Proposal preview

Pre- and Early Modern Dissertation Competition

Dissertation competition and presentations on topics from any period of time before the 19th century.

Organizer(s)

  • Marjolein t'Hart University of Amsterdam marjolein.thart@huygens.knaw.nl The Netherlands

Session members

  • Anne Ruderman, Yale University/Harvard University
  • Trevor Jackson, University of California, Berkeley
  • Pinar Ceylan, London School of Economics

Discussant(s)

  • Marjolein t'Hart University of Amsterda marjolein.thart@huygens.knaw.nl

Papers

Panel abstract

1st half

Supplying the Slave Trade: How Europeans Met African Demand for European Manufactured Products, Commodities and Re-exports, 1670-1790

Anne Ruderman

My dissertation tells the material backstory of the transatlantic slave trade. Although the slave trade resulted in the forced migration of millions of people, slave-trading happened piecemeal on the African coast, with Europeans exchanging small bundles of goods for small numbers of slaves in a series of repeated transactions. For Europeans, the key to successfully carrying out this type of assortment bargaining was getting the trade goods right. In order to do so, European slave-ship outfitters had to understand the tastes and preferences of their African trading partners. My dissertation asks how Europeans generated knowledge of tastes and preferences on the African coast, relayed that information back to Europe, worked with international suppliers to acquire the right trade goods, and then strategically deployed those goods in the African Atlantic. Ultimately, my dissertation shows that African consumer demand shaped the contours of the transatlantic slave trade, both on the African coast...

My dissertation tells the material backstory of the transatlantic slave trade. Although the slave trade resulted in the forced migration of millions of people, slave-trading happened piecemeal on the African coast, with Europeans exchanging small bundles of goods for small numbers of slaves in a series of repeated transactions. For Europeans, the key to successfully carrying out this type of assortment bargaining was getting the trade goods right. In order to do so, European slave-ship outfitters had to understand the tastes and preferences of their African trading partners. My dissertation asks how Europeans generated knowledge of tastes and preferences on the African coast, relayed that information back to Europe, worked with international suppliers to acquire the right trade goods, and then strategically deployed those goods in the African Atlantic. Ultimately, my dissertation shows that African consumer demand shaped the contours of the transatlantic slave trade, both on the African coast and deep within the European interior.

Markets of Exception: An Economic History of Impunity in Britain and France, 1720-1830

Trevor Jackson

Historians have begun to return to economic history, and especially to the history of inequality. As part of that effort, this dissertation develops and employs the concept of “economic impunity.” It argues that impunity is a function of three variables acting with the sphere of the economy: prosecutorial discretion, technical knowledge, and the international mobility of capital. Drawing on evidence from twenty-three archives in four countries, focusing on the international financial crises of 1720, 1793, and 1825, the dissertation uses the concept of impunity to illustrate how institutional exceptions allowed for the frequent but disavowed episodes of dispossession that accompanied the rise of modern finance. By historicizing financial crises and their consequences, the dissertation illustrates how a political and legal form of inequality diffused across the long eighteenth century, moving from a characteristic of sovereignty to a problem of democratic political legitimacy to a constitutive feature of international banking institutions.

Historians have begun to return to economic history, and especially to the history of inequality. As part of that effort, this dissertation develops and employs the concept of “economic impunity.” It argues that impunity is a function of three variables acting with the sphere of the economy: prosecutorial discretion, technical knowledge, and the international mobility of capital. Drawing on evidence from twenty-three archives in four countries, focusing on the international financial crises of 1720, 1793, and 1825, the dissertation uses the concept of impunity to illustrate how institutional exceptions allowed for the frequent but disavowed episodes of dispossession that accompanied the rise of modern finance. By historicizing financial crises and their consequences, the dissertation illustrates how a political and legal form of inequality diffused across the long eighteenth century, moving from a characteristic of sovereignty to a problem of democratic political legitimacy to a constitutive feature of international banking institutions.

Essays on Markets, Prices, and Consumption in the Ottoman Empire (Late-Seventeenth to Mid-Nineteenth Centuries)

Pinar Ceylan

The Ottoman Empire has been cited alongside Qing China and Mughal India as a site where divergence can be identified and analysed. However, it has assumed little significance within the Great Divergence literature. My thesis addresses this lacuna by focusing on three phenomena associated with pre-industrial growth in Europe: market integration, changing patterns of consumption, and productivity gains in non-agricultural sectors, marked by a decline in real prices of manufactured and traded goods. And, it asks whether these phenomena were also observable in a non-Western context. I demonstrate that on the eve of the first wave of globalisation, domestic wheat markets in the Ottoman Empire were no better integrated than in late-17th century. Nevertheless, Europe and the Ottoman Empire shared several characteristics of early-modern consumerism. The interiors of Ottoman houses grew richer and more varied throughout this period and a decline in the real prices of consumer goods was a...

The Ottoman Empire has been cited alongside Qing China and Mughal India as a site where divergence can be identified and analysed. However, it has assumed little significance within the Great Divergence literature. My thesis addresses this lacuna by focusing on three phenomena associated with pre-industrial growth in Europe: market integration, changing patterns of consumption, and productivity gains in non-agricultural sectors, marked by a decline in real prices of manufactured and traded goods. And, it asks whether these phenomena were also observable in a non-Western context. I demonstrate that on the eve of the first wave of globalisation, domestic wheat markets in the Ottoman Empire were no better integrated than in late-17th century. Nevertheless, Europe and the Ottoman Empire shared several characteristics of early-modern consumerism. The interiors of Ottoman houses grew richer and more varied throughout this period and a decline in the real prices of consumer goods was a major factor that triggered this change. Ultimately, my thesis points to unequal market development, as a major source of divergence prior to the Industrial Revolution.

2nd half