Zurechenbare Wagnisse : Die italienischen Kaufleute des Mittelalters, die Gefahren des Meeres und die Geschichte des Risikos

Scheller, Benjamin GND

Seit der Mitte des 12. Jahrhunderts kommt zunächst in den italienischen Seehandelsmetropolen und spater im gesamten okzidentalen Mittelmeerraum das neue Wort „Risiko” auf. Es indiziert eine Hinwendung zur Unsicherheit, die zunachst als ein zurechenbares und dann zunehmend auch als ein berechenbares Wagnis verstanden wird.

In the records of Mediterranean maritime trade since the middle of the 12th century appears the notion of risk, or to be precise: its medieval ancestor the neolatin word risicum or resicum. The new word, which spread throughout the Mediterranean and beyond ever since that time, indicates the formation of a new disposition in man’s dealings with contingency, a new orientation towards uncertainty. Since the middle of the 12th century merchants that were engaged in long distance sea trade in the Mediterranean began to distinguish between risk and danger, attributing damage and its financial consequences either to themselves and their decisions or to the natural, social or metaphysical environment of their business ventures. The differentiation between the sedentary merchant who acted as an investor and the travelling merchant in the commenda partnership had introduced a new element of contingency in maritime trade. For the sedentary merchant his travelling partners’ business decisions were as unforeseeable as future trends of prices and the safe arrival of a ship exposed to the dangers of the sea. This prompted new and complex questions of liability in case of an eventual failure of the joint business venture. With the emergence of maritime insurance since the middle of the 14th century merchants began to specify the risks they assumed more and more precisely: with respect to their spatial and temporal dimensions and – of course – their price. Insurance rates indicate how risks were calculated by those who were engaged in maritime trade and what kind of risks they perceived to be most likely to materialize. Future events thus became a commodity. Nevertheless, distinguishing between risk and danger and treating future events as commodities was not perceived as contradicting the idea of future events being the result of God’s unfathomable will, neither by the merchants themselves nor by the majority of medieval canonist and moral theologians.

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Scheller, Benjamin: Zurechenbare Wagnisse. Die italienischen Kaufleute des Mittelalters, die Gefahren des Meeres und die Geschichte des Risikos. 2018.

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