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Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool

Copyright © by Alan Grant Copyright © by Alan Grant Copyright © by Alan Grant
Statue of St. Blaise - Stradun - Dubrovnik cathedral

Today (apart from Slovenia, which is already a member,) all the countries of the former Yugoslavia are engaged in negotiations on entry to the European Union. These involve, of course, lengthy chapters regarding trade. What is easy to forget is that, despite inevitable ups and downs, the region has always traded with the rest of Europe. In the Middle Ages Dubrovnik, or Ragusa, was the pre-eminent trading city of the region. In his history of the city Robin Harris describes its trade with England, which began in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and peaked in the early sixteenth:

Ragusan ships would arrive in England at Southampton or Margate – the former near the heart of textile production in Hampshire and with the benefit of its double tide, the latter with its deep harbour and convenient proximity to London. They carried wine from Crete, soap for use in the textile industry, olive oil, wax, currents, oriental carpets, cotton and costly Italian fabrics. The Ragusan ships were then reloaded with "broadcloths" and "straights", but above all with prized "kerseys", to be made into garments for well-to-do people in the Balkans. They also carried away tin, pewter vessels, tanned hides and some wool for Italian cloth manufacturers.

Ragusan ships were big says Harris, and trade was "intense and extremely valuable" but, "in the 1540s it was dramatically cut short by international politics":

The long sea-route from Dubrovnik to England could only function profitably in conditions of reasonable security. But a combination of war between England and France in the channel, North African piracy in the Western Mediterranean and fighting between the Spaniards and Turks off Dalmatia made it impossible. Insurance rates accordingly soared. Attempts to shift much of the commerce overland via Antwerp or Hamburg were only partially successful. Moreover, this change deprived the Ragusans of the profits their ships had earned in the carrying trade. By the mid-sixteenth century the previously important Ragusan colony in London had greatly dwindled.

Dubrovnik: A History. Robin Harris. 2006.
[p. 169-70 / Saqi Books]

January 2007
Tim Judah

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  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
  17. Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik
  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
  21. Foča: The Bosniak
  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
  36. Prophet of Yugoslavism
  37. The head of the world
  38. 1919: Mushrooms and Lies
  39. Sofia: Bulgaria's Jews during WWII
  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
  44. Micklagard: Surprising, cosmopolitan Constantinople
  45. Sukhumi: The history of the region became ashes
  46. Black Sea: The coming of steam and rail
  47. Mestrovic: Motherhood and the Victor
  48. Rizvanovici, Bosnia: Gnashing
  49. Down the Danube with Magris: Ruse
  50. From Pristina to Tskhinvali
  51. Serbia, Historians and Hitler's War
  52. Balkan Strongmen: Bulgaria's Zhivkov
  53. Sarajevo: The Siege Within
  54. Turkey: Osman's Dream
  55. Durres 1961: Beijing on Sea
  56. Cetinje: Eggs for the Ladies
  57. Bosnia: Land of Immigrants
  58. Ottoman Croatia
  59. Harem: All the Sultan's Women
  60. Sibiu: Regime Change, European Style
  61. 1929: The Balkans and the Great Crash
  62. Rumeli and how the Balkans became the Balkans
  63. 1948: Stalin, Kosovo and Swallowing Albania
  64. Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
  65. McMafia and the Balkans
  66. 1916: Serbia in Corfu
  67. Princes Amongst Men
  68. Limp Shevardnadze
  69. Knin: War and Suburbia
  70. In the Mountains of Poetry
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