• Participan
  • Ecole
  • European Institute
  • Ferrara
  • Foscari
  • Heidelberg
  • iue
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Research Objectives


1) Traders and their networks at and between the four ports
The merchants and their networks who mediated Spanish-Habsburg trade between 1725 and 1815 will be described – both at each single port city under consideration (Trieste, Livorno, Genoa, Barcelona, and Cádiz) as well as between them. This approach allows taking into account the integration with local communities – including family based networks – as well as studying the ties between traders at different trade centers. These social networks provided the necessary social and technical organization (such as branch offices, commercial agents, shipping and financial services) for intermediating goods between distant economic regions by channeling capital into commercialization of products. The merchants and their networks will be identified by various ways: First, traders from Trieste, Milan, Venice, Genoa and Livorno who migrated to Cádiz and Barcelona will be examined by establishing their biographical background, the links with their regions of origin and the character of their trade operations. In a second step, further groups such as Flemish and Catalan traders in Barcelona will be included in the sample following information provided by diplomatic reports and custom registers. In a third step, the information obtained from the archives in Cádiz and Barcelona will be cross-checked and amplified by archival research in Genoa, Livorno and Trieste.


2) Trans-imperial and trans-national networks
In a further step the social, political and cultural configuration of these networks will be researched in more detail combining recent trends of scholarship on long-distance maritime traders. Among them, the concept of trans-national and trans-imperial networks is paramount, as it focuses on merchants as actors who transcended both the boundaries of states and port cities, but also of one single cultural, linguistic and religious community. This approach will be used in combination with the conception of mercantile Diasporas and family networks. Each of them represents a form of network strategy providing resources, information and trust. Rather than treating them as mutually exclusive patterns of business organization, their different use according to space, time and specific context is analysed. In this sense, it will be explored how these different network configurations affected trade flows – e.g. by opening access to markets, facilitating political influence and/or lowering transaction costs.


3) Merchants and the state: commercial diplomacy and lobbying
A further element of trade networks is their capacity to enact influence on political decisions in order to obtain both institutional back-up and special favors in support of their business interests. Merchants directed different lobbying activities towards the Spanish, Austrian and Tuscan governments regarding the states’ customs policy, the negotiation of commercial treaties regulating their judicial status in foreign port cities and the concession of business contracts. Also, the merchants’ direct involvement in governmental institutions of the three states will be taken into account with a particular focus on the blurred lines between traders and commercial diplomacy, i.e. consuls. The links between political and business networks add a further element to the understanding of the network mechanisms of early modern long-distance trade. At the same time the role of governmental institutions and their economic policy serves as a case study of the state’s capacity to regulate socio-economic processes. Hereby, the interrelation between political sovereignty, governance and trade connection will be studied.


4) Commercial intermediaries and the inner economy
Another aspect of merchant networks is their link to the inner economies of Spain and the Habsburg Monarchy. It will be explored what kind of connections existed between traders on the one hand and agricultural and proto-industrial capital on the other hand, how these links affected the evolution of bilateral trade and the development of production. Thus, different investment strategies of traders are analyzed: Beside fields closely related to trade business such as maritime shipping and insurances, acquisition of land property, engagement in proto-industrial activities such as factories, banking and regional trade are to be highlighted.



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