The book comprises three stories recounted by Carlo M. Cipolla with his brilliant style and subtle sense of humour. The first story refers to the Bardi family of Florence who were especially active in the first part of the 14th century when they operated the largest and most powerful bank of those times. The story of their relationship with England, of the vast sums of money they lent to the English King, and their bankruptcy largely due to the inability of King Edward to repay his debt has been told innumerable times. The Bardis however were not only bankers and merchants; when the occasion arose they turned into bandits and robbers and it is this dark side of their activities that Cipolla now unveils. The second story relates to a vast speculation which the Europeans carried on just after the middle of the 17th century at the expense of the Turks. The actions of the Europeans created chaos in the Turkish monetary system. The third story is based on the works of two French writers - Jacques Savary and Jacques Savary Jr. - who published two major and important works on the trade and manufactures carried on throughout the world between the end of the 17th century and the middle of the 18th century. Cipolla concentrates his attention on the judgements that the two Frenchmen passed on various peoples of Europe in their attitude toward commerce and manufactures. A rich scenario of Europe between 1670 and 1750 will appear before the eyes of the reader.
Carlo M. Cipolla, former Professor of Economic History at the University of California at Berkeley. During his lifetime he also taught at several major Italian Universities.