Italian Merchants Abroad and the Use of Foreign Languages, 14th-16th Centuries

Publication date: Jan 20, 2014 02:43 PM

Start: Jan 22, 2014 06:00 PM

Location: Italian Seminar Room (351), Third Floor, Foster Court, Malet Place, UCL, London, WC1E 7JE

Francesco Guidi-Bruscoli (University of Florence)

A lot has been written on colonies/nations of Italian merchants abroad, on the way they settled, on their activities, on their privileges; but little space has been devoted to the problem of the knowledge of languages.

Italian merchants traded all over Europe and beyond, and had to confront different linguistic environments. How would they overcome communication problems and connect with non-Italian speaking traders? In some areas economic leadership gave them the advantage of setting the rules and therefore it was generally the others who had to learn Italian.

Sometimes, however, they had to use the language of the cities where they traded and they were presented with two choices: they would either make use of interpreters (but this would oblige them to disclose crucial information to third parties), or they would endeavour to learn the basics of foreign languages.

All welcome