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Profit and Commitment: Lorenzo Dolfin and the Commercial Family in Venetian Long-Distance Trade, c.1399-1475

Morche, Franz-Julius

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Abstract

This study investigates the life and career of Lorenzo Dolfin (c. 1399-1475), a Venetian merchant active mainly during the first half of the fifteenth century. Asking the interrelated questions “how did fifteenth-century Venetian patricians organise their commercial affairs, and what can we learn from their specific example in terms of the wider institutional history of economic development in Europe, the Mediterranean and beyond?”, it combines an historical analysis with a theoretical framework that critically considers methods of social and economic history, economic network theory and institutional economics. The study contends that the patrician family – not, as often maintained, state structures and political frameworks – was the primary social institution supporting Venetian long-distance trade on the brink of the early modern period. It observes a flexible family structure in which individuals were able to freely position themselves between different branches of their paternal and maternal families for various social, political, and economic purposes, which also sheds light on women as significant actors within patrician families. In order to categorise the complexity of intra- and inter-family cooperation, the study proposes an eight-level scheme of structural family components that perform different functions in specific social contexts. Dubbed the comprehensive family, the model highlights the commercial family as an institutional solution to the commitment problem in long-distance trade.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Christ, Dr. Georg
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 23 April 2013
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2020 08:40
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: Philosophische Fakultät > Historisches Seminar
Subjects: 940 General history of Europe
990 General history of other areas
Controlled Keywords: Medieval History, Early Modern History, Economic History, Social History
Uncontrolled Keywords: Venice, long-distance trade, patriciate, family
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