Report on the Ninth "History of International Trade" Research Group Meeting
Time: Saturday June 3, 2000
Place: University of Tokyo, Faculty of Letters
Number of participants: 20
Following the introduction of new members and the exchange of information related to the documents studied, reports were given by MORINAGA Takako and NEMOTO Akira.
In relation to the MORINAGA report, the following topics were discussed: the relative importance of commercial activities at Siberian fairs in the traditional soviet historiography; historical research on the Kjakhta trade from the viewpoint of Chinese history, technical knowledge concerning trade commodities such as fur, and means of transportation in inland Siberia.
Relating to the NEMOTO report, the geographical environment surrounding Stockholm and the significance of Lake Malaren in water-borne transportation in general were the main issues raised by the study group. As before, the meeting drew enthusiastic responses from Islamic scholars,although neither of the reports directly addressed the Islamic world. In this regard the meeting has fostered "inter-regional interaction" among scholars.
"The Irkutsk Fair and the Siberian Trade System--From the End of the 18th Century to the First Half of the19th Century"
The fairs held in Irkutsk, a city in eastern Siberia, had been held since 1767 on government orders with the aim of regulating various forms of commercial activity which profited from the Kjakhta trade, or the border trade along the frontiers of Russia and Ch'ing China. On conducting commercial transactions in Irkutsk, there was steady opposition from Irkutsk merchants towards business competitors such as European/Russian merchants and people of different status living off the commercial sector. These were the circumstances that made Irkutsk a unique site for commercial trade, whereby commodities freely crossed regional and class boundaries which otherwise divided the empire.
During the same period merchants had expanded their activity in pursuit of furs, the principal trade item of the Kjakhta trade, to the northeast coast of the present US, whereby merchants utilized the network of Siberian rivers in transporting their merchandise. With various fairs throughout Siberia and the establishment of trade networks linking Europe to Russia, Irkutsk evolved into a hub for distributing goods throughout eastern Siberia. Reflecting circumstances of the Kjakhta trade, the items of trade entering the market varied increasingly in their national origins. Furs from Siberia and Chinese textiles dominated the market initially, though the mid-19th century saw a shift towards Siberian agricultural products and Chinese tea. There was also a flow of commodities from West Asia and the Middle East via Europe/Russia and the Irkutsk Fair, in addition to being the regional distribution center, served as a linkage between European and Asian trade.
Summary of NAMOTO Akira report
A transportation route linking Hedeby*1,the westward outpost at the neck of Jutland*2, to the Lake Malaren*3 region of central Sweden via Gotland was established on the Baltic Sea at the time of the Vikings. Likewise, upon continuing on sea toward the Gulf of Finland, there lay a commercial network of outposts built on large rivers, encompassing Russia, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea. Thus the Baltic Sea, situated as a crucial link in East-West trade and as a stage for plunder and trade, saw the development of international trade along with Christianization and the expansion of Germanic peoples.
A decisive turning point arrived when Stockholm was built on the entrance to Lake Malaren in the mid-13th century. The construction of a lock on the lake followed, whereby crops, iron and bronze shipments from within were concentrated and the lake was closed to entering vessels. Stockholm grew rapidly into a transshipment-place*4 for the Hanseatic League. This in turn promoted the formation of the Swedish state, and to creating staples of her domestic and foreign commerce, both to which the Hansa merchants adapted over time. Another relevant factor in the development of the city was the import restriction policy on products from the Bosnian/Finnish coast, the so-called "Bosnian trading restriction" intended to absorb peasant-trading ( bondesglation navigation by peasant traders*5) . However, with the colonization of northern and eastern regions and thus the emergence of new regions for trade, the restriction became an opposing force unto itself, giving peasant trade a foothold and creating loopholes in regulation. On the other hand the traditional northward/eastward orientation (especially the Russian market) and commercial interests formed the basis for the expansionist policies of latter-day Sweden.
*1 Haithabu in German
*2 Jylland in vernacular Danish
*3 The second "a" is actually an "a-umlaut". When umlaut does not appear on the computer, the spelling shall be left to "Lake Malaren"
*4 Umschlagplatz in German
*5 bondeseglation is the Swedish academic term, this shall be left in parentheses