Friendly Dealings or a Conspiracy Against the Public? Thinking About Merchant Networks and Political Economies in the Early Modern Time

Research Seminar

Organised by Prof. Regina Grafe and Prof. Luca Molà
Thursdays, 17:10-19:00, Sala Belvedere
Admin. Assistant:  Miriam Curci
Starts on 14 January 2015


Seminar Description

Historians can now count on a rich and growing historiography that probes into the role of networks in commercial life. Many of these contributions take a bottom-up approach offering a micro-historical perspective of the social, cultural and economic interactions that characterized early modern mercantile activity. This is also a global historiography that compares families’ strategies, business practices and mentalities in a cross-cultural and cross-religious dimension. An equally large literature exists on the political economy and the role of the state in what is usually described as the mercantilist age. By contrast, this takes mostly a top-down and critical approach, looking at competition among corporate groups and emerging national entities. These strands of historiography have traditionally followed diverging paths. In the seminar we want to explore the tensions and contradictions of the two levels of analysis, but also their possible complementarities. The interplay of state structures and individual agency will be at the core of our discussion.


14 January: Cross-cultural Trade

  • Trivellato, Francesca. “Jews of Leghorn, Italians of Lisbon, and Hindus of Goa: Merchant Networks and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period”, in Diogo Ramada Curto and Anthony Molho (eds.), Commercial Networks in the Early Modern World, EUI Working Papers, San Domenico (FI), 2002: 59-89.
  • Trivellato, Francesca. The Familiarity of Strangers. The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno and Cross-Cultural Trade in Early Modern Europe. New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 2009, Introduction: 1-20.
  • Curtin, Philip. Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, Chapters 1 and 10: 1-14, 207-229.


21 January: Trust and Diaspora: “Trust is Good but Control is Better”
(Giorgio-Giòrs Tosco)

  • Cohen, Abner. "Cultural Strategies in the Organization of Trading Diasporas", in The Development of Indigenous Trade and Markets in West Africa, Claude Meillassoux (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971: 266-84.
  • Goldberg, Jessica L. "Choosing and Enforcing Business Relationships in the Eleventh-Century Mediterranean: Reassessing the 'Maghribi Traders'", Past and Present, 216 (2012): 3-40.
  • Platteau, Jean Philippe. "Behind the Market Stage Where Real Societies Exist - Part I: The Role of Public and Private Order Institutions", Journal of Development Economics,30 (1994): 533-577.


28 January: Traders Without States: The Armenians Across the Ottoman and Safavid Empires
(Alberto Sanchez Camacho)

  • Aslanian, Sebouh David. From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean : The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa. Berkley [etc.]: University of California Press, 2014, Chapter 7: 166-201.
  • Mathee, Rudolph. The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk for Silver, 1600-1730, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Chapter 3: 61-90.
  • Baghdiantz McCabe, Ina. “Global Trading Ambitions in Diaspora: The Armenians and their Eurasian Silk Trade, 1530-1750”, in Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Gelina Harlaftis and Ioanna Pepelasis Minoglou (eds.), Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History, Oxford-New York (NY): Berg, 2005.


3 February: Merchants and States: Hard Rules, Soft Ties and Rents for All 
(Pedro José Herades Ruiz)

  • Grafe, Regina. "On the Spatial Nature of Institutions and the Institutional Nature of Personal Networks in the Spanish Atlantic", Culture & History Digital Journal,3 (2014): e006.
  • Pearson, M.N. "Merchants and States", in James D. Tracy (ed.), The Political Economy of Merchant Empires, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991: 41-116.
  • Zahedieh, Nuala. "Regulation, Rent-Seeking, and the Glorious Revolution in the English Atlantic Economy", Economic History Review,63 (2010): 865-90.


11 February: Prudent and Thrifty People: Northern European Industriousness
(Cristophe Schellekens)

  • Ormrod, David. The Rise of Commercial Empires: England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, Introduction and Conclusion.
  • de Vries, Jan. "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution", Journal of Economic History,54 (1994): 249-70.
  • Stern, Philip. "Companies: Monopoly, Sovereignty, and the British East Indies", in Philip Stern and Carl Wennerlind (eds.), Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.


18 February: Lazy, Improvident People: Spanish Backwardness Revisited
(Jonathan Fink-Jensen)

  • Acemoglu, Daron, and James A Robinson. Why Nations Fail? The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York: Crown, 2012. Chapter 1: 7-44
  • MacKay, Ruth. "Lazy, Improvident People". Myth and Reality in the Writing of Spanish History. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2006.
  • Grafe, Regina. Distant Tyranny. Markets, Power and Backwardness in Spain 1650-1800. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012: Chapter 7.


25 February: The Political Economies of Innovation
(Juha Haavisto)

  • Molà, Luca. “States and Crafts: Relocating Technical Skills in Renaissance Italy’, in The Material Renaissance, in Evelyn Welch and Michelle O’Malley (eds.), Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.
  • Thirsk, Joan. Economic Policy and Projects. The Development of a Consumer Society in Early Modern England, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, Chapters 1 and 2: 1-50.
  • Bacon, Francis. New Atlantis, excerpts; and Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels, excerpts.
  • Bertucci, Paola. “Enlightened Secrets: Silk, Intelligent Travel, and Industrial Espionage in Eighteenth-Century France”, Technology and Culture, 54 (2013): 820-852.


3 March: No session


10 March: Speculators and Adventurers: Lotteries, Bubbles, Projects and their victims
(Maarten Draper)

  • Murphy, Anne. "Lotteries in the 1690s : Investment or Gamble?", Financial History Review, 12 (2005): 227-46.
  • Wennerlind, Carl. Casualties of Credit. The English Financial Revolution, 1620–1720. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. Chapter 4.
  • Galbraith, John Kenneth. A Short History of Financial Euphoria, New York: Penguin, 1994, Chapters 3 and 4: 26-52.
  • Defoe, Daniel. An Essay Upon Projects, New York: AMS Press, 1999.


17 March: Mercantilism: Unleashing Leviathan?

(Emilie Fiorucci)

  • Hecksher, Eli K. “Revisions in Economic History. V: Mercantilism”, The Economic History Review, 7 (1936): 44-54.
  • Wakefield, Andre. "Cameralism: A German Alternative to Mercantilism", Mercantilism Reimagined. Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire, in Philip J. Stern and Carl Wennerlind (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Deyon, Pierre and Guignet, Philippe. “The Royal Manufactures and Economic and Technological Progress in France before the Industrial Revolution”, Journal of European Economic History, 9 (1980): 611-632.
  • Minard, Philippe. “Economie de marché et Etat en France: mythes et légendes du colbertisme”, L'Économie politique, 37 (2008): 77-94.


Date tba: Trip Florence: Visit to the Archivio di Stato, Archivio degli Innocenti and Opificio delle Pietre Dure

  • Goldthwaite, Richard A. “Artisans and the Economy in Sixteenth-Century Florence”, in The Medici, Michelangelo, and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence, New Haven-London, 2002: 85-93.
  • Giusti, Annamaria. “The Origins and Splendors of the Grand-Ducal Pietre Dure Workshops”, ibid.: 103-111.
  • Gavitt, Philip. “An Experimental Culture: The Art of the Economy and the Economy of Art under Cosimo I and Francesco I”, in Konrad Eisenbichler (ed.), The Cultural Politics of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001: 205-221.


Page last updated on 18 August 2017

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