Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Bank of St George in their native city paid 6 per cent on deposits

From The World Encompassed: The First European Maritime Empires by G.V. Scammell, page 155. Scammell is contrasting the Venetians and the Genoese.
Between the two cities the antithesis was complete. Venice, whatever restrictions islands and lagoons might impose on her, still had all the space of the Adriatic and the Po Valley to hand. Genoa, hemmed in by mountains, and huddled on a narrow coastal fringe, was already in medieval art a city without gardens or squares, dominated by skyscrapers, and with its population confined by the 1400s within a walled area only one-fifth the size of that of Ghent. Torn by factional strife, and for long a byword for political instability, Genoa succumbed to alien rule in the Middle Ages whilst Venice, to the admiration of publicists, preserved her independence until modern times. The Genoese state was territorially insignificant, feeble and fragile, yet the economy of Genoa was the most glowing testimony to the blessings of free enterprise before the rise of industrial Britain. Venice on the other hand was strong and centralized with almost every detail of social and economic life controlled by a ruling class equally remarkable for its prudence and sense of duty. And if Venice, its patricians housed in elegant palaces, was to produce in architecture, art and music one of Europe's most distinctive and influential cultures, Genoa, whose embattled magnates owned urban fortresses, was to be remembered as the very apotheosis of the business ethos. 'Genoese and therefore a merchant' it was said in the medieval centuries, and, to many, such merchants were energetic philistines unwholesomely dedicated to the pursuit of profit. They were, wrote a Portuguese chronicler of the fifteenth century, men who never invested their capital without the certainty of gain, whilst another equally high-minded Iberian dismissed them as persons 'of a sordid mercantile mentality'. And it was that true son of Genoa, Christopher Columbus, who having in his will nobly spoken of the need 'for every man of rank and property to serve God', characteristically went on to remind his son that the Bank of St George in their native city paid 6 per cent on deposits.
The leopard shows his spots.

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