Type
Article
Title
Becoming a correspondent : The foundations of new merchant relationships in early modern Europe (1730-1820)
In
Enterprise & Society
Author(s)
BARTOLOMEI Arnaud - Université Nice Sophia Antipolis (Author)
LEMERCIER Claire - Centre de sociologie des organisations (Author)
REBOLLEDO-DHUIN Viera - Université Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines (Author)
SOUGY Nadège - Laboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône-Alpes (Author)
Editor
GB : Oxford University Press
Volume
20
Number
3
Pages
533 - 577 p.
ISSN
14672227
Keywords
commercial networks, commercial operations, recommendations, business, commercial strategy
Abstract
EN
This article discusses the relational and rhetorical foundations of more than 300 first letters sent in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by merchant or banking houses based in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Americas to two prominent French firms: Roux Brothers and Greffulhe Montz & Cie. We used a quantitative analysis of qualitative aspects of first letters to go beyond the standard opposition between premodern personal exchanges and modern impersonal transactions. The expansion of commercial networks during the period under analysis is often believed to have relied on families and ethnic networks and on explicit recommendations worded in the formulas prescribed in 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. In the early nineteenth century, this norm became less prevalent: it was replaced by diverse relational and rhetorical strategies, from recommendations to prospective letters dispensing with any mention of relationships. Whether before or after 1800, the relational and rhetorical resources displayed in letters did not systematically influence the sender’s chances of becoming a correspondent; instead, they depended on the receiving firm’s commercial strategy.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC QUOTE
EXPORT