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Genoa and Livorno: Sixteenth and Seventeenth-century Commercial Rivalry as a Stimulus to Policy Development

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During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, while Genoa was at the height of its colonial expansion, Livorno was little more than a fishing village. The Genoese had assembled a territorial state in Liguria, taken the island of Corsica and, as early as 1277, were sending ships directly to England and Flanders. All the while Livorno was merely a malaria-infested appendix of Porto Pisano. Over the course of the sixteenth century, however, Livorno grew by leaps and bounds and by the end of the century concerns over the Tuscan city's growing importance as a commercial port had become a conditioning factor in the establishment of Genoese maritime policy. The concern was well founded. An ever-greater portion of trade in the western Mediterranean was to gravitate to Livorno during the seventeenth century, threatening to transform Genoa into a commercial satellite. The Republic of Genoa did not hesitate to react, and the subsequent rivalry between the two ports provided the principal stimulus in the experimentation of innovative fiscal policies in both cities and to the development of the modern free port. Indeed, the free port as it is known today, namely a specific port or area within a port where goods may transit duty free, emerged as the policies of the two cities slowly converged, formulating a single response to differing historical contingencies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Siena

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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