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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 741: Service Providers?: Merchants, Nurses, and Monks in the Medieval Mediterranean

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Alice Choyke, Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest
Paper 741-aThe Weaponisation of Merchants and Mercantile Networks on the Byzantine-Islamic Frontier
(Language: English)
Berke Çetinkaya, Department of History, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Economics - General, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Military History
Paper 741-bBrothers in Business: The Role of Venetian Monasteries in the Development of Maritime Trade, 950-1220
(Language: English)
Elena Shadrina, Department of History, Harvard University
Index terms: Administration, Economics - General, Economics - Trade, Monasticism
Paper 741-cNetworks of Nourishment: Finding, Employing, and Retaining Wet-Nurses in Late Medieval Lucca
(Language: English)
Christine E. Meek, Department of History, Trinity College Dublin
Index terms: Daily Life, Language and Literature - Italian, Social History, Women's Studies

Paper -a:
As in many other medieval societies, the primary characteristic of the merchants in the Byzantine and Islamic worlds was to supply the cities, to make goods accessible to the wider public, and to make a profit for themselves through their trading activities. The two distinctive features of the merchants, their mobility and diverse network linkages, also made them perfect candidates to conduct various non-commercial activities as spies, military assistants, intermediaries, ambassadors, and such. This paper aims to provide a fresh perspective on how merchants and mercantile networks on the Byzantine-Islamic frontier served the states' and elites' broader interests and needs between the 7th and 11th centuries.

Paper -b:
The settlements established by the Venetians in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 11th century had one feature that distinguished them sharply from the fondachi of other Italian city-states: they were in large part owned and run by Venetian monastic foundations. This peculiarity was rooted in the already well-established role of the monasteries in the Venetian lagoon as foci of economic activity. Leases of land or productive assets, especially salt pans, to monasteries provided the Venetians with opportunities to garner capital and limit risk associated with maritime trade, investment in which was becoming increasingly marketized in this period. In this paper, I will investigate the economic role of monasteries in the development of Venetian trade between the 10th and the 12th centuries, focusing on the monasteries of San Zaccaria, San Giorgio Maggiore, and San Michele di Brondolo.

Paper -b:
The practice of wet-nursing was widespread in late medieval Italy and was a source of anxiety, especially for prospective employers. Timing was of the essence. Breast feeding was the only way of providing for an infant's survival, and parents needed to have their arrangements in place ahead of the child's birth. Potential nurses too needed to have arrangements to take a baby in advance of farming out their own child in order to keep up their milk. Arrangements varied with nurses sometimes taking up residence in the parents' household, but more usually babies were farmed out to the nurse's home. This paper examines how parents and nurses found each other, by networks of landlords and tenants, employers, neighbours and intermediaries. It looks too at what happened when arrangements went wrong, and a new nurse had to be found quickly, via agents, neighbours and sometimes the wet-nurse herself, who might pass a baby on to a relative or neighbour, if she was unable to continue nursing.