Progetti di ricerca

JusTrade - Trading Justice. The role and functioning of Renaissance merchant courts in Venice (1450-1620)

Supporting Talent in ReSearch@University of Padova Programma STARS 2019

Ambito disciplinare Macroarea 3

Area scientifica Area 13 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche e pedagogiche

Tipologia finanziamento PROGETTI DI RICERCA DI ATENEO (Finanziamenti di Ateneo)

Tipo di progetto Internazionale

Stato progetto Concluso (archiviato)

Responsabilità scientifica Principal Investigator

Data avvio: 1 February 2020

Data termine: 30 June 2022

Durata: 29 mesi

Importo: 125500€

Estremi del contratto: Stars “Supporting TAlent in ReSearch @ University of Padova - STARS Grants” 2019


Federico Cannelloni (research Assistant)

Ana Belem Fernández Castro (research Assistant) 


The current instabilities in the international political and trade settings in terms of moving toward a nationalistic configuration of trade invite us to reflect more deeply on the development of the commercial judiciary systems of the past. While historiography has so far proposed a double reading of the commercial legal systems (in terms of lex mercatoria or a micro-level analysis), JUSTRADE aims to understand the institutions that affected the commercial judiciary systems in terms of the enforceability of its laws, economic growth, and social dynamics. To reach this goal, the project proposes the creation of a wide data-set that will allow for a comparison between different legal contexts. In light of the current literature, the first objective is to understand the organizational aspects of the Early Modern merchant courts, with a special focus on the legal practices and hierarchies inside and within these courts. The second objective is to analyze the use that traders made of commercial courts, the typologies of the lawsuits, and the identity of the defendants, with particular reference to the management of the relations that could suffer from a lack of balance in the institutional interventions in the exchanges made among traders from different cultural backgrounds. The third objective is to understand the divergence and convergence in the merchant courts practices across European societies: In order to do this, we will draw upon the creation of an Enforcement Index that is based on the case study that will be applied to the European comparison that will be proposed in the ERC project submission piece. The project will use an innovative methodology, combining quantitative and qualitative methods, deploying rigorous theoretical approaches with careful attention paid to social practices, especially in commercial conflicts. The aim is to contribute to the development of new approaches to social, legal, and economic history, as well as to comparative history.


The central goal of this project is to develop a new methodology and theory that will allow for the comparison of different commercial justice systems. In the proposed STARS project, I will create a source-based methodological approach to analyze and compare the institutions that affected the European commercial sector by enforcing (or not enforcing) the local rules. This framework will be created through the use of a specific case study: Renaissance Venice. My economic history training and empirical research will be combined in order to create a theoretical and methodological paradigm as well as an in-depth analysis of the Venetian commercial judiciary system, its role, and practices, which have been (so far) only partially studied. The new historical perspectives and methodologies that were developed during the STARS fellowship will lead up to the ultimate objective of the project—to build.The proposed project brings together history and economic and social history and legal studies in order to explore the practices of the Renaissance Venetian commercial court, the organization of the court, its relations with the other Venetian legal institutions, and the degree of enforcement power that it employed. By focusing on the cases that were presented before the court by traders, agents, and commercial companies, the central questions that are posed by this project are: • Which procedures were used in the commercial court(s)? • Who was appealing to the court? • What kinds of disputes were most commonly discussed? • Were the rulings enforced? By providing new knowledge on the commercial disputes that took place in one of the main gateways for Euro–Asiatic trade in the Renaissance against the background of a global shift in political influence and commercial centers, I believe that my study will provide the groundwork for new hypotheses and interpretations of the European legal past. As well as addressing issues that are relevant also in the present international setting.

Piano delle attività:

The work-breakdown structure includes four stages: • Stage one (months 1–2) will be dedicated to an intensive general review of the bibliography for the refinement of the context-related knowledge and the theoretical framework. Moreover, the P.I. will prepare a schedule for the archival research—sampling the collections and the periods of investigation. • During stage two (months 3–10), the P.I. will conduct deep research into the Venetian collections for the identified periods, while surveying the material present at the Genoa State archive. In the meantime, two research assistants will be working on the Spanish and Flemish/Dutch context, identifying the sources and institutions that will be at the center of the research during the ERC project. • During stage three (months 10–17), the P.I. will analyze the collected data (also identifying the best methods for collection and analysis): Once this is done, the P.I. will work on the writing of a paper (with the research assistants, if they available) that will compare the findings of the early survey. That paper will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. • During stage four (months 17–24), the P.I. will work on the preparation and submission of an ERC project proposal for the EU Commission. The project will benefit the research that was carried out during the STARS fellowship and will therefore draw upon all of the conceptualization that was elaborated by the P.I. in the previous period. Once the proposal has been submitted, the P.I. will work on a research article based on the research that was carried out in Venice. The article will be submitted to a peer-reviewed top journal and will be indexed in Scopus/WoS.




IusTrade's primary research goal was to develop a new methodology and theory for comparing different commercial justice systems. The project pursued three research objectives that enabled substantial progress in understanding a critical factor in the social dynamics and economic evolution of pre-industrial Europe: conflict management.
The first research objective was to consider the commercial courts' organization and practices. In the pre-industrial period, many European legal systems presented an idiosyncrasy regarding their internal organization and hierarchy. To address this issue, the project compared three European contexts – Venice, Spain and Flanders, to embrace broader comparative research on the legal systems, their functioning, and their role, considering the local legal development instead of the general progress of the lex mercatoria.
The second research objective is linked to the use of commercial courts. Traders used the judiciary systems not only for settling disputes but also to certify contracts and negotiate rights and duties—this was also due to the flexible nature of the legal proceedings. IusTrade addressed this issue thanks to case studies from Venice, analyzing the perception of justice and the courts' jurisdictions.
The third research objective was to create an interpretative paradigm using the Venetian case study and the surveys carried out in other European contexts (Spain and Flanders). This comparative approach was developed thanks to the "Enforcement Index". It measures the enforcement levels of the different judiciary institutions by considering common characteristics across the judiciary systems – allowing a broader comparison between the legal procedures.