Social Studies Venice
RISE OF VENICE 9th
Capable and committed leadership
Exemplary political system / Reforms in the government
Trade developments and expansion / Enterprising spirit towards trade
DECLINE OF VENICE
RISE OF VENICE 9th
POINT EXAMPLES EXPLANATION
Capable leaders contributed to rise of
Venice. Some made outstanding
contributions in growth and
development of Venice as they were
Establishing control in the Adriatic Sea
o Doge Pietro II Orseolo was a
capable leader who felt that
peace in region would boost
o He reunited disputing cities,
negotiated treaties with major
powers and subdued pirates in
o Maintained friendship with
Byzantine emperor in East and
established relations with
Germanic kings in the West to
protect Venice’s independence
and obtain favourable trading
o Created trade links with Muslim
states in North Africa.
o He felt it was necessary to bring
piracy under control.
Building Venetian Empire
o Doge Enrico Dandolo directed
the Fourth Crusade under
trade partners and
command of Pope Innocent III in
o Crusade was military campaign to
free Jerusalem (holy cities) from
o It became a campaign to
overthrow Byzantine Emperor
and take over capital at
o Weakened Byzantine Empire and
helped Venice rise further.
o Venice thereby gained
recognition from other states.
o It controlled some of the
important territories which
belonged to fallen Byzantine
Expanding the Venetian empire in
o Doge Pietro Ziani succeeded
Doge Enrico in 1205.
o Capture of Constantinople
marked beginning of Venice’s
growth as maritime empire.
o Need to set up military outposts
along important trade routes.
o Doge Pietro expanded trade
o He helped ensure Venice gained
control of important routes in
system / Reforms in
Doge → Ducal Council → General
Doge → Ducal Council → The Council
of Forty & The Senate → Great Council
→ General Assembly
Meeting challenges of growing city-
Establishment of the Great Council
o Great council was to elect
capable members to all councils
better running of
No corruption =
stability and growth
in the government.
o Settled disputes between
members of different councils,
passed laws, meted out
punishments and granted
pardons to criminals.
o Members of Great Council came
from the most influential
o With growth of nobility, there
was competition to serve the
o To prevent rivalry from
destabilizing the government,
Great Council expanded in 13th
o More nobles had opportunity to
decide on Venice’s future.
Specialisation of duties
o As Venice grew, need to
reorganize duties of Great
o More committees were created
to handle affairs of state.
Century, Council of Forty
created. Handled law, finances
and coinage (making coins)
o With expansion of trade and
establishment of foreign
relations with more countries,
60-member Senate was added to
act jointly with Council of Forty.
o Senate took charge in foreign
relations, commerce and
operations of Venetian fleets.
Maintaining checks and balances
Effective checks of power
Century, Doge, 6 Ducal
Councillors and 3 Heads of
Council of Forty formed the
Council of Ten.
o Council of Ten monitored
activities of organisations and
officials to ensure there were
no corrupt practices or abuse of
power by Doge or high ranking
o Any plot to threaten
government would be crushed.
o No one was above the law,
including Doge himself.
o Great Council exercised its
authority by limiting the power
of the Doge.
o Doges were forced into exile or
arrested by Council of Ten for
corrupt practices such as
nepotism (favouritism towards
family members) or attempting to
be too powerful.
o Eventually, Council of Ten
handled confidential and critical
matters such as putting an end
Preventing the concentration of power
o Nominating Committee added to
election process to identify
suitable male candidates for all
elected positions through the
process of balloting.
o Purpose of balloting was to
prevent any individual or family
from dominating the government.
o Nobles not allowed to campaign
for support in election, thus
rivalry was discouraged and no
one could be appointed as a
result of personal favour.
o Nobles appointed were not
allowed to reject the position.
o Ensure all positions of
responsibility in government were
and expansion /
Attitude towards trade
o Venetians were skilled diplomats
and able to obtain favourable
trading terms such as lower tax
rates than competitors.
Monopoly of trade
o Able to bring highly-prized spices
o Venetian traders maintained a
competitive edge over
competitors such as Genoa,
another rising Italian city-state.
o Venetians possessed an
o Venetians explored new trade
routes, supplies and markets by
travelling to unknown land.
o Example is the Polo family which
took calculated risks to extend
trade further beyond Middle
o Exploration of overland trade
route to China earned Venice
good relations with countries in
the Far East, which enabled
Venice to expand its trade.
o Wealth created by trade with
Asia turned Venice into greatest
cities in Europe.
o Foreign traders travelled to
Venice, and established
permanent trading posts in city-
Innovations in maritime technology
Century, advances in
maritime technology in Europe in
areas of navigation and weaponry
used on ships.
o Nautical chart present
information collected from
voyages such as distance and
important landmarks. Traders
plan their journey more
o Mariner’s compass ensured ships
stayed on course.
o Advanced technology, travels
become possible in winter and
poor weather, enabling Venice to
continue to dominate trade in
o Venice designed and built
superior vessels to meet sailing
o Venetian fleets propelled by oars
and sails that do not depend
solely on wind.
o Merchant and battle fleets
travel further, facilitating the
expansion of trade and
o Venetian great galley built as
combination of merchant and
o Formidable enough to discourage
most pirates from launching
attack on Venetian trading ships.
Efficiency in managing voyages
o Maritime technology enables
efficiency in arrival and
departure of voyages.
o Voyages more frequent as
Venetian traders able to travel
o Great galleys also capable of
transporting more goods.
o Senate came up with an
effective management system so
as to make full use of maritime
advances to oversee rapid
expansion of trade and
o Organised and monitored
schedule of trade voyages.
o Grouped traders and ordered
them to travel in convoys as
more profitable to trade in large
o Efficiency meant Venice was
able to expand its trade into
Overcoming trade competition
o Main trade competitor Venice
faced was Genoa, which was also
dependent on maritime trade.
o Genoa competed fiercely with
Venice especially in
Mediterranean Sea and Black
o At Genoa ports, Venetian
traders risked confiscating and
looting by Genoese when trading
there. Venetian controlled ports
were also unfriendly to Genoese
o At sea, Genoa attacked
commercial fleets belonging to
Venice and took over cargoes.
Venice did the same to Genoa.
o Venice and Genoa had conflict
of political and commercial
interests which resulted in many
o After series of wars, Venice
defeated Genoa in later 14th
o From then on, Venetian controls
the Mediterranean Sea which
resulted in more international
activities in Europe dominated by
Venice, Genoa and Hanseatic
o Venice was most successful
o After Genoa’s defeat by Venice
Century, Venice gained
monopoly in Mediterranean
o Central and Southern Europe
relied on Venetians for goods
from East such as spices, sugar,
o Venetian traders went to
Arabian ports such as
Alexandria and Hormuz to buy
and sell goods to other European
o The goods were sold at very high
price, enabling Venetian traders
to reap large profits.
o Venice able to provide large
variety of goods to the East.
o Made possible as Venice’s navy
dominated the region.
o European states had very little
choice other than to buy them
o Ship-building industry benefited
the expansion of trade.
o Initially, ship building industry
was small and scattered all over
o After advances in maritime
technology, around 1100 ship
builders were centralised at a
new location known as Arsenal.
o Reason for setting up Arsenal
was to prevent overcrowding and
minimise noise pollution at its
main trading port in the lagoon.
o When demand for great galleys
increased in 13th
Arsenal expanded to facilitate
o Eventually, Arsenal became
backbone of Venice’s maritime
industry and power.
o With trade expansion, Venetians
gained more wealth.
o Led to increase in demand for
goods which promoted
o Most well-known was glassmaking
industry which concentrated on
o Venetians also produced candles
and scented soap.
o New industries began to emerge,
such as printing industry which
serves the large reading
as a strong trading
introduced = more
population in Venice.
o With new industries, more jobs
were created for people and
Venice continued to prosper.
o The attracted skilled craftsmen
from other parts of Europe
settle down and work in Venice.
o Venice introduced innovative
practices in trade and business.
o Double-entry bookkeeping:
Record business transactions
and amount of goods in
possession. Useful system to
record business transactions.
Help meet needs of business.
o Giro-banking: Do not have to
carry large amounts of money
and different currencies. Giro-
banking allows making or
receiving payment by request of
bank. Able to carry out several
transactions a day and check if
there are sufficient funds.
o Thus, trade was further
o Many traders come to Venice as
they enjoyed convenience and
efficiency of Venetian’s trader-
The Venetians were
highly innovative as
seen in the new
ways of conducting
DECLINE OF VENICE
POINT EXAMPLES EXPLANATION
Foreign threats o Political developments in
mainland states and emergence
of Ottoman Empire in 15th
Century posed serious challenges
o Venice had spent large amount
of resources and wealth in
building military strength.
o Threats diverted Venice’s
attention away from trade and
resulted in loss of some of
Venice’s overseas territories.
o Added to further blows as
Faced constant risk
Drain on resources
Involvement in mainland
o Political development in mainland
cause Venetian government
turns its attention to mainland
o Mainland territories supplied
Venice with essential resources
like food and water.
o Venice needed to secure their
supply of resources.
o In order for Venice to protect
their territories, they took
advantage of the rivalry among
o Venice tried to achieve balance
of power by offering to help one
fight against another.
o However, Venice’s act of
switching alliances with different
opposing states proved it was
constantly treading on fragile
relations with larger states.
o Venice could come under attack
should negotiations fail.
o Situation put Venetians at high
risk as no certainty which
alliance would ultimately benefit
o Venetians equip themselves with
strong army which could only be
done so by recruiting
mercenaries (soldiers employed
and paid) to fight wars.
o Rivalry among mainland states
made overland trade route
unsafe as constant battles were
fought in the region.
o Venetians concerned as they
depended on commercial
crossroads for trade and wealth.
The Ottoman Empire
o From 13th
Empire began expanding its
influence from Middle East into
o By 15th
replaced Genoa as Venice’s
o Venetian knew they could not
compete with Ottoman armies as
they were larger.
o Venice’s involvement in mainland
drained large part of its energy
o Venice thereby forced to give up
some of less important territories
to avoid further loss.
o Venetians fought hard to
maintain control of Adriatic Sea.
o However, Ottoman acquired
territories along coast of
Adriatic Sea and launched
attacks at Venice’s territories
o Venice used galleys to fight off
attacks, thus disrupting use of
galleys for trading purposes.
o Ottoman fought 7-year war with
Venetians over control of
Aegean Sea and Adriatic Sea.
o The wars drained Venice’s
resources and man power and
o Venice attempted to contain
power of Ottomans.
o Venetians willing to give
concessions to Ottomans
whenever it suited commercial
interests but would later seek
military aid from European states
to fight to defend their
o The action caused European
neighbours to develop deep
hostility for Venice.
o In 1463, Europeans decided to
launch military campaign against
o However, due to resentment
faced from European states,
Venetians were left to fight on
their own against Ottomans.
o In 1470, Venice lost Negroponte.
League of Cambrai
o Venice’s growing influence made
it unpopular among various
o Larger states felt Venice was
gaining too much power and
control over Northern Italy and
wanted to recapture Venetian
o In 1508, military alliance against
Venice known as League of
Cambrai was formed.
o Consist of main powers.
o League aimed to reduce power
of Venice and divide power of
Venice amongst the larger states.
o Many of Venice’s territories fell
to members of the League.
o At Agnadello, Venetian
mercenary army badly defeated.
o Venetians negotiated for
separate peace with some states
of the League by giving
territories and wealth.
o Due to changing alliances,
Venice created new alliances
with some states and managed to
recapture some of its territories.
o Cost of wars drained and
weakened Venice’s resources.
Venice had to raise taxes to
finance employment of
mercenary armies and replenish
own supply of weapons.
o Venice continued to function as
a regional trading centre,
specialising in goods produced in
o Venice was also diversifying its
economy into agriculture,
Unable to handle
Loss of profits as
middleman in the
manufacturing industries and
o However, over time, rise of new
powers posed severe competition
to Venice’s position as maritime
Discovery of new sea routes
Century was beginning of age
of exploration and discovery.
o Marco Polo’s tales encouraged
many European explorers to
follow his footsteps.
o An example is explorer
Christopher Columbus, who
o Competition to search for new
maritime trade routes.
o Portuguese explorer, Vasco,
successfully reached Calicut, a
thriving spice centre in India, by
going round Cape of Good Hope.
o Portuguese able to buy spices
directly from India and led to
competition with Venetians.
o New sea route destroyed
Venice’s monopoly of lucrative
spice trade and reduce large
profits Venetian traders had
o Venice’s traditional route was
more time-consuming, due to
o Overland route considered
unsafe as there were robbers and
plunderers hiding in desert.
o Venice lost its position as
middleman for spice trade.
o Venice continued to function as
trade centre in western
Mediterranean Sea as growing
cities such as Lisbon in Portugal
demanded more goods.
o Venice became main supplier of
Mediterranean goods such as
wine, raisin, Persian silk. Sold
East – West trade
them to the cities.
products such as glassware were
highly profitable and in high
demand for both East and West.
o Venice expanded its trade to
North Sea region and maintained
trade links with England.
New trade rivals
century, new trade rivals
such as Dutch East India
Company was formed.
o The Dutch bypassed Venetians
to go to East to get the supplies.
o Venice also faced competition
from British when English East
India Company (EIC) was
o EIC brought cotton and pepper
from India, tea and porcelain
o Venice was adversely affected as
position as an entrepot port.
o Dutch and British had better-
o Venetians imitated designs of
ships, however sailors lacked
skills to operate them.
o Large states (e.g. England), more
successful in negotiating
favourable trading rights in new
o Venetians imposed protectionist
o Imposed higher duties on foreign
o Traders felt too costly to trade
o Venice lost some of its trading
partners due to its insistence on
Political challenges Incapable Leadership
o Basic structure of Venetian
government remained unchanged
o Venetians’ ability to make good
decisions dependent on quality
of men selected into office.
o Venice faced challenge of
shrinking number of nobility as
other families die, such as during
o This affected their appointment
to highest offices.
o To retain family wealth and
property, noble families arranged
marriages among themselves.
o This caused wealth to be
concentrated in hands of few
o From 16th
Century, a small group
of rich nobles dominated the
government, making renewal of
leadership a challenge.
o With power in hands of few,
corruption was inevitable.
o Rotation of duties ensured no
family could dominate
o Also meant competent officers
would have to leave office after
o Later times, nobles regarded
office as matter of personal
glory, rather than service to the
o Many nobles, previously scholars,
competed to serve as naval
commanders in wars against
o They did not have adequate
o Led to Venice suffering heavy
losses in battles.
Corruption in government
o In order to finance cost of wars
with ottomans and neighbouring
states, government suspended
Decisions made not
in Venice’s interests
salaries of civil servants.
o Together with disruption of
trade in time of wars, some
nobilities lost their source of
o Division in noble classes (rich
nobles and poor nobles).
o Many poor nobles were willing to
sell their votes at high price.
o Leadership was now determined
by how much nobles could
afford to pay to be elected.
o Another form of corruption was
sale of positions to raise funds
o Corrupt practices resulted in
incompetent leaders taking
positions in government.
o Government was becoming
increasingly inefficient as it
served the nobility’s interest.
Over-dependence on mercenaries
o Venetian army employed soldiers
from its Mediterranean
o Small population, necessary for
Venice to maintain large
o Venetian’s over-dependence on
mercenaries was very costly.
o Some of the paid soldiers did
not remain loyal to Venice as
they could always be offered
higher salaries from other
o 1619, a large number of French
mercenaries plotted to seize
Duccal Palace and kill Senate
o Planned to rob nobles’ palaces.
o Although plan discovered by
Council of Ten, it showed
Venice could no longer trust
Social Challenges o Venetians less prepared for war Complacency = less
as they shifted their focus away
from security matters,
o More concerned about wealth
than maintaining security in city
o Nobles become more affluent,
less involved in important
matters such as admin and
o More distant from commoners
and gap between rich and poor
o Lifestyle changed as they
o Pursuit of entertainment and
pleasure helped in flourishing
arts in Venice.
o Many wealthy nobles indulged in
lavish parties and celebrations
which could last as long as 6
o Venetians were overly-
o Some rich nobles addicted to
focus on economy
No motivation to
faced by the state