Angeliki E. Laiou: The Byzantine Economy

Free read The Byzantine Economy AUTHOR Angeliki E. Laiou – chernov–

Stand outdated assumption is the book s mission statement Finally the thing that s treated as most niversally known is the thing that barely gets a straight mention Constantinople s fatal sack by Venetian crusaders which in 1204 all but decapitated the Eastern Roman EmpireI said the book isn t a story but as a layman I can but look for narratives And the narrative that most interests me is the 10th century shift in economics that seems to have led directly to the Sack bIbBy the 10th century Byzantium had not only recovered from the centuries of the plague that had shrunk its territory but also become very rich Getting there involved an overhaul of the economy as population had dwindled and security had broken down Constantinople in the 8th century was a shell of its former self at most 70000 strong down from an The Stephanides Pregnancy unparalleled 400000 two centuries earlier People moved to fortified and elevated communities and their surrounding hinterlands at such an extent that the word kastro came to replace the word polis In the countryside LM tells ancient monuments now served as housing and baths had become slaughterhouses The first great The Tycoons Reluctant Cinderella urbanization beueathed by Rome was a thing of the pastThe Emperors by and large Heraclians and Isaurians shuffled populations around in an attempt to integrate the economy In a bittersweet turn around the year 1000 Peloponnese people return to the Pylos region It was only one of many forms of state intervention such as merchants entering Constantinople having to pay a 10% ad valorem tax the kommerkion a ban on exporting critical commodities from grain and iron to for some reason fish sauce a fix on profit margins merchants cannot maximize profits by buying cheap and selling dear they have to maximize turnover and keep capital costs low and regulations that allowed guild members to compete with each other while preventing them from cornering the marketMost impressively following the massive land sales of the 927 8 famine scenarios where peasants were pressured to sell for peanuts could lead to the buyer losing the land owing to the laessio enormis excessive damage legal interpretation How many peanuts Half the property s just price How much compensation for the buyer NadaIt s not to say that Byzantium ca the 900s was some sort of welfare state LM read a fiscal motive in the laessio enormis who endsp with the reuisitioned land which in any case was only occasionally implemented and is The True King of Dahaar (A Dynasty of Sand and Scandal ultimately considerednsuccessful as it doesn t address the economic conditions creating the pressures in the first place It does however point to an nderlying economic ideology Aristotelian by way of the Church Fathers wherein such notions as the poor or just price as well as just wage have a place In other words there is a paradigm of justice which St Basil of Cesarea defines as distributing to each what is euitable or as the key legislative text of the Book of the Prefect puts it the powerful should not injure the less powerful everything should be weighed by a just measure By the late 10th century the state though largest land and everything holder has created the conditions a mostly free market of which it the main pole of demand The aristocracy are obliged to charge lower interest rates the Emperor stands between rich and poor holding the floodgates and the currency approaches dollar of the middle ages conditions Too good to lastbIbIf you don t know about the Sack the summary is that the Fourth Crusade takes a detour towards the Bosporus in response to the xenophobic delirium known as the Massacre of the Latins Religious tensions between th. Nd ideology It provides a comprehensive overview of the economy with an emphasis on the economic actions of the state and the productive role of the city and non economic actors such as landlords artisans and money changers The final chapter compares the Byzantine economy with the economies of western Euro.

So dry An excellent overview of the Byzantine economy with comparisons with the West during the same period A great resource A demand and market centric take on the Byzantine economy Argue that Byzantium employed a mixed economic model that had both state and market aspects The authors have an emphasis in the direction of the capitalist world they argue that Byzantium had the communication systems literacy safety and surplus to develop into a capitalist economy life the west eventually did but that political failure excessive taxation at the wrong times and a failure to fully access the international market did it in The agrarian base is both omnipresent and ignored here the factors that permitted recovery after the eighth century nadir are said to be cities hoarded metals crafts and even grain and taxes giving s a sense of where the centre of the economy sits for the authors The mixed economy is presumably a reaction against the dominance of agrarian centric works but how accurate it is in relation to the massive agrarian economy is in doubt The final chapter is a The Making Of Henri Higgins useful comparison of Byzantium to the west and is less encomiastic than its Byzantine Exemplar title might suggest However on that note the book is than a little given to Byzantine exceptionalism and we have been given to doubt that for example Byzantine literacy or communications were really so much better than those in the Carolingian world Aseful survey but readers should be aware of the prominence it gives to markets Book review TAKEAWAYLaiou and Morrison s The Byzantine Economy is a study not a story I read it as an outsider struggling to keep p with the endless silks vineyards pottery glassware legislation special taxes and shipwrecks so the conclusions make sense and there is gist to take away The book covers almost the entirety of the empire s history discussing a smorgasbord of points of interest in 250 odd pages My task was by no means thankless I carried a little pencil around and soon found myself nderlining something at every other paragraph flipping back to track down passages that had stuck to memory and ending Taming a Dark Horse (Men of the West, up rereading the entire section in a kind of runner s highI also borrowed a set of sticky bookmarks from our office supplies and stuck one on wherever Inderlined The Child Who Rescued Christmas / Firefighter with a Frozen Heart until I ran out and my copy looked all set for carnival Nevertheless it was worth it because previously I had been dog earring pages to the point of book vandalismThere are things in the book that are assumed to be known by a student of economic history of which like I said I m only a tourist Some things are semantic Monetization doesn t refer to making money out of something like your eye catching iPhone game it simply refers to transactions carried out in currency outside the exchange economy Getting the peasants to pay their taxes in cash or commuting the soldiers pay to cash are political innovations not to be taken for grantedCurrency in turn or rather coinage wasn t always the junk metal we resed to Coin alloys The Sabbides Secret Baby used to include precious metals at ratios determined by the governmental and economic winds Sometimes they did resemble the goldsilvercopper hierarchy of video game nomenclature Sometimes they had really cool names like the Komenos dynasty s hyperpyron a coin so gold scholars call it the dollar of the Middle Ages Roughly the precious the coin the stronger the state that issued itOther things you re expected to know are historiographical in particular the traditional view of the empire as a statist monstrosity doomed to collapsender its own weight Fighting this long held and I Favourite Daughter under. This is a concise survey of the economy of the Byzantine Empire from the fourth century AD to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Organised chronologically the book addresses key themes such as demography agriculture manufacturing and therban economy trade monetary developments and the role of the state

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E split Chistendoms are commonly given as one cause to enmity Another would have to do with the significant concessions given to Venetian Genoese and Pisan merchants who were even given their own Until Again uarters in ConstantinopleIn the 11th and 12th centuries we re told growth accelerates The countryside or less feudalizes a development LM don t consider inherently nasty contra traditional views though they do conclude peasant exploitation rose Urbanization goes further than it ever will with Constantinople recouping its area and 40000 strong population while a guesstimate puts second city Thessaloniki at 150000 Markets open with states adopting a common maritime law framework as after all someone needs to look out for pirates This it the time when Byzantine silks are the most coveted across the known world and across Greece mulberry trees proliferate to feed the silkworms cultivated by men working alongside women and Greeks alongside Jews Trade liberalizes and the stage is set for the first globalizationAs merchants rise in power however they are given court titles and Senate seats The aristocracy don t like that andnder the Komnenid dynasty men of affairs are barred from government An era of nepotism sets in with twin military and fiscal crises It s nclear whether the Komnenians military misadventures brought about the debasement of the currency or vice versa Their policies however are documented On one hand the land taxes that had accounted for much of the state revenue waned as lands and revenues were now given as reward and though estates absorbed of the peasantry tax exemptions were becoming norm On the other the era saw a rise in tax farming a historically odious practice that almost privatizes tax collection and the exercise of regalian rights such as the confiscation of a murderer s property Again all these inflows were now in a devalued currencySome words stand out in a study Laiou describes first Komnenian Alexios I s rule as authoritarian feudalism his successors as lackadaisical the entire ruling clanclass grasping and self serving What does idealand look like nder the Komnenians Two centuries ago the Emperor s role was to inhibit wealth accumulation now he encourages it through grants and privileges Symeon the New Theologian in a parable that doesn t sound much like a parable offers that the good merchant is simply he who brings in bacon Michael of Ephesos repurposes Aristotelian notions just price is here Beyond The Devils Teeth understood as the market price while justice is simply the guarantee of security for a free transaction Most interestingly he defines interest as profit which according to LM and colored by mynderstanding means that Byzantium beat Western Europe at conceptualizing capital by some nontrivial time and is but one of several contemporaneous examples of advanced economic thought Profit acuires positive connotations in Blaze Duo unexpected texts is probably my favoriteote from the bookIn these conditions the exemption of the merchants of the Italian The Highlanders Redemption (Highland Brides uarters from pretty much every tax and trade restriction discussed earlier seem par for the course What of its effects LM carefully balance between yet another traditional view wherein Byzantine slowpokes are left behind by free trade and a modern one that sees them left better off Local merchants shared in the profits from the exemptions given butp to a point they were ltimately at a disadvantage Further though the privileges were instituted to reciprocate for naval help against Norman raids they were escalated in response to pressure from the same increasingly domineering navies gradually closing off. Pe and concludes that the Byzantine economy was one of the most successful examples of a mixed economy in the pre industrial world This is the only concise general history of the Byzantine economy and will be essential reading for students of economic history Byzantine history and medieval history generall.

Angeliki Laiou was a Greek Byzantinist