Merchants' Networks

Cathy D. Matson

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Merchants' Networks

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
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For many decades, scholars have studied the commercial connections of the Atlantic world across national and imperial boundaries. Merchants have been one of the most important social groups in many of these studies. But only in recent years has scholarly focus shifted noticeably from connecting merchants to the rise of organized, regulated mercantile empires, to viewing merchants in webs or networks of individually organized, constantly shifting coalitions of interests. The individual agency of merchants, with their methods of organizing commerce against the backdrop of imperial authority, has become a dominant way of reconstructing merchants’ lives in transnational economies. Merchants’ correspondence, account books, literary choices, cultural memberships, material cultures, and interest-group activities have become valuable ways of gaining insight into merchant networks and how they worked. Networks have also been reconstructed based on merchants’ credit, concerns about reputation, methods of bookkeeping, family alliances, distribution of particular commodities, and other business methods. Many scholars have also written comparative studies of different port cities, ethnic groups, or generations over time that have also yielded portraits of essential and enduring networks of merchants.

Article.  5279 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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