Introduction: Why Ragusa?
In popular memory about the history of the Eastern Mediterranean region in the middle of the last millennium, Venice is perhaps the most prominent player, and tiny Ragusa/Dubrovnik is largely forgotten, even though the term “argosies” that Shakespeare uses more than once, in fact, was well known at the time to be derived from “Ragusa.”1 This attribution reflected the fact that Ragusa in its glory days of the 15th and 16th centuries had one of the largest commercial fleets of the region2 and challenged Venice as perhaps its major competitor in Mediterranean trade. One cannot of course fault Shakespeare for causing Ragusa to be forgotten over time. More important historical tendencies were behind this. It is understandable Venice should be first to come to mind, given its much larger size (at least 10 times Ragusa’s population). Further, Ragusa’s prominence gradually declined to become a spent economic force by the 19th century. And finally it did not have a large naval fleet to engage in the big sea-battles of the period which, win or lose, are remembered much longer than commercial success.
KeywordsEconomic History Commercial Success Eastern Mediterranean Region Good Institution Historical Case Study
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