Proposal preview

The logistics of globalisation in pre- and early industrial times

The long-term process of globalisation, or in other words: the time during which the world was encompassed, characterises pre- and early industrial times. The impact of globalisation on economy and society has become a well-established topic of historical analysis. The logistics of globalisation, however, have received less scholarly attention. They comprise all deliberate efforts to establish, improve, control and exploit transport infrastructure with the aim of supporting the domestic economy, enhancing international trade and increasing economic and national power. In its long-term development, a general evolution from local (often private) initiatives to transnational policy-making, that was typical of commercial exchange in general, can be observed in the realm of logistics and certainly was an important driving force for globalisation. This session addresses the main components of the ‘discovery of logistics’ during the pre- and early industrial waves of globalisation, such as 1) the development of institutional frameworks for complex international transport operations, 2) the development, use and spread of technical innovations and 3) the emergence of supranational and perhaps even globally operative transportation networks.
The development of institutional frameworks for complex international transport operations covers a wide range of topics, including an internationally accepted legal basis for neutral shipping, the establishment of free ports (porto franco), markets and fairs, the granting of transit rights to certain intermediaries in long-distance trade and the exclusion of others, or the establishment of monopolies or exclusive rights to organise transport services on certain domestic and international routes. Various institutional developments can be identified, that were directly concerned with the establishment, improvement, obstruction or even outright blockade of commodity flows (and thus of transportation) in pre- and early-industrial times. Each of them sheds light on the emergence of novel ways to deal with increased international competition in pre- and early-industrial times. Though individual cases may seem to be very different at first, these institutions literally dealt with and influenced the ‘course of trade’.
The development, use and spread of technical innovations perhaps needs the least introduction: it covers gradual improvements in shipbuilding as well as the more radical introduction of the steamship, but it also covers the construction of canals, roads and railways as initiatives that were expected to have a positive impact on the domestic economic, international and finally on a country’s political power. Each of these ideas and initiatives – regardless of their actual implementation or success – contributed to a better understanding of the role of transportation in the overall economy and thus to an innovation in thinking, which might be pinpointed as the ‘discovery of logistics’.
Finally, the session addresses the emergence of supranational and globally operative transportation networks as another result of the ‘discovery of logistics’. Here, the focus is on the overland and maritime routes along which expansion took place, the networks of carriers that operationalised these routes and the relation between transportation and trade networks.
The aim of the session is to produce new and stimulating insights on the logistics of globalisation by inviting comparative and case-study analyses of pre- and early industrial logistics developments around the world. Papers will be invited which deal with one or more of the main components of the ‘discovery of logistics’ in maritime and overland trade during pre- and early-industrial times.


  • Werner Scheltjens, University of Leipzig,, Germany
  • Markus A. Denzel, University of Leipzig,, Germany
  • Jari Ojala, University of Jyväskylä,, Finland

Session members

  • Markus A. Denzel, University of Leipzig,
  • Apostolos Delis, Foundation of Research and Technology,
  • Jari Ojala, University of Jyväskylä,
  • Timo Tiainen, University of Jyväskylä,
  • Adrian Selin, Higher School of Economics,
  • Klas Rönnbäck, Gothenburg University,
  • Dimitrios Theodoridis, Gothenburg University,
  • Anna Orlowska, ,
  • Toshiaki Tamaki, Kyoto Sangyo University,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Werner Scheltjens, University of Leipzig,