Venice – the powerful business network of the Middle Ages
Venetian Merchants Of The Later Middle Ages
No wonder, then, that the Venetian merchants - the middlemen closest to the end customers and with the most visibility of the entire network - moved to take greater control of the network.
It should not surprise us that consolidation of political power made the business network more effective and efficient at the same time. There are ample historic records, as well as anecdotal writings - from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice" to Horatio Brown's historical reviews - that make great reading about the business network centered around the Venetian merchants of the later Middle Ages.
The network had become a lot more formal in its form
In the late Middle Ages, the bankers, merchants, and ship owners of Venice controlled the trade into Europe. At the peak of its power, the Venetian Republic had a fleet of ships exceeding 3000 vessels and controlled all trade from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. To assure security of the supply network, the Venetian Republic controlled territories on the Adriatic coast, so pirates could not attack their ships coming from the east. Using their financial power, the Venetian Merchants’ Guild began to dis-intermediate the middlemen in the entire supply chain.
The simultaneous rise of strong Arab empires with central command, first in Baghdad and later in Cairo controlling a vast territory, aided this process of dis-inter-mediation as the caravans could traverse a much greater distance and were assured relatively more security in their travels. A key feature of the Venetian business network was the role of political power, as well as finance, in shaping desirable business outcomes and securing these outcomes for the key participants in these networks.