Teaching Venice in Schools, pp. 7 of 7

[i] Although not explicitly pointed out in the textbook, Singapore shares many shared similar features with Venice. Surmising quickly on the possible traits, one can find that both city-states: rely to a great extent on trade; are communication nodal points in their regions and eras (Venice in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Singapore at one end of the Straits of Melaka in Southeast Asia); are cultural centers, or aspiring to be one (Venice was relatively open which attracted talents and ideas during the Renaissance, right down to the Baroque period; Singapore aspires to become a ‘Renaissance city’ and has put up concrete plans for the materialization of this); face demographic or environmental challenges (dwindling population and rising water level) in their periods; and are influential commercially. Venice was described as a commerce empire which controlled a network of trade stations and string of hinterlands; a first world city-state operates in a different manner at the dawn of the 21st century, a Senior Minister in Singapore has defined the island-state’s network in terms of the market it can reach tagged with the number of flight hours it would take to reach there. Despite whatever similarities one might find, one suspects that the inclusion of the topic in social studies must come at the insistence of the “highest level of authority.” In a related video, Mr Lee Kuan Yew recounted the process of transforming Singapore into the “Venice of the East.” Mr George Yeo, the one-time Minister of Foreign Affairs, had evoked the idea of comparing Singapore with Venice as early as 1988, and as recently as 2012, continued to espouse the idea in an interview with “The Globalist.”  

[ii] Many works suggested from the reading list, including J. Morris’ work, are supposed to be considered as works of “popular authors.” The magnum opus and comprehensive English work of F. Lane’s “Venice: Maritime republic” is categorized as a “general history” of Venice. This is contrasted with “works on specific sub-fields”, a dichotomy used by specialists / reviewers in academic journals. Works in general histories need to present balanced views on an array of issues studied in Venetian history; something not easily achieved considering that even Lane’s work receives its fair share of critical reviews. A common criticism leveled on works on the general history of Venice is that these specialists, perhaps not surprisingly, are not able to do justice to areas outside their researches.

[iii] The city-settlement’s rise to prominence is traced to the period between the ninth and fifteenth centuries and attributed to several reasons namely, leadership, a reforming (adaptive?) government, trade developments (undertaken by the city-state), developments in the industries, and innovative practices (and ideas). The city-state at its peak and empire is described in terms of the extent of its territories and prowess, the vibrant society make-up, economic prosperity and cultural achievements. Venice was deemed to have faced serious challenges and gone on “a gradual decline” between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. The factors slated for decline are: foreign threats from the mainland European states as well as from the Ottoman empire; maritime and trade competition from certain rising European states (like the Dutch and English); internal political challenges arising from incapable leadership and corruption; and social challenge as a result of the ruling class becoming ‘soft’ and complacent. Saddled with the burdens aforementioned, the final fall is dated when Napoleon invaded the city.

[iv] The main organs of the Venetian government included: 1. the 3 councils, 2. the senate, 3. the Doge, 4. bureaucrats (governors, commanders, and holders of minor offices) as well as 5. state or judicial attorneys. The councils were classified into the great council, as well as the councils of ten and forty. Members from the latter two (and the senate) were drawn from the former.


An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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