Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Logistics in early-modern Europe: A discussion of specialization, flexibility and efficiency in the activities of the Dutch shipping community in the eighteenth century

Scheltjens, Werner (2007): Logistics in early-modern Europe: A discussion of specialization, flexibility and efficiency in the activities of the Dutch shipping community in the eighteenth century.

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Abstract

In this paper, I try to substantiate the necessity of studying early-modern maritime shipping as an integral economic activity, by which I mean that early-modern maritime shipping is defined not only by the nodes it connects nor by its own social structures exclusively, but by both elements at the same time. Moreover, maritime shipping must be viewed in an unabridged fashion: it is an economic activity that covers large distances and long periods of time. This implies that we need to find a way to overcome the limitations of the currently predominant view of early-modern maritime shipping as a set of condensed numerical data. I will prove empirically that transportation networks were indeed socially constructed spaces with the necessary features to allow us to speak of maritime shipping as an integral economic activity. I will do this by studying the operational and organizational structures of Dutch maritime shipping in the first half of the eighteenth century. In this paper, I present a preliminary taxonomy of shipping patterns on the basis of a continuous trade-off between cargo, port of destination and origin of the shipmaster. This taxonomy distinguishes between repetitiveness and flexibility in the shipmaster's choice of cargoes and routes.

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