Venetian Shipping from the Days of Glory to Decline, 1453–1571


Drawing from a broad range of hitherto unpublished archival material and the reconstructed biographies of hundreds of San Marco ships, this book provides a critical overview of the Republic’s shipping activities contemporary with the major geographical discoveries of the period, the ascendency of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean, and the on-going struggle among the major European powers for political and economic hegemony. Within this complex framework, the agency of environmental factors receives equal importance beside geopolitics and economic interests, challenging the accepted hierarchy of the factors impacting the maritime history of Venice.

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Renard Gluzman, Ph.D. (2018), Tel-Aviv University, is an eager sea dog and research fellow at the Haifa Center for Mediterranean History (HCMH). His publications deal with legislative, operative, and economic aspects of shipping in early-modern Venice and the Mediterranean.
“Voilà un livre irremplaçable. Pour la première fois, un auteur choisit de traiter de la navigation vénitienne sous ses multiples aspects, politique, commercial, social, fiscal, du marché protégé au marché noir ou, si l’on préfère, de l’observation stricte des lois votées par les Conseils de la République, très attentifs à sauvegarder les positions commerciales de leur ville, à la contrebande durement réprimée, de la construction au naufrage provoqué et compensé par l’assurance maritime.”

----Jean-Claude Hocquet, in: Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales (June 2023) 78(2): pp. 389 - 391

“[…] an essential tool for all those interested in Venice and the major source of her influence and her prosperity, her ships of all kinds.”

----Susan Rose, in: The Mariner's Mirror (2022) 108(4): pp.480-481
List of Figures and Tables

 1 Structure
 2 Caution
 3 Editorial Matters
 4 Currencies

part 1: The Legal, Executive, and Judicial Framework

1 Venice’s Privilege-Based Merchant Marine
 1 Ship Registries and the San Marco Flag
 2 Ships with Privileges and Those Without

2 The Corridors of Power: Venice’s Maritime Authorities
 1 The Major State Authorities
 2 Executive Authorities Involved in Commercial Shipping
 3 The Enforcement of Sea Laws Overseas

3 The Protagonists: The Division of Ships into Classes and Groups
 1 Ship Classes and Privileged-Based Ship Groups
 2 The Carrack-Type Round Ship
 3 Other Types of Vessels

4 Volume, Size, and Loading Lines
 1 The botte and Other Units of Capacity
 2 Overall and Partial Capacities of Vessels
 3 Techniques to Calculate a Ship’s Capacity
 4 The Relative Capacity of the Hold
 5 Calculating the Carrying Capacity by Using Stowage Factors
 6 The stimadori and the Administration

5 ‘Safety First’: Rules for the Safety and Security at Sea
 1 Regulations against Overloading and Overcrowding
 2 The Military Potential
 3 The Quota of Professional Mariners and Crew on Board
 4 The Quota of Professional Soldiers
 5 Arms and Artillery Requirements
 6 Convoys of Merchant Ships (conserva)
 7 Mandatory Pilotage Services
 8 Venetian Safety Standards for Hawsers, Cordage, and Anchors

6 Navigating Fiscal Chaos
 1 The Vicissitudes of the Imposts on Ships
 2 Duties on Ships in the Port of Venice
 3 Negotiating Fiscal Privileges and Tax Concessions
 4 The Tax Burden and the Incentive Structure It Gave Rise To

part 2: Shipping Enterprise and the World of Round Ships

7 From Forming to Dissolving a Shipping Company
 1 The Organizational Structure of the Shipping Enterprise
 2 Insuring Ship and Freightage
 3 Settling the Accounts
 4 The Unloading Procedure in Venice’s Port

8 Ship Biographies
 1 The nave grossa Marcella, 1496–1503
 2 Riding Out the Storm: The Biography of the Ship Dolfina, 1525–29
 3 The Short History of the Priula, 1545–47

9 The Lifespan and Life-Cycle of Mediterranean Ships
 1 Shipworms and the Maintenance of Wooden Vessels
 2 Life-Expectancy Estimates
 3 The Economic Viability of Round Ships
 4 Costs of Construction, and the Depreciation of Value of Wooden Vessels

10 Can We Assess Profitability?
 1 The Services Provided by the Shipping Industry
 2 Sustaining a Liner Service against the Backdrop of Cargo Imbalance
 3 The Role of the State in Providing Freights for Its Round Ships
 4 Profits from Freightage and the ufficiali all’estraordinario
 5 Was Shipping a Long-Term Profitable Business?

part 3: ‘Venetian Shipping during the Commercial Revolution’ Reconsidered

11 Fortunes Begin to Ebb, 1453–89
 1 The Golden Age of Shipping, c. 1423–32
 2 The Shipping Markets Following the Fall of Constantinople
 3 The War That Triggered the Downturn, 1463–79
 4 Shipping Fails to Rally in Response to Emerging New Realities, 1480–89
 5 The Eclipse of Venice’s Oceanic Sea Lanes

12 The Roaring Nineties and the War with the Turks, 1490–1502
 1 A Positive Trend in Shipping during the Last Decade of the 15th Century
 2 The Merchant Marine c. July–August 1499: The War Effort
 3 The Detrimental Effects of the War with the Turks on Shipping, 1499–1502

13 Venetian Shipping in Crisis, 1503–26
 1 Venice’s Levant Trade in the First Quarter of the 16th Century
 2 Dwindling Traffic in Port and the Loss of Hegemony over the Adriatic Sea
 3 The Liberalization of Maritime Transport in the Western Mediterranean
 4 ‘Venice Is Drying Up’

14 A Period of Stagnation, 1527–40
 1 The Effects of a Rise in Natural Disasters on Shipping, 1527–33
 2 The Shipping Reform Act of 1534/5

15 The Emergence of New Players in Maritime Transport, 1541–71
 1 Regaining Momentum: Shipping and Trade Undergoing Liberalization
 2 A New Golden Age or an Indian Summer?
 3 The New Protagonists in Shipping and Trade
 4 Digest of Tables and Graphs

Conclusions 356
 1 The Aggregation of Vessels Hoisting the San Marco Flag
 2 Resiliency or Decline?
 3 Deforestation Was Not a Major Factor
 4 The Agency of Environmental Factors in Venice’s Decline
 5 Could the Senators Have Steered towards a Different Ending?

Appendix A: Snapshots of Venice’s Merchant Marine, 1480–1558

Appendix B: Estimates of the Size of Four Colonial Fleets, c. 1499

Appendix C: The Itinerary and Life Expectancy of Selected Round Ships

Appendix D: The Cost of Construction and the Value of Wooden Vessels

Appendix E: Net Incomes from Freights Transferred by the Cashier of the Estraordinario

Appendix F: Gross Incomes from Freights
Sources and Bibliography
All those interested in the history of the Republic of Venice and its territories in Dalmatia, Greece, and the Levant, and scholars inquiring into early modern maritime and global history.
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