I. FEATURES OF EARLY VENICE (5th - 9th Century)
- Located in north Italy.
- Made up of 120 small islands, in a lagoon.
- Protected from the currents of the Adriatic
Sea by longer islands in the south.
- Several salt marshes on the lagoons, which
later became a profitable resource.
location contributed to its development as a city state and rise as a maritime
empire in Europe.
B. Life Of Early Venetians
- Early Venetian settlements consisted of small
- Constructed a system in which rainwater could
be collected in communal walls so that they would have a constant water
- Venetians have knowledged of crafts, fishing
and salt production.
- They became seamen out of necessity as
agriculture could not be practised on a large scale.
- The islets have small land areas.
prepared by the way they lived and worked to develop as an advanced
civilization compared to the neighbouring settlements. This allowed Venice to grow
rapidly as a regional power.
C. Venetian Society
- Venetians' urban planning system was the
foundation of Venice's social stability.
Venice was divided into 6 districts
- Organised the way they lived & worked.
- Created a sense of belonging &
neighbourliness among the Venetians.
During festive occasions, people would father
in the central near the church for celebrations.
- each district was further divided into
smaller adminstrative & social units.
- Houses were built close to one another due to
scarcity of land.
- Enabled the rich & poor to interact
Society was very well-organized and developed compared to the neighbouring
settlements. Hence, Venice soon became a role model as a successful city-state
as it grew rapidly as a regional power.
D. Economic Activities
- Venice was able to monopolize the salt trade
in the region by taking advantage of their knowledge of salt production
& favorable location surrounded by sea.
- early venetian boatmen traded salt & fish
for grain with the communities along Po River, located at the West of the
- established trade agreements with different
communities living by the river.
- Gain access to mainland & its forested
- Obtain its source of wood for trading, e.g.
with Egypt for valuable goods such as gold, spices, incense &
allowed Venice to grow its maritime economy rapidly and exert a strong
commercial influence in the region, that even the Byzanties even relied on
Venice to protect some of their territories along the Italian shores. This
paved the way for Venice to rise rapidly as a regional power.
E. System of Government
- Structure of early Venetian Gov. that lasted from
8th - 10th Century.
Venice was allowed to choose their own leader,
the Doge, through the elections despite being a vassal state
of Byzantine Empire.
- Doge > Ducal Council > General
Ducal Council is formed by 2 advisers.
- Usually appointed for life.
- Chosen from ruling families of Venice.
- Was the most experienced official.
- selected men eligible to be Doge for
- elect the Doge
- passed laws on essential issues such as on
trade & housing.
The system of
Government allowed Vernice to be well governed by an effective & organised
government. This political stability allowed Venice to rapidly rise as a
of Venice as An Empire (9th - 15th Centuries)
Control in Adriatic Sea
- Doge Pietro II Orseolo felt that peace in the
region would boost trade.
- Maintained friendship with Byzantine Emperor
in the East.
- Established relations with Germanic Kings in
- Created trade links with Muslim states in
- Reconciled feuding cities.
- Disallowed trade between Venetians &
cities controlled by pirates to cut off their salt supply &
- Bringing piracy under control & subdued
pirates in Dalmatia
- Doge Enrico Dandolo directed the Fourth
Crusade under the command of Pope Innocent III, head of western Christian
Doge Pietro Ziani suceeded him in 1205, who
believed in expanding trade through conquests.
- Originally was a military campaign to free
Jerusalem from Muslim control, but became a campaign to overthrow
Byzantine Emperor & take over capital at Constantinople.
- Hence :
- Gain recognition
- Control some of the important territories
which had belonged to the fallen Byzantine Empire, which were important
- ensure that Venice gained control of
important routes in Mediterranean Sea.
- Thus, it marked the beginning of Venice's
growth as an maritime empire.
The leaders of
Venice, especially the Doges, were far-sighted and had made outstanding
contributions to ensure rapid growth & rapid development of Venice. Without
strong leadership, Venice would not be able to compete against her neighbours
and expand accross the region.
2. Reforms in the Government
- Made up of the Doge + 6 Ducal Councillors + 3
Heads of the Council of Forty in the 14th Century.
- Ensure there were no corrupt practices or
abuse of power by the Doge or any high ranking official.
Became one of the most important branches of
the government, esp in handling confidential & critical matters
such as putting an end to uprisings or handling cases of treason.
- Emphasizes that no one was above the law,
including the Doge.
concentration of power
- The Nominating Committee was added to the
election process to identify suitable male candidates for all elected
positions through the process of balloting.
- Prevents any individual/ family from
dominating the government.
- Nobles appointed were not allowed the reject
- in order to ensure all positions of
responsibility in the government were filled up.
- Nobles were not allowed
to campaign for support in the election.
- Discourages rivalry among them & no one
could be appointed as a result of personal favour.
Reforms in the
government ensure that the demands of the people & city-state are being
met, hence assuring the rapid growth & development of Venice. Without
government reforms, the leadership of Venice may become complacent or
B. ECONOMIC FACTORS
1. Trade Development & Expansion
- Venetians were skilled diplomats.
Venetians possessed an enterprising spirit.
- Able to obtain favourable trading terms such
as having lower tax rates.
- Bring in highly-prized spices from the East.
- Maintained competitive edge over competitors
such as Genoa, another rising Italian city-state.
- Travelled to unknown lands to explore new
trade routes, supplies & markets.
- e.g. The Polo family's exploration of
overland trade route to CHina earned Venice good relations with
countries in the Far East.
- Hence, extending trade
further from beyond the Middle East.
Innovations in maritime
- Previously, poor visibility caused by bad
weather unabled travels during winter.
Venetians had extensive knowledge of
- With advanced technology now, travels become
possible, enabling Venice to continue to dominate trade in the
Mediterranean Sea throughout the year.
In the 13th Century, the first Venetian great
galley was built.
- Designed & built superior vessels to meet
- Unlike tradition sailing ships, Venetian
fleets were propelled by both oars & sails and not depend solely on
- Hence, merchant &
battle fleets were able to travel further, facilitating the expandsion
of trade & territorial control.
- A combination of merchant & war vessel.
- It is formidable enough to discourage most
pirates from launching an attack on Venetian trading ships.
- Venetians traders were now able to travel in
winter, hence able to make more frequent voyages.
- Great galleys were also capable of
transporting more goods.
- The Senate came up with an effective management
- Organised & monitored schedule of trade
- Grouped traders to travel in conveys, as it
is more profitable to trade in larger quantities.
- Main trade competitor was Genoa.
- Dependent on maritime trade.
- Had a conflict of political & commercial
interestes, resulting in many wars.
- Competed fiercely with Venice especially in
the Mediterranean Sea & Black Sea.
- Defeated in late 14th Century by Venice.
- From 9th-15th century, trade was dominated by
Venice, Genoa, & Hanseatic League.
As Venice was located at the northern tip of
Adriatic Sea, Central & Southern Europe relied on them for goods from
East such as spices, sugar & diamonds.
Using combination of overland & sea
routes, Ventians went to Arabian parts such as Alexandra and Hormuz to buy
& late sell these goods to other European states at very high prices.
- Venice was most successful, as they were able
to provide larger variety of goods from the East.
The factors of
trade development & expansion of trade ensure that Venice could continue to
grow rapidly as a great sea power & trading empire. With the great wealth
fromj her thriving trade, Venice became much more powerful compared to her
neighbours in Europe.
2. Industrial Development
- Shipbuilding industry benefitted immediately
from expansion of trade
- before advances in maritimes, the industry
was small & scattered all over Venice.
- Around yr 1100, all the shipbuilders were
centralised at a new location, the Arsenal.
- prevent overcrowding & minimise noise
pollution at Bacino San Marco, the main trading port in the lagoon.
- Expanded in 13th Century to facilitate
production as demand for great galleys increases.
- Eventually became backbone of Venice's
maritime industry & power.
- With trade expansion, ↑ affluence, ↑ demand for goods.
Most well-known manufacturing industry was the
New industries emerged.
- hence promoted growth of manufacturing
- e.g. Printing industry. It was established to
serve the large reading public in Venice. Venice's extensive trade
connections made it easy to find buyers for goods & obtain supplies
such as paper.
- many jobs were created for the people
- attracted skilled craftsmen from other parts
of Europe to settle down & work in Europe.
activities in Venice helped to reinforce her economic strength as a trading
power. Many other European countries lost out to Venice as their trading ships
& products were inferior compared to those made in Venice.
3. Innovative Practices
- Double-entry bookkeeping
- The amt. of goods in possession & details
of recent transactions have to be accessible with many diff trading
- Double-entry bookkeeping has proven to be a
useful system to record business transactions
- The standardisation of
the credit & debit columns and entries which are recorded by date
helps to meet the needs of businesses
- Now, with an account in a bank, there was a
need to carry different currencies.
- Now, with an account in a bank, payments can
be made or received by making a request at the bank. This made
Practices provided a very conducive environment for social contact &
economic transactions among traders of different countries. Thus it is a very
important factor that attracted many countries to want to trade in Venice, making
her one of the most thriving countries in Europe.
III. FALL OF VENICE
A. EXTERNAL FACTORS
1. Foreign Threats
Involvement in the
- At the beginning of 15th Century, political
developments in Europe forced Venetian government to turn its attention to
controlling nearby mainland territories.
Venice tried to achieve balance of power by
creating alliances with large states such as the feuding France &
- Needed to secure & maintain supply of
resources such as food & water for the city-state's growing
population & expanding industries.
- Territories & commercial interests can be
protected by taking advantage of rivalry among mainland states.
- Made overland trade routes that were
depended on by Venetians for trading to be unsafe, as constant battles
were fought in the region.
- switching alliances with different opposing
states meant that Venice was constantly threading on fragile relations
with the larger states.
- This puts Venice at high risk of being
attacked should negotiations fial as there was no certainty which would
ultimately benefit Venice.
involvement in the mainland Europe drained her financial & mainpower
resources as she had to employ a mercenary army to fight her battles due to her
small population. Even though Venice was able to defend herself in all these
battles, she found herself overly exerted.
The Ottoman Empire
- They expanded their influence from Middle
East into Europe
- Replaced Genoa as Venice's greatest
competitor for maritime control by 15th Century.
- Ottomans acquired territories along the west
of Adriatic Sea and lauched attacks at Venetian territories from there.
Thus, Venice had to use galleys to fend off attacks.
- This disruptes the use of
galleys for trading purposes.
- The act of giving concessions to Ottomans
whenever it suited Venice's commercial interests but would later seek
military aid from other European states to defend its territories caused
European neighbours to eventually develop a deep hostility.
By fighting and
defending against the Ottoman Empire, Venice's wealth & energy were further
depleted, especially at times when she had to fight against other European
countries at the same time as well. Venice was also forced to give up some of
her territories to avoid losses, such as Negroponte, one of its most important
Eastern Trade outposts in the Mediterranean in 1470.
The League of
In one of the battles at Agnadello, the
Venetian mercenery army was badly defeated.
- Consisted of most major powers in Europe.
(Spain, Hungary & France)
- Aimed to reduce power of Venice & divide
its territories amongst larger states.
- Venice then created new alliances with some
states and managed to recapture some of its territories through renewed
- Venice negotiated for seperate peace with
some states in League by giving concessions.
With large states
like France & Spain forming alliances such as the League of Cambrai, Venice
found herself increasingly isolated. Because of this, Venice had to fend for
herself against the Ottoman Empire on her own, which further drained &
weakened Venice as she had to face all surrounding threats.
2. Maritime Competition
Discovery of new
- In 1497, a Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama
went around the Cape of Good Hope and successfully reached Calicut, a
thriving spice centre in India.
- Thus, the Portugese were able to buy their
spices directly from India.
- This new sea route destroyed Venice's monopoly
of the lucrative spice trade and greatly reduced her large profits.
- Compared to this route, Venice's tradition
route to the East by Mediterrenean Sea followed by an overland route was
time-consuming and unsafe due to robbers & plunders hiding in the
desert and mountainous terrains.
With new trade
routes, Venice began to lose its important & exclusive positioin as the
middleman between the East & the West. With this, Venice's trade &
wealth began to drop drastically as she loses her dominance as the main trading
power in Europe.
New trade rivals
- By 17th Century, these companies were
- Dutch East India Company
English East India Company (EIC)
- Bypassed Venetians to go to East to get
- Specialised in bringing cotton & peper
- Tea & porcelain from China.
- Both the Dutch & British had better
- Although Venice suceeded in imitating the
ships, she don't have skilled sailors to operate them.
- England & Holland were more successful in
negotiating for favourable trading rights in new ports.
Venice's status as
the leading trade nation was gradually replaced by other rising trading nations
such as Holland, Britain & France, and also becoming less popular as a port
of call because she started to impose protectionist policies against her trade
rivals. These trade rivals then shunned from trading with Venice as it proved
too costly to trade with Venetians. Venice's insistence on maintaining its
monopolistic position eventually resulted in the loss of some of her trading
mainland Europe is the most important external factor contributing to
the fall of Venice because it is the root factor that leads to other
Bad relations that
Venice had with other countries in mainland Europe made European countries form
anti-Venice alliances such as the League of Cambrai and gave Ottoman Empire a
chance to threaten Venice.
The threats from
mainland Europe also motivate other European countries such Britain & the
Dutch to look for new trade routes and become Venice's trade rivals.
1. Political Challenges
- Most policies were meant to preserve the
power, prestige & wealth of the novles rather than for the good of the
- Basic structure of Venetian government
remained unchanged since 12th Century.
In the 15th Century, 2 Captain-Generals of
Navy, Nicolo da Canal & Antonio Grimani who despite proven themselves
as ambassador and financier respectively, lacked military skills were
appointed to lead the navy against Ottomans.
- Rotation of duties ensured no
individual/family could dominate the government.
- However, competent officers would have to
leave the office after a term. In some cases, incompetent ones were
selected in their place.
- This caused Venice to suffer heavy losses in
would not be able to plan or implement policies to ensure Venice's sustainable
growth. Without strong leaders, Venice would not be able to cope with both
internal problems & external threats effectively.
Corruption in the
- Venetian government suspended salaries of
civil servants to finance the cost of wars with Ottomans &
- Leadership was determined by how much nobles
could afford to pay to be elected.
- Sold positions to raise funds during crises.
At the core of the
Venetian government, corruption added to the inefficiency of the city-state.
The corrupted officials led to the decay of the government integrity, making it
increasingly incapable of governing Vernice against both internal problems
& external threats.
- Venice's small population reduced
significantly from outbreaks of plague.
In 1615, Venice employed mercenaries to fight
in the War of Gradisca. Later in 1619, near the end of the war, the
Council of Ten discovered a large no. of French mercenaries' plot to seize
Ducal Palace and kill Senate members and rob noble's palaces.
- This raises a neccessity for Venice to maintian
the large mercenary army to protect its territories & fight its wars.
commitment of its citizens to defend their own city, Venice ended up relying
heavily on mercenaries for her defence. This is impudent because it led to
increased expenditure. In addition, Venice's wealth could not buy loyalty and
commitment from the mercenaries as seen that they could always be offered
better salaries from other states. Resultantly, Venice became very vulnerable
to external threats.
2. Social Challenges
- Having lived in peace & stability, it
caused Venetians to be conceited and pirioritizes wealth over maintaing
security of the city-state.
- Nobles became less involved in impt matters
such as adminstration & development of the city-state as they become
- Many wealthy nobles indulged in lavish parties
& celebrations known as Carnevale which could last up to 6 months.
Even when Doge Paolo Renier died on 13/2/1789, the announcement was
delayed until 2/3/1789 to not interrupt the Carnevale.
increasily complacent and became blind to both the internal problems &
external threats that their city-state was facing. Thus, the Venetians were
incapable of protecting themselves effectively when serious problems occured.
C. IMMEDIATE FACTORS
1. Rise & Conquest by French Empire
- In 18th century, France's growing power
threatened many European states.
- Under the leadership of Napolean Bonaparte,
the French swept across Western Europe and moved into the Italian
- Compared to sophistication of the French Army,
Venice's fortresses & army were outdated.
- No capable nobles present to organise and lead
an army to defeat Napolean's soldiers.
- Venice rejected Italian states' invitation to
join an alliance for fear of proving the French.
- Absence of fighting spirit.
The French empire
served as a trigger & final blow to the collapse of Venice as a city-state.
Venice was so weak and incapable of defending herself that she surrendered to
France without even bothering to put up a fight on 12 May 1797.