Circulation of goods and “nationes” of merchants: economy and society in the relations between “mercatores de Venetia” and Apulian “universitates” at the end of the Middle Ages


The aim of this project is to provide an insight into the economy and society at the end of the Middle Ages, choosing as vantage point the trade relations between the Republic of Venice and Apulia, and the Venetian merchants and their families as protagonists.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, scholarship has been more attentive to the political and diplomatic history of the kingdom, from the perspective of the penetration of foreign capital, which showed the romantic image of a prosperous and happy medieval country, depleted, however, by foreign merchants, which must be essentially the age-old backwardness of Southern Italy.
Through the most recent studies on the relationship between political authority and companies, we have a framework for greater interpenetration between structures of the economy of Southern Italy and interests of the major foreign companies than it is was noted by historians of the end of the nineteenth century.
I propose to find unpublished information about their former family, preserved in the Venetian archives and to link them to those handed down from the archives of the Kingdom of Naples. I have come across documents relating to the families of these Venetian merchants (mostly acts of baptism at the end of the fifteenth century) and their wives ("confessions dotium"). These merchants, in short, not only lived "nel nome di Dio e del guadagno", but married women of the cities of the Kingdom of Naples and had children. They are valuable sources for the appearance (when, for example, the family crest is reproduced), but also for the content, since we offer a clearer picture of the insertion of these merchants into Apulian society, one less guided by economic interests presented in traditional historiography.
Therefore, another aim of this project is to investigate how Venetian merchants traded oil from Apulia. The Apulian oil was much appreciated for its quality, subject to a preferential taxation and the subject of contention even among the European powers, in the course of the modern age.
Venice and Apulia will be the geographical areas I give precedence to in this project. The adopted method firstly proposes the analysis of the archival records. The State Archive of Venice will be the main venue of consultation: I intend to consult the main archival series, beginning with the sources regarding the most important families of Venetian merchants and nobles. A parallel analysis will be conducted for the region of Apulia, where, however, the archival situation is less clear, and for the lack of records kept, and because it has so far been the subject of systematic study. These documents (notarial registers, "confessiones dotium", accounting books) allow us to find patiently the presence of the Venetian merchants and their economic activity.
The research will be conducted in the archives of the Terra di Bari, which contains the most important late medieval records: the State Archives of Bari and Trani; the diocesan archives of Giovinazzo, Molfetta and Monopoli which have preserved not only ecclesiastical sources, but also ecclesiastical public or semi-public charters regarding "capitula", grants privileges and tax exemptions, requests of "grazie" by Venetian merchants. At the time, I found, however, hitherto neglected private documents relating to Venetian merchants, their economic activities and their families, which deserve a systematic study.
One of my first final aims is to discuss the unpublished notes in a seminar, then to publish the results of my research. To prevent valuable data from being neglected or too difficult to access, I also intend to process serially the collected data and create a database searchable online by name, with biographical sketches of Venetian merchants, indication and document summary of the records relating to them and any other information found in the Venetian and Apulian archives.

2014 - 2016

Nicola Lorenzo Barile

Responsabile per il Dipartimento
Maripatrizia Mainoni