Work Package 2

Market Networks

The studies in this work package reflect the historical periods covered by the research carried out by various members of the Institute of Historical Research that highlight the structure and operation of the networks linking people, goods, and markets. They elaborate the notion of the market as a constructive element of the network and a space of convergence of people and goods, the interconnection of markets through the circulation of raw materials (salt, metals, dyes), agricultural products (oil, wine, cereal) and manufactured products (ceramic wares, domestic equipment). The network of markets is studied from the pre-historical to the modern times, highlighting the geographical entirety of the Mediterranean, which is characterized by common climatic and geophysical features. It constitutes a natural zone in which residents not only cultivate similar agricultural products and exploit similar natural resources, but also share these goods and use common materials in constructions and other aspects of daily life. This work package amply demonstrates how the Mediterranean formed a unified productive and economic zone through specific contributions that study the multifaceted networks of trade.

Barter economy and money economy coexisted for a long time in the history of the diverse geographical regions of the Mediterranean, and this co-existence leaves enough evidence for us to trace its structures and mechanisms. Network organization is the tool with which the study of continuity, survival, and complementarity of different forms of economic organization is made possible. The main link between the economy of the agricultural hinterland and the urban center is the merchant. Commercial networks constitute the basis of the exchange system since they allow the interconnection of consumers and producers. Karl Polanyi laid the theoretical foundation for the study of exchange systems that originally relied on reciprocity and redistribution, and required preexistent long-term relations that allowed the development of ties of mutual trust among the agents involved. Later on, with the organization of institutions by central authorities, exchanges took place in the market where producers and consumers flocked, in a specific time and place. In such exchanges there was no need for preexisting relations between the two parties, while besides bartering the exchange of items, currency began to be increasingly used. Prehistoric archaeologists, led by Colin Renfrew, were the first to discern the value of commercial markets as factors of cultural change, with the transfer of ideas and the diffusion of novel technologies. In tandem, the original trade routes seem to have been the basis for the posterior opening of land routes, which were structured by central authorities. Geographical migration was inherent to the creation of the market and to commercial activity; bibliography locates a first major breakthrough in Europe between 1200 and 1400, with the so-called Commercial Revolution. The organization of trade by different population groups presents numerous common typological characteristics for many centuries, such as the family form of organization. The development of the typology of the merchant from the 16th to the 19th century is studied in parallel with economic crises and the shifting importance of the markets. The living organism that brings together the shifting geography of the markets’ importance is the commercial firm through the organization of its networks. The commercial world of the merchants was created with the help of the firm and its network that stretched beyond the boundaries of ethnic and national sovereignties. From the 13th to the 19th century a “uniform economic space” was created in the Mediterranean thanks to commercial transactions, the circulation of currencies and exchange practices.