By Merav Mack
PhD Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2003
Abstract: The Merchant of Genoa is a study of the Genoese engagement in the affairs of the eastern Mediterranean during the late Middle Ages. In particular, the dissertation examines Genoa’s involvement in three crusades following the fall of the first kingdom of Jerusalem as well as the role played by Genoese in commerce and in the re-establishment of the Latin society in the crusader states. The research focuses on the people of Genoa, merchants and travellers who explored the Mediterranean Sea, crusaders and the Genoese who settled in the crusader states, far away from Genoa. What these people had in common, apart from being Genoese, is that they left records of their activities in the form of notarial documents. This is probably the earliest time in the history of Europe in which such documents were not only recorded but also preserved for posterity. The existence of this collection of documents from the time of the crusades, many of which are as yet unpublished, is therefore an opportunity for a fresh examination of the events from the perspective of individual merchants and exploring the economic interests of the commune.
This dissertation addresses questions about the connection between crusade and commerce. What motivated the Genoese to help the crusaders in 1187-1192? Why did they not provide ships for the participants of the Fourth Crusade? How did the crusade affect Genoa’s web of commerce? Special attention is given to individual and families of Genoese who settled in the Latin East. The case of the aristocratic Genoese family of the Embriaco is particularly interesting because of that family’s integration into the aristocracy in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Issues concerning the loyalties and identities of Genoese settlers in the crusader states are addressed and examined in parallel with the examination of the activities of other Genoese, merchants and travellers, who were involved in commerce in Muslim centres in the same period.