On 5 November at 16:15 Hannes Vinnal will defend his doctoral thesis „Market ties: Trade, communication and integration in the North and Baltic Sea region, c. 1730–1830“
Associate Proffesor PhD Enn Küng
Professor PhD Jüri Kivimäe, Univeristy of Toronto
In pre-industrial world, physical distance constituted a high barrier to human interactions and achievements. Famous French historian Fernand Braudel stated distance even as the “first enemy” (l’espace, ennemi numéro 1). It was only possible to overcome this barrier through hard work, great capital input, and passage of time. The poor ability to manage spatial segmentation, also called the “tyranny of distance”, limited human extensibility in physical space and therefore inhibited the emergence, continuation, and intensification of demographic, economic, political, and cultural relations. It has been postulated that the situation has drastically changed over the last two centuries. The inhibiting effect of distance on human activity has been reduced so, that in many fields it is now possible to speculate about the “death of distance”. The accelerating compression of space, which allows us to reach new levels of human integration and interdependence, can be seen as one of the main characteristic of the modernization process. Present study challenged this approach from the viewpoint of evolution of market ties. Based on the surprisingly well preserved archives of three trading houses in Estonia that engaged in foreign trade, the thesis address the interaction of communication and market integration on the eve of industrial turn. Information exchange appeared as a dynamic domain of commercial interaction in the North and Baltic Sea trading system. On the background of recent scholarly discussion, most important is the statement that the time-space and cost-space dimension of information exchange were factors that depended heavily on both commercial and political embeddings of communication. I argued that North and Baltic Sea trade system can be seen as an essential incubator of transnational market relations in the early modern period and it constituted an important stage in the emergence of the modern impersonal market. A precondition of the growing trade was an increasingly reliable, cost efficient and sufficiently fast postal system. It became a distinctive feature of the North and Baltic Sea space that early on the payment flows of information and payments via bill of exchange and flows of goods started to move via alternative channels which significantly increased the speed and altered the nature of the trade cycles. The key persona in the development of distant communication networks was the merchant with his specific information culture and practices.