supply had to be
provided by the farms. This increase of supply was achieved by the increase of technology and the amount of farmland. As the demand for
agricultural products increased, some lords offered to periodically receive a certain amount of money for providing peasants land that could
be reclaimed. Peasants were starting to acquire freedom. Although there were efforts against this trend, the Black Death reduced over a third
of the population, decreasing the number of serfs and increasing their value. As their bargaining power increased, the serfs were eventually
released. A concept of trading land was formed, and this indicated the end of feudalism.
One main characteristic of the Renaissance was guilds. The industry had changed as well; previously, all industrial work was done by the peasants
themselves, indoor. When they needed furniture, they had to cut down the trees and make it themselves. However, as the market grew larger
and the monetary system was introduced, specialization took place. People began to make products not only for the consumption of their own
household but for that of other people. The business did not require a lot of money; the craftsman would only need a room in his house to act
as a workplace. When one became famous, he would accept an apprentice, eventually turning into a journeyman and then a master. The year
of training varied for each profession, generally from two to seven years. After training, he would be able to open a workplace or work under
another master. Each master would both make and sell his own products, and the union of such masters along with all the apprentices was
called a guild.
The guild was a family-like organization; when one of the members became poor due to an unfortunate event or age, the guild would give a certain
amount of money to the member. They also had rules such that every member would benefit, often accomplished with the compromise of others.
Moreover, the guild would form a monopoly for no one not in the guild could work in that profession. Some cities even had a beggar¡¯s guild. The
guild concentrated that no external force and internal conflict would break their monopoly. One special characteristic of guilds is that they had
their own criteria of service they provide which was supervised by inspectors, thus guaranteeing a certain standard of quality.
Two initial qualities of a guild were 1) that all masters had the same rights and 2) that it was easy for the apprentices to become a master.
However, this changed as time passed. Some masters thrived and acquired more power, eventually forming exclusive guilds. These guilds
were larger and stronger than other guilds, and eventually took control of the city administration. Apprentices were mostly deprived of the
chance to become a master; the original path of apprentice => journeyman => master was reduced to apprentice => journeyman. It was
difficult for an ordinary person to become a master, and it required a lot of money. In contrast, the selected few easily became masters.
Consequently, the journeymen formed an association to monopolize labor. However, these associations were declared illegal by the city
administration, which was greatly influenced by the masters. The masters had taken place of the feudal lords; there were revolts, and this
led to the collapse of guilds and cities. Cities were taken over by external forces: the monarch.
As the middle class, with a lot of money, expanded, they wanted security. This could not be held by the former feudal lords, since cities were
fighting against the taxes of these lords. The need of a central force was evident, and monarchs took this role. With the monetary assistance
of the middle class, the monarchs could employ mercenaries, abolishing the need of feudal lords. Since the wealth of the middle class provided
the monarch with a strong army, monarchs gave privileges in return.
The introduction of monetary system stimulated the elevation of monarchs. Previously, the income of monarchs depended on the lords. Now,
government officials were able to collect taxes. As the increase of markets increased the revenue of the monarch, the monarch took interest
in the development of markets. Guilds were a disturbance of development; although it took over a couple centuries, guilds were eventually removed.
As monarchs became stronger and stronger, nationalism came into place. This strengthened the power of monarchs, since people would
recognize themselves as ¡®French¡¯ people instead of ¡®people in Normandy¡¯. The monarchs became strong enough that the only force to rival
them was the church. The church owned over one third of all land and was exempt from paying taxes, which decreased the revenue of the
king. Almost all the money of the church was sent towards Rome, and this was a huge concern to the monarchs. Consequently, as the
Reformation took place, the many monarchs took the side against the church.
Introduction (as of December 22nd 2008) . . .
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The Renaissance is a period of a transitional movement in Europe between medieval and modern times beginning in the 14th century
in Italy, lasting into the 17th century, marked by a humanistic revival of classical influence expressed in a flowering of the arts and
literature and by the beginnings of modern science.  The Renaissance is a rather general term in setting up an exact historical
era since it was a gradual process; it also requires to be illustrated along with other social factors in order for its economical history
to be described. Consequently, this paper will describe the economic history of Italy and compare it with other regions by chronological
order as well as elaborating the individual characteristics of three major but different cities: Florence, Venice, and the Papal State.
Working Table of Contents (as of December 22nd 2008) . . .
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II. General Economic History of Italy and Other Regions
II.2 Renaissance 1300- (I will have to divide the time periods)
V. Papal State (III, IV, V will discuss the origin, hallmarks of the economical section)
Working Table of Contents (as of November 25th 2008) . . .
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II. General Economic History
II.1 The World
II.3 Renaissance Italy
V. Papal State
Bibliography (as of November 25th 2008) . . .
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Najemy, John M. Short Oxford History of Italy, Italy in the Age of the Renaissance: 1300-1550, 2005
Miskimin, Harry A. The Economy of Early Renaissance Europe, 1300-1460, 1975
Richard A. Goldthwaite, The Building of Renaissance Florence. An Economic and Social History, 1981
Brucker, Gene A. Renaissance Florence, Updated Edition, 1983
Najemy, John M. A History of Florence 1200-1575, 2008
Paola Lanaro, ed. At the Centre of the Old World: Trade and Manufacturing in Venice and the Venetian Mainland, 1400-1800, 2006
Mola, Luca. The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice, 2000
Lan, Frederic C. Recent Studies on the Economic History of Venice, 1963
Miley, John. The History of the Papal States, 1850
Partner, Peter. The Lands of St. Peter: The Papal State in the Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance, 1972
Schimmelpfennig, Bernhard. The Papacy, 1992