|FABER & FABER|
the guardian Tue 24 July 2012
Venice was "grown hydroponically, conjured out of marsh". It had no land and so unlike the rest of Europe there was no feudal system of knights and serfs. Instead Venetians created a republic. Risk-taking and commerce were in their blood. According to Crowley, Venice was "the first virtual economy". From the 11th to the early 16th century, this "city of fantasy" grew fabulously wealthy on trade. Unlike any other state at the time, Venice was "shockingly modern", deciding its policies solely on the basis of economics. This "empire of cash" was run by and for entrepreneurs, replacing "the chivalrous medieval knight with a new type of hero: the man of business". Venice became a role model for other maritime states, such as Britain, and for better or worse, such attitudes eventually shaped the modern world. Venice could once boast that its power was felt "wherever water runs". Crowley's vivid history provides a gripping account of how the Republic came to dominate the eastern Mediterranean and indeed medieval global trade for some 500 years.