International Trade History Seminar
Date: November 4, 2000
Place: Kobe University Faculty of Letters
by FUJII Mari
FUJII reported on how Nantes became a principal port in the slave trade. Nantes, which first developed as an intermediary port in costal trade, began transporting indentured servants with the colonization of the Antilles in 1635. With the growth of labor demands on plantations, the port entered the slave trade by the early 18th century and became widely recognized in the trade.
The merchants initially conducting the slave trade can be divided into two groups. The first were immigrants to Nantes from within France, mainly from Paris and Orleans. The second were immigrants from abroad, most typically Irish Jacobites. By the mid-18th century the two groups had intermarried, and based on abundant capital and reputation among merchants, emerged as a formidable family network of slave traders. Second to none in Nantes, they established a trading company specifically for the slave trade, and with the cooperation of Parisian bankers and officials of the India Company, laid the basis for expanding their enterprise. The India Company possessed concessions in the West African slave trade, and thus enabled merchants to engage in the slave-trade more effectively. With financial backing from the center and participation in an exclusive enterprise, Nantes was assured development as the undisputed center for slave trade.
After FUJII's presentation, members of the audience asked how the shift from tobacco to sugar cane production within the colonial economy may relate to changes in the laborers involved, namely from indentured servants to slaves. The purchase of public offices by slave-traders and their connections with the central government, the role of gender in regard to strategic marriages, and finally explanations concerning the causal relationships of trade growth were also topics of further discussion. Comparisons with Medieval Mediterranean slave trade were drawn by researchers of Italian and Ottoman history, based on the cases of Genoa and Ragusa (Dubrovnik). Slavery was contrasted to indenturage, and questions were raised with regards to whether or not the morality of slavery itself was ever an issue among merchants. Slavery was officially banned due to humanitarian reasons in 15th century Ragusa.
English Tin Exports and London Merchants in the First Half of the 17th Century: Tin Farming and Trade with the Levant and Asia
Since the Medieval period, tin from the Cornwall peninsula in southwest England, had been, along with lead, England's principal export item next to fabrics. Following the studies conducted by John Hatcher on the production, manufacture and distribution processes of the medieval tin industry (both domestic and international) from a broad perspective, the report reviewed the structure of the tin industry. With the introduction of tin farming in the early 17th century, tin farmers emerged as a new interest group.
Included in contracts from four periods between 1607 and 1643 were members of the Levant Company, which was just forming among merchants in London, and the East India Company. It has been verified from company records that after 1616, the Levant Company, especially noted for its exclusivity, accepted tin farmers as new members. Since tin farmers were also granted monopolies on tin export, the trading activities of the Levant and East India companies in relation to tin export came under consideration next. The tax records (Port books) from London and south-western ports indicate that during the four periods the tin exported mainly by individual tin farmers were directed to the Levantine region, including the Livorno route. The exports by the East India company, especially towards Persia as indicated by the aforementioned sources, faced difficulties for a brief time period. This was due to the saturation of local markets by Dutch and Indian supplies.
After the report, the audience raised questions on the relation between the system of production (mining and refining) and company organizations on the one hand, and export trade on the other. Systematic mining procedures (winning and reefing?) to trade policy and export systems handling produce. Cases in Sweden were discussed in comparison. Further discussion centered on problems of arranging and interpreting sources, such as on the identity of tin exporters not specified as "tin farmers", and on determining the destination of tin exports. Produce destined for the Low Countries for example, were frequently re-exported towards Germany and Central Europe from Amsterdam. All in all, researchers of Western Europe, the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Islamic regions were able to exchange valuable information and the discussions were productive, marking yet another advancement in the "history of inter-regional exchange".