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Entrepreneurs at sea: Trading practices, legal opportunities and early modern globalization

Review article
Authors Maria Fusaro
Richard J Blakemore
Benedetta Crivelli
Kate J Ekama
Tijl Vanneste
Jan Lucassen
Matthias van Rossum
Yoshihiko Okabe
Per Hallén
Patrick M Kane
Published in International Journal of Maritime History
Volume 28
Issue 4
Pages 774-786
ISSN 0843-8714
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Economic History
Pages 774-786
Language en
Keywords Maritime history, trade, salt
Subject categories Economic History


Historians of globalization have considered how the early phases of globalization brought about changes in localized legal systems. But rather than pursuing the conventional approach of identifying ways in which the law developed to function on a more global scale, we adopt a localized perspective to examine how a landscape of different legal systems offered myriad opportunities in which the entrepreneurial activities of many actors could flourish. Instead of investigating the ‘usual suspects’ of the mercantile world – the seemingly ubiquitous, multi-faceted ‘merchants’ – we focus on the economic role played by seamen as traders by interrogating ‘economic’ and ‘legal’ evidence to illuminate the spread of their entrepreneurial activities across the globe. We take a comparative view of this broad subject by seeking to identify similarities and contrasts in the economic behaviour of seafarers from various European countries. In spatial terms, our focus is on the Mediterranean basin, because this was the first area in which different European legal and business models clashed. However, the session at the XVIIth World Economic History in Kyoto was conceived to include a wider selection of early modern examples, as it is our contention that these clashes were formative elements in the economic tide that swept across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, giving rise to early modern globalization.

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