07 February 2014

CFP: "The organization of business in Early Modern Europe", (Utrecht, 21 – 23 August 2014)

What: The organization of business in Early Modern Europe, Session Proposal for the 18th Annual Congress of the European Business History Association, Call for papers
Where: Universiteit Utrecht, Domplein, 3512, Utrecht
When: 21-23 August 2014

Deadline: 15 February 2014
All information here

Aim of the Session

Large-scale enterprises such as the English or Dutch East India Companies loom large over the business history of early modern Europe because they pioneered the legal form of the modern corporation. In reality, the majority of private business enterprises, whether in the commercial or manufacturing sectors, maintained a family basis. They were normally organized as sole proprietorships or general partnerships, that is, private enterprises in which owners and managers had the same decision-making power and shared equally all profits and losses. During the late Middle Ages, however, merchants across the Mediterranean developed contractual forms that allowed them to raise funds from outside investors, who were not involved in managing the business and who remained liable only for their portion of the investment.

Since Max Weber, limited liability partnerships have been credited with a crucial role in the growth of impersonal markets because they allowed merchants to expand the range of investors beyond their families. We do not know, however, what led to the adoption of this new form or how widely it spread in Europe. This session will lay the ground for a more ambitious research aiming to map the relative importance of different kinds of private business organizations in Europe from 1500 to 1800 and to develop a comparative methodology to explain geographical and chronological variations. With the session in Utrecht, we want to take the first step in establishing a network of specialists on different countries to stimulate empirical research an theoretical reflection on the organization of business in early modern Europe.


The aim is to use this session to build a network of economic, social, and legal historians who do empirical work on the organization of businesses in various parts of Europe between the fifteenth and early nineteenth century. Through an open call for papers they will invite junior scholars in particular to contribute a paper to the session. In addition to this they will invite a limited number of senior experts in our existing network (e.g. Sheilagh Ogilvie, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, Tracy Dennison, Joost Jonker, Ron Harris, Jessica Goldberg, Ann Carlos, Naomi Lamoreaux, Tim Guinnane) to comment on the papers presented by the junior scholars.


Oscar Gelderblom, Associate Professor of Economic History, Utrecht University, works on the history of financial and commercial institutions, in particular in the Low Countries before the Industrial Revolution.

Francesca Trivellato, Frederick W. Hilles Professor of History, Yale University, works at the crossroads of social, economic, and cultural history with a focus on the Italian and Iberian peninsulas and France.

 Contact details
 O.C. GelderblomUtrecht University History Institute Drift 6 3512 BS Utrecht

Francesca Trivellato, Department of History Yale University, 320 York Street, P.O. Box 208324
New Haven, CT 06520-8324,

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