Flandreau M. et al. (2009) The question was not how to develop finance

August 30, 2009

Flandreau, Marc, Christophe Galimard, Clemens Jobst and Pilar Nogués-Marco (2009) “The bell-jar: commercial interest rates betwee two revolutions” in The Origin and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, eds. Jeremy Atack and Larry Neal, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 161-208.

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An earlier version of this paper is available here.

For institutionalist economists as well as for contemporary commentators, the wealth of nations in 18th century Europe was rooted in their political system which influenced the level of interest rates and thus trade (p.165). The confidence investors had in the government’s credit was thus seen as critical (tellingly John Law’s primary aim was to bring interest rates down; p.166). Read the rest of this entry »

Gelderblom O. (2005) The decline of fairs and merchant guilds

March 13, 2009

Gelderblom, Oscar (2005) “The decline of Fairs and Merchant Guilds in the Low Countries, 1250-1650″, Economy and Society in the Low Countries before 1850, Working Paper 1, 47p.


This article is available on line

Between the 11th and 13th century, during the Commercial Revolution, long-distance trade in Europe expanded rapidly thanks to organizational improvements such as fairs and merchant guilds (p.1). In fairs, merchants increased their chance to find business partners and benefited from the protection and the contract-enforcement abilities of the local jurisdictions. Merchant guilds were associations of traders from the same origin present in a foreign market and united in order to increase their bargain power with local authorities (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »

Bolton J.L. and Guidi Bruscoli F. (2008) When did Antwerp replace Bruges?

March 12, 2009

Bolton, Jim L. and Guidi Bruscoli, Francesco (2008) “When did Antwerp replace Bruges as the commercial and financial centre of north-western Europe? The evidence of the Borromei ledger for 1438”, The Economic History Review, 61/2, 360-379.


This article is part of the on-going research project, the Borromei family and its banks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

The classic account of the rise of Antwerp

In the 1940-60s, the Belgian scholar J. A. van Houtte produced what was to become the classical account of the rise of Antwerp. In his view, Bruges was not only the entrepôt where goods from the Mediterranean and the Baltic were exchanged, but also the door to and from the dynamic Flemish market, which at the time was boosted by a large urban population, a wealthy bourgeoisie and the magnificent court of the dukes of Burgundy. Read the rest of this entry »

Bulut M. (2002) Dutch and Ottoman commercial interactions

March 1, 2009

Bulut, Mehmet (2002) “The Role of the Ottoman and Dutch in the Commercial Integration between the Levant and Atlantic in the Seventeenth Century”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 45/2, 197-230.



Large trade volume and significant bullion transfer testify of the advanced integration between the Ottoman Empire and Europe in the early modern period (p.197). The discovery of the Cape route had gradually weakened the Ottoman position as Europe’s middleman, but by the end of the 16th century it remained significant (p.198). To replace the vanishing fiscal revenues, the Ottoman rulers granted trading privileges (the so-called capitulations) to European nations who were consequently attracted to the Levant ports. But these efforts were unable to limit the Rise of the West of which the commercial integration of the Levant and the Atlantic is a part (p.199). Read the rest of this entry »

Fontaine L. (1993) The French pedlars in Europe, 1650-1900

January 30, 2009

Fontaine, Laurence (1993) Histoire du colportage en Europe. XVe – XIXe siècle, Paris: Albin Michel, 334p.


“if you ever hear the pedlar, you would never dance again after a tabor and pipe; no, the bagpipe could not move you … he has songs for men and women of all sizes … he hath ribands of all the colours i’ the rainbow … he sings them over as they were gods and goddesses”

William Shakespeare, Winter’s tale.


This book is both important and disappointing. While the title indicates a history of the peddlers in Europe from the 15th to the 19th century, what its author delivers is closer from a research on one or two French networks from 1680 to 1850.  Laurence Fontaine studies the traders rather than the trade itself, the quantitative aspects (how many traders, value of the goods traded) are never dealt with. As usual for a French historian, the economic exchanges are seen as embedded in the social relations, which gives a convenient excuse not to undertake the painstaking economic approach of the issue.  Read the rest of this entry »