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General introduction

he economy of the late Byzantium presented a dreadful picture of gradual decadence. Even though it was mainly agricultural, its urban aspect remained important as well.

It should be noted that the institution of pronoia contributed to the concentration of land ownership in the hands of the few. This fact constituted a basic feature of the agricultural economy during this period. Thus, such features were developed in the Byzantine state, that the existence or non-existence of Byzantine feudalism could be argued. The urban economy of the last centuries concentrated on the continuation of commercial activities. But the policy of providing the Italian merchants with privileges was undoubtedly a major factor in the restriction of activities in this sector. Because of the domination of the Italians, the Byzantine merchants could not play a primary role in international trade. The fiscal situation that the state was in, was characterized by the insufficiency of government funds and therefore, of the inability on the part of the state to meet the needs of its internal as well as its foreign policy. The reduction of income caused by taxation and customs duties, along with the huge expenses mostly for the state's defense, as well as the continuous devaluation of the currency, reflect aspects of the economic situation of the state. This situation was on the decline and finally led to its inevitable fall in 1453.