Shipping profits in the early modern period

  • W. Brulez


A few years ago Charles Wilson underlined the importance of transport in the history of economic development, with special reference to the role which sea transport had played in the economic development of the United Provinces. He concluded, in this connection, ‘there seems an incontestable case for arguing that the richest society so far in history had been the creation of sea transport’. The role of shipping lay in the following spheres: it was a source of income for individuals and an invisible export for the Republic, it exercised a multiplier-effect by its demand for ships, ships’ requirements, harbour equipment and related services; it provided for the supply of essential foodstuffs such as grain and salt, and above all of products which lay at the basis of the country’s industrial development: timber, barley, sugar, tobacco, rags and wool; sea trade was thus the foundation of an industrial system in which the author already detects the presence of a number of preconditions for the industrial revolution.1


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Grand Commerce Freight Rate 
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    Heers, Gênes, 315–20; F. Melis, ‘Werner Sombart e i problemi della navigazione nel Medio Evo’ in L’Opera di Werner Sombart nel centenario della nascita (Milan, 1964) 87–149, a very important article. For the growth of productivity in shipping see F. Lane, ‘Progrès technologique et productivité dans les transports maritimes de la tin du Moyen-Age au début des temps modernes’, Revue historique, CCLI (Paris, 1974) 277–302.Google Scholar
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    Heers, Gênes, 315–20; Craeybeckx, Grand commerce, 154–5, 164–5; Touchard, Commerce maritime, 339; Baasch ‘Zur Statistik’, 228 ff., Christensen, Dutch trade, 176–240, describes the transition from trade by the master (albeit as a subordinate) to trade by a factor; Coornaert, Français, II, 90; C.R. Boxer, ‘Sedentary workers and seafaring folk in the Dutch Republic’ in J.S. Bromley and E.H. Kossmann ed., Britain and the Netherlands, II (Groningen, 1964) 164–5. As we have said before, in Catalonia the trading function and part ownership of the shipmaster by him endured into the eighteenth century. On the archaic character of shipping there see Vilar, Catalogne, III, 300–1, 410. Cf. also above, note 45.Google Scholar
  81. 62.
    Davis, Rise, 197–8, 392, mentions that the fall in freight charges in the XVIIIth century did not occur in northern Europe, since competition from the Dutch had already brought them down to a low (and apparently minimal) level there since the middle of the XVIIth century. The fall in the XVIIIth century had no major consequences as transport costs for most products were already too small to have much infuence on their price. On trade routes where there was a great imbalance in the volume of goods imported and exported, freight rates had already fallen to virtually nothing in the sixteenth century. For example at Emden, for the trade to the Baltic: Hagedorn, ‘Betriebsformen’ I, 376. The same applies for freight charges for English exports in most directions in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries: Davis, Rise, 187. Since Dutch ships mostly sailed in ballast to two of their main destinations, the Baltic and the Iberian peninsula, their prices for freight in these directions must also have been minimal. Cf. Brulez, ‘Les escales au carrefour des Pays-Bas (Bruges et Anvers, 14e–16e siècles)’ in Receuils de la Société Jean Bodin, XXXII (Brussels, 1974) 464–6. Cf. J.E. Elias, Het voorspel van den eersten Engelschen oorlog (The Hague, 1920) I, 64.Google Scholar

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© Uitgeverij Martinus Nijhoff, Lange Voorhout 9, Den Haag 1981

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  • W. Brulez

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