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Money And The Recovery Of Renaissance Florence

3074 words - 12 pages

Supply and demand for goods play a critical role throughout world economies.  They are perhaps the primary building blocks of any economy.  Several hundred years ago, supply and demand were no less important, and were particularly instrumental in the economic recovery of Florence during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  The ability of a group of notable people to provide the supply of goods in response to demand in Florence provided the foundation for the flourishing of art, commerce, and living standards.  In their own ways, both Michelangelo and the Medici family contributed to the economic recovery and development of Italy.  While Michelangelo may have represented only one of a slew of notable artists during the Renaissance, his contributions were extraordinary significant and still impress the world today.

Most of Europe suffered from the Black Death which had enveloped the continent during the thirteenth century.  Populations of many countries were decimated.  Some countries lost as much as 70% of their populations.  In Florence, one-half to two-thirds of the population died as a result of the Black Death.  When those rough times finally eroded Europe, many countries, like Italy, were left to rebuild entirely.  Florence itself was at its lowest population in almost 200 years (Goldthwaite, The Building... 1 - 44).  However, rather than proving to be a disadvantage, a lower population actually benefited those who survived.  Since the population had shrunk so much, the per capita wealth of the survivors was much higher than ever before in Florence.  A good-size proportion of the wealth had accumulated in the hands of a surprisingly large number of people there.  This fact helped initiate the economic success the city would soon enjoy (Goldthwaite,  Wealth and...  2 - 67).  

Let us first look at why there was so much money, all of a sudden, so long after the Black Death.  In the 1300's and 1400's most of the excessive wealth and money from the reduced populations went into territorial expansion as well as toward military costs.  These helped Florence become a thriving city, well-positioned to grow.  Then, in the mid to late 1400's, some political order was restored, taxes were cut, and the military expansion was halted.  All of the money which had been going to the military could now be spent on the economy.  Since taxes were cut significantly, people had a lot more disposable income (Goldthwaite, The Building... 1 - 44).  Disposable income is defined as all of the money after taxes that can be either spent or saved by the people.  All of this excess money could therefore be spent on extra consumer goods and public works (Baumol and Blinder 592).  It was at this time that beautiful buildings began to spring up throughout Florence.  The Medici family sponsored the architectural design and construction of...

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