Trading empires: imperial state and capitalist merchants in Venice and Egypt, 1000–1350 CE
Lorenzo Bondioli is a social and economic historian specializing in the medieval Mediterranean and the Middle East. His research destabilizes Eurocentric narratives of capitalist origins by shedding light on the interplay of commercial capital and imperial state structures in the preindustrial world. His doctoral dissertation, “Peasants, Merchants, and Caliphs: Capital and Empire in Fatimid Egypt, 900-1200 CE,” reconstructs the political economy of Egypt at a time when the country was the pivot of the Afro-Eurasian world system. Using the unique evidence afforded by the Cairo Geniza in conjunction with Arabic documentary and literary sources, Bondioli’s work calls for a re-centering of Egypt in the global, longue durée history of capitalism.
At the Italian Academy, Bondioli will work on his next project, investigating the rise of the Venetian merchant class as a development inscribed within the political economy of Mediterranean empires. Bondioli’s long-term ambition is to start an interdisciplinary conversation among scholars working on different extra-European contexts and jointly elaborate a new narrative of the history of capitalism, in order to better understand not only capitalism’s historical origins, but also its current transformations.