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The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice

The manufacture of luxury textiles, such as silk, was central to an Italian Renaissance economy based on status and conspicuous consumption. From the rapidly changing fashions that drove demand to the jobs created for craftsmen, weavers, and merchants, the wealth and prestige associated with silk throughout Europe made it Italy's leading export industry. In this important book, Luca Molà examines the silk industry in Renaissance Venice amid changing markets, suppliers, producers, and government regulations.

Drawing on archival research and a vast amount of European scholarship, Molà documents the innovations Venetians made in manufacturing and marketing to spur the silk industry. He uncovers the alliance between manufacturers and government to promote the industry in a changing international economic environment. Through flexible laws, quality was regulated to meet the varying requirements of an increasing range of customers. Molà also analyzes state policy that favored the development and organization of silk producers throughout the Terraferma. His findings contribute in an important way to the ongoing scholarly assessment of Venice's place in the economy of the Renaissance and the Mediterranean world.

About the Author

Luca Molà is a lecturer in history at the University of Warwick.


"This will be the definitive study of the Venetian silk industry... One might not expect that such a dense, highly technical account would make for a good read, but it does. Molà's passion for his subject is palpable, and he soon convinced this reader not only that the subject matters intensely but that even the smallest details—especially the details, perhaps—are of urgent importance."

- James S. Grubb - Journal of Modern History

"Luca Molá's book represents the first comprehensive study of the evolution of the silk industry of Renaissance Venice from a structural and technical perspective... Its far-reaching conclusions should be of interest to economic historians of late medieval and early modern Europe as well as to specialists in textile history."

- Maureen Fennell Mazzaoui - Technology and Culture

"Detailed, well-researched, and beautifully illustrated."

- George Dameron - Renaissance Quarterly

"A magisterial book... while he satisfies the expert's desire for deep archival documentation, the author deserves further credit for having written a book that is accessible to the general reader... This study is sure to take its place among the classics of silk history and economic histories of the early modern period."

- Daryl M. Hafter - Enterprise and Society

"Mola's excellent study is based on formidable archival research... He effectively demolishes the received idea that the silk guilds stifled innovation."

- Jo Wheeler - H-Italy, H-Net Reviews

"Mola has changed the way in which the evolution of the silk industry of Renaissance Venice is perceived, and for this reason his text will no doubt come to be regarded as a classic work on the subject... In this excellent study, most aspects of the Venetian silk industry of the Renaissance are treated in greater depth than ever before, and the reader will emerge considerably enlightened."

- Lisa Monnas - Studies in the Decorative Arts

"Economic historians have produced surprisingly few works on the silk industry and even fewer in English. Luca Mola's book would be a welcome contribution to historical literature simply for filling this gap, but this excellent volume goes much further."

- Thomas Kirk - History

"Mola's book makes a significant contribution to the study of Italian Renaissance history."

- Louisa C. Matthew - Sixteenth Century Journal

"This fine study combines an exhaustive examination of the relevant Venetian archives with effective use of secondary literature. The result is fascinating, learned synthesis that is well organized and especially sound in explaining the more technical elements of the silk industry in clear lucid prose."

- Michael J. Galgano - History: Reviews of New Books

"A very readable book... This is economic history at its best."

- Filippo de Vivo - The Historical Journal


"Molà's comprehensive synthesis of the secondary literature is itself an original contribution; but it is, of course, his thorough archival research in Venice and his mastery of the extraordinarily complex technical aspects of the industry that mark the high quality of his work. This is economic history at its very best, and it will set the standard for research on the industry anywhere in early modern Europe."

- Richard Goldthwaite, The Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University Press
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