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The Venetian Banking Crisis of 1499-1500 and the Financial Turmoil of Our Times

Assistant Professor Juraj Kittler published his research on the banking collapse in 1499-1500 Renaissance Venice in a recent issue of the Journal of Cultural Economy. The entire issue is dedicated to historical lessons learned from prominent financial scandals and crises, and their significance for our own turbulent times. Dr. Kittler’s article is entitled "Too Big to Fail: The 1499-1500 Banking Crisis in Renaissance Venice," and is based on the fact that the banking collapse in Venice is the earliest known financial crisis whose day-to-day unfolding was well documented by a trio of contemporary Venetian chroniclers: Marino Sanudo, Girolamo Priuli, and Domenico Malipiero. Venice was a republic with the significant democratic features of decision-making built in its political system, but the same Venetian politicians who voted on the ways in which the government should intervene in order to save the banks from collapsing often had their own vested interest in the banks’ survival: their families co-owned or had their fortunes invested in the collapsing banks. Ultimately, three out of four major Venetian banks collapsed despite government intervention, dramatically changing not only the financial, but also social and political landscape of Venice.