Book review: The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo
During 1400 to 1600, the remarkable development in European society in the fields of art, politics, philosophy, and, culture is Renaissance. French historian Jules Michelet claimed Renaissance as a French phenomenon but, as per Swiss academic Jacob Burckhardt, birth place of modern world is Italy. From the mythological explanation of the evolution of Europe to the meaning of Renaissance according to Jules Michelet, Jacob Burckhardt, Walter Peter, Erwin Panofsky, Stephen Greenblatt, `The Renaissance Bazaar` is an analytical history of the evolution of Renaissance and explains how the interactions between the east and the west through trade and exchanges influenced the profound development for the European society in Renaissance.
The book touches all the aspects that had significant contributions and explains the effect of interaction between east and west throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that kept their impressions on European Renaissance. Travel, exploration, trade, religion, discovery, politics and empire were the significant features of European Renaissance. The book explains the decisive effect of trade and exchange with the east, and their vivid impressions on Renaissance paintings, literary works, and modern mathematics.
`The Renaissance Bazaar` explains that Fibonacci initiated a change in modern mathematics under the Arabic concept; the basic principles of Algebra were derived from Arabic, introduction of the signs for addition, subtraction and multiplication in modern mathematics,
the adaptation of Hindu-Arabic numerals in European practice to determine profit and loss and subsequent change in development in mathematics, evolution of banking system, introduction of bill of exchange concept in trade, introduction of cheques.
The book explains how the culture emerged from the encounter and exchanges with the east contributed greatly to the literary works of European Renaissance. The Christian and Muslim traders adapted hypocrisy to charge interest on loan instead of their religious ban on the imposition of interest on loan for credit, and employed Jewish as mediator for credit transactions due to the absence of any religious prohibition against usury, which is the background for remarkable literary works of the time like Jews of Malta and The Merchant of Venice.
It gives the account how Venice took the opportunity to capitalize the growing demand of luxury goods and developed round-bottomed ships on Arabic designs for maritime trade, and Jewish mapmaker Abraham Cresques, who encapsulated the European desire for African gold in Catalan Atlas.
The emergence of Ottoman Empire from a small Turkish tribe of Anatolia to conquer the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II and establishment of Istanbul. England`s alliance with Ottoman had an impact that reflected on the literary works of Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
The book analyzes the Renaissance art works to trace the discoveries in technology and commercial advancement, also deal with the darker side of European Renaissance that is slave trade. It was estimated that Venice had a population of 3000 slaves and the exchange rate of nine to fourteen slaves for one horse. The slavery brought sufferings to millions of Africans, at the same time profits from the slave trade financed the cultural achievements of the Renaissance.
Brotton, Jerry. The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo. Oxford UP. 1-61. Print.