Book Reviews

VENICE A New History

In this sweeping, majestic oeuvre of Venice, the author traces the history of this city’s humble beginnings as a lagoon refuge to its apex as a vast maritime empire and Renaissance epicentre to its rebirth as a modern tourist hub.

Thomas madden is a talented and serious scholar who tells a gripping story based on his thorough research and understanding Mediterranean history.

Many books have been written about on Venice, but this one is probably the best overall history of the once most admired, well-managed, and prosperous city of the then known world.

This oeuvre contains solid information emphasising La Serenissima’s stature as the world’s longest living republic and commercial power.

Venetians are credited with the invention of double-entry bookkeeping, laying the foundations of modern capitalism, and  banking.

Absolutely, all political details and their repercussions are discussed and analysed from a historical perspective.

It is due to the intelligent commerce and well-thought out political system of doges that the vast empire was able to overcome and endure monumental power shifts during the Middle Ages, and Renaissance.

At its apogee la Serenissima extended from Caffa in southern Crimea to Cyprus, Crete, Milan and the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.

Venetian senators organized and contributed to several Crusades and often co-operated with different Popes, who in the Middle Ages were active in politics and played an active role in all kinds of political events of Europe.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 hurt the Venetian commerce immensely and contributed largely to its demise a few centuries later. In the interim, Venetian merchants were able to hold on to their permanent settlements in Constantinople, and supported the republic through their taxes.

Late in 18th century Venice fell victim to political upheavals in Europe, but the city did not disappear completely. It simply changed to a different place by discovering the importance of tourism and its financial contribution to the evolution of the city.

Today, Venice has a population of 60 000, but attracting more than 20 million tourists, most of whom are day-visitors stay in Mestre, and other smaller cities on the mainland. These day-trippers contribute little to the economy, and life not only difficult to Venetians, but also expensive.

This is a book for history buffs, and all who are planning to visit Venice.

Highly recommended.





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