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BOOK REVIEWS 290 Giacomo Todeschini, I mercanti e il Tempio. La società cristiana e il circolo virtuoso della ricchezza fra Medioevo et Età Moderna. Bologna: il Mulino, 2002. 531 pp. A look at the table of contents and at the titles of the book’s chapters suggests what Giacomo Todeschini does in his new book: Chapter One,”Avere” (to have). Chapter Two, “Possedere” (to possess). Chapter Three, “Usare” (to use). And so on. In its subdivisions each chapter breaks the simple title down into instances of the title’s verb. The author confirms the impression made by his unusual chapter titles in his several pages of introduction (7-11). Todeschini examines the terms of economic relations in daily life rather than the theories that explain and systematize the relations. Out of those terms arose the discursive modes and the logical turns that led to contemporary economic thought. Discussions of economic questions today prescind from the inter-connectedness of religion and economics in the Middle Ages. And yet the relations among the economic agents of today and their role in society do have a past, and consequently a past that helps explain them. Todeschini sees that past in the words with which people in the Middle Ages handled things and conducted their daily business. Todeschini’s chapters consist of a steady stream of sensitive comments and insights into the daily life of centuries past (the “stimoli e suggerimenti” of his introduction), derived from the terms and references of economic discourse. He begins by reading the Church Fathers and listening to the early monks. He cites Clement of Alexandria (Chapter One, “Avere,” to have) to the effect that the ability to use things well justifies having them. Towards the end of the book he is marking the words of Wycliffe and Gerson, Bernardine of Siena and Beal. It readily becomes clear how much those speaking depend on past discourse. In Chapter Three, “Usare,” to use, Todeschini cites Gerhod of Reichersberg to the effect that only those who hold to God’s judgments can use the things of God’s creation well. Monks in particular exemplify the ability to use things while seeing beyond them. With such an entry into the economics of use, it is understandable that the author soon finds himself looking closely at the thorough parsing of use conducted by Franciscans at the end of the BOOK REVIEWS 291 thirteenth century. Although he does look at a passage or two from Bonaventure of Bagnoregio’s Itinerarium, Todeschini rapidly moves on to Peter Olivi. About Olivi he has much to say, in this as well as in the following chapters. Olivi not only talked at length about the way Franciscans were using things and should be using things; he did so while explaining the social sense and consequently the economic repercussions of such practices. Nowhere else does Todeschini find domestic talk about things linking with propositions about the marketplace as clearly as here. Olivi’s attention to the particularities of Franciscan practices helped him explain and encourage the different yet parallel practices of the Christian merchant. Elsewhere Todeschini has followed that line of thought into the merchant’s role in the dawning of a Christian society (in the book edited by A. Boureau and S. Piron, Pierre de Jean Olivi, Paris, 1999). In the course of his chapters Todeschini regularly refers to the effort made to integrate economic realities into a society consciously Christian. Although the book argues no thesis, that effort gradually assumes the role of the book’s basic narrative. In his chapter on restitution, he points to the many charitable foundations that arose in reparation for social harm done by usury (174). In that context he tells about the Chapel of the Scrovegni, in Padua, paid for understandably by a banking family. In the chapel Giotto painted the expulsion of the merchants from the temple. The fresco not only recalled the New Testament incident; it echoed as well the contemporary texts designating usurers as the worst of merchants, excluding them from the community of the faithful. (The book contains a reproduction of the fresco, as well as of fifteen other scenes of economic interest.) In his pages on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 290-292
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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