Students consider the influence of physical geography on trade among various regions of Renaissance Europe by determining the best location for a successful trading centre.
Review map-reading skills
Review map-reading skills such as the use of legends and the meaning of symbols. Also review geographical terms such as resources, urban and isthmus. Encourage students to apply these skills and to use these terms as they examine maps of Renaissance Europe (see References).
Ask students to search for the following features:
- major population centres
- transportation routes—e.g., waterways, roadways
- economic activity—e.g., natural resources
- physical features—e.g., mountain ranges.
Develop criteria for a successful trading centre
Invite students to draw on their knowledge of geography to develop criteria for the location of successful trading centres, such as:
- secure transportation routes
- easily accessible
- close to resources
- year-round travel.
You may wish to post the criteria for student reference.
Research locations of trading centres
Invite students to identify famous trading centres in Renaissance Europe, such as Genoa, Venice, Paris, Bordeaux, Florence, Naples, Ghent, Istanbul and Milan. Direct students to work in groups to research one of the locations and to consider the factors that might impede or foster trade.
For example, trade flourished along the Danube, Rhone and Rhine rivers because goods were easily transported. Commerce flourished in Florence because of banking. Trade and commerce were curtailed in Switzerland because of the Alps. The spread of plague from ship-borne rats caused a drastic decline in port cities of the late Medieval period and the Renaissance.
Rate the trading centres
After completing their research, students should rate each trading centre against the criteria for a successful trading centre.
To structure and assess this activity, distribute to each student a copy of Options Checklist in Considering Options (Support Material).
Determine the ideal location for a trading centre
After students have completed their ratings, ask them to determine the ideal location for a successful trading centre and provide reasons for their selection. The site may not, in fact, have been the most successful trading centre. However, from an economic and geographical point of view, it had the best opportunity to develop as the premier trading centre.
To structure and assess student choices, you may want to adapt the charts and strategies in Justifying My Choice (Support Material).
Extension: Locate a new site for a trading centre
Ask students to select a location in Renaissance Europe that did not actually develop as a major trading centre, but potentially could have been an effective site for a trading centre because of its geographical features. Ask students to provide reasons for their choices.