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The evolution of Port merchants: An evolutionary analysis of the transformation of an economic sector (1700-1833)

Jacquinet, Marc (2006): The evolution of Port merchants: An evolutionary analysis of the transformation of an economic sector (1700-1833).

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Abstract

This historical episode is one of a profound transformation of this trade sector that between the end of the 17th century and the middle of the following one, namely the emergence and strengthening of the position of the British merchants in detriment to the competitive position of the merchants of other nationalities, including the Portuguese. During this period, England, the first import market for wine, a market undergoing substantial changes, dissociating itself from the traditional European wine of the previous century: the German and Italian wine, and associating itself with the Iberian Peninsular wines such as the Sherry (Jerez) and Port (vinho do Porto). Of course, the French wines retain a central place in the present story but this will not be our focus here. If the gravity center of consumption is dislocated to England, the production regions are also reorganized. The Iberian Peninsula is the rising side of the trade, directly competing with the French wines. Behind this change, there lies the emergence of a new population of wine merchants, especially in the case of the Port wine that I study in the present research. If the overall transformation of the sector, on an aggregated level has already been done, there is still a need of a research based on more detailed information. In this respect, I will insist above all on the transformation and evolution of the population of Port shipper from 1700 to 1833, basing my argument on historical documents from the Portuguese and English customs and other regulatory entities in Portugal. I will present the evolution of the population of wine merchants based on quantitative data (quantities exported) and qualitative data on Port shippers. I will focus the constitution and evolution of the core British merchants that will obtain and maintain the dominance on the sector. The second point of my research is the mechanism of transformation and renewal of the population of Port merchants of either group: British and non-British (as it is often referred to in the historical records). The perspective I will adopt is straightforwardly evolutionary. In the first section I present the issue I will tackle: the evolution of trade and the population of Port shippers from roughly 1700 to 1833. In the second section, I will develop some basic theoretical concepts from evolutionary theory in order to adapt them to the present study. In the third part, I analyze the evolution of the population of wine merchants on quantitative data of exports, other economic and institutional indicators (market trends, regulation policy, market structure, etc.). I will finish with the presentation of a summary table that will compare the situation at the beginning of the period and the outcome of the evolutionary transformation of the sector at the end of the 1830s.

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