Business for the Common Good - COTRUGLI
HR Hackathon 
07/03/2024
HR Hackathon 
07/03/2024

At COTRUGLI BUSINESS SCHOOL, we take pride in being the first institution in the world to translate Benedetto Cotrugli’s seminal work, The Book of the Art of Trade, into English. This accomplishment underscores our commitment to advancing the understanding of business and management through historical and scholarly insights.

Our way of teaching and practicing business and management owes much to the fifteenth-century entrepreneur and humanist Benedetto Cotrugli. Anyone interested in grasping the origins and foundations of business economics or management science should read Cotrugli’s Art of Trade.

Composed in 1458, The Book of the Art of Trade remained in manuscript form for over a century. Three discordant copies have survived: the first is preserved at the Central National Library in Florence, the second, incomplete, at the Marucelliana Library in Florence, and the third, transcribed by Marino Raffaelli in 1475, at the National Library of Malta in Valletta.

Cotrugli was born in Dubrovnik around 1416 to a prominent merchant family. Initially set on a life of study, he had to interrupt his education to manage the family business after his father’s illness. His entrepreneurial ventures extended to Venice, Ragusa, Africa, Spain, and the entire western Mediterranean. In 1451, Cotrugli began a political-diplomatic career at the court of King Alfonso of Aragon, eventually becoming the director of the Mint of Naples and L’Aquila, where he died in 1469.

Scholars generally agree that Cotrugli’s work represents a milestone in economics and business. Luc Marco and Robert Noumen of the Sorbonne in Paris have called him the founder of the science of management.

Thanks to the twentieth-century Italian historian Oscar Nuccio, we can trace common historical and theoretical threads from the medieval jurist Albertanus of Brescia to the American Benjamin Franklin, passing through Italian Renaissance humanists like Coluccio Salutati, Poggio Bracciolini, and Cotrugli. Their writings highlight the value of work, industriousness, the pursuit of profit through innovation, and the ability to respond to emerging urban needs. This tradition marries humanist republicanism with the culture of enterprise, bolstering the idea that freedom and responsibility enrich all aspects of civic life: political, economic, and cultural.

Cotrugli and COTRUGLI Business School define business, or “mercatura,” as “an art, or rather a discipline, for the preservation of mankind, but also with the hope of gain.” This clear definition underscores Cotrugli’s vision: to describe entrepreneurial activity as lawful, respectable, and indispensable and show that business is oriented toward the common good. We can deduce three principles from Cotrugli’s definition: that enterprise must occur among lawful persons (the principle of legality), must be orderly (the principle of Eminem leader, or the “duty of care”), and must aim for profit (the principle of preservation of the human species). This anticipates Peter Drucker’s view that businesses are organs of society performing functions that transcend them.

Cotrugli viewed enterprise as a node of social cooperation with ends that extend beyond individual interests. Here, actors coordinate their activities and engage in productive work. Enterprise’s function is to create multidimensional value in political, economic, and cultural arenas. According to this philosophy, enterprise aligns with the concepts of fiduciary management and the common good. At COTRUGLI BUSINESS SCHOOL, we are honored to perpetuate this rich legacy. We emphasize that true business excellence lies in contributing to the common good and fostering a holistic approach to management and entrepreneurship