January 10, 2018
Arnaud Bartolomei et al., « Becoming a correspondent:The foundations of new merchant relationships in early modern Europe (1730-1820) », Sciences Po Institutional REpository
This paper discusses the relational and rhetorical foundations of over three hundred first letters sent by merchant or banking houses to two prominent European firms of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Roux brothers and Greffulhe Montz & Cie. The expansion of commercial networks during this period is often believed to have relied on families and ethnic networks and on explicit recommendation worded in the formulas prescribed by merchant manuals. However, most first letters did not use such resources. In many cases, commercial operations began thanks to a mutual acquaintance but without a formal recommendation. This was in fact the norm in the eighteenth century – and an underestimated foundation of the expansion of European commercial networks. It was even possible to dispense with any mention of relations. Moreover, the relational and rhetorical resources displayed in letters did not systematically influence the sender’s chances of becoming a correspondent, which instead depended on the receiving firm’s commercial strategy.