« Colophon »

ISECS 2015 Rotterdam

Congrès international
27-31 juillet 2015

Congrès international « Meeting Places and the Exchange of Knowledge and Ideas »

Panel « Marketing the French Press in the Dutch Republic » (with Marion Brétéché and David van der Linden)

Conference theme:

Opening Markets

During the maritime expansion of the seventeenth century, naval prowess and international trade gave the Dutch Republic, arguably “the first modern economy”, a special weight in the European balance of power. The ISECS 2015 Congress in the Netherlands, with the theme Opening Markets: Trade and Commerce in the Eighteenth Century, brings participants to the birthplace of modern economics. The Congress deals with the development of economic thought and practice in the broadest sense during the eighteenth century. The widening trade routes, increasing variety of goods exchanged and speculative trade in bubble company stocks are aspects of the theme, which also covers such topics as labour and consumption, luxury and wealth, the knowledge economy, economic metaphors and the rise of political economy.

Opening Markets invites historians of all kinds to address a wide variety of related subjects, including cross-cultural encounters and the evolution of the relationship between town and country and between the sexes. Literary and intellectual historians are invited to reflect on the marketing strategies and rhetorical demands advanced by the Enlightenment and its critics. Thus, Opening Markets will further help to define eighteenth-century literary audiences as customers and stimulate research on the “market of ideas.” Historians of science are challenged to focus on the distribution of knowledge as a valuable commodity.

Opening Markets will open up a truly global perspective that includes the Americas as well as Asia and Africa. It will also stimulate further reflection on a series of dramatic reversals of fortune during the eighteenth century, as is evident in the Dutch Republic itself. Finally, there will be an emphasis on the Huguenot Refuge, which played a major role in many of the above-mentioned developments.

Globalization of the Market Place

The eighteenth century witnessed a spectacular increase and intensification of international transfer and exchange. Multiple economic ties linked countries and continents to each other. The rise of a global economic space and system re-organized economic life. The massive production of luxury goods in China and India, for instance, was a key hallmark of the industrial revolution. Expanded production and commerce in India and Asia led to crises elsewhere. How did national economies react to this new situation? To what extent did specific markets survive or new networks come into being? The globalization of trade and commerce also had significant effects on the global labour market, particularly with regard to slaves and servants.

Movement and Change

The globalization of economies and markets had social implications and consequences that triggered changes in institutions and practices. Movement, or its absence, is a central theme in the eighteenth century. Vertical movements developed within society concurrently with the movement of goods and products: the rising middle class springs to mind, with its own distinctive characteristics and growing access to the public sphere. Old institutions, including the old régimes, churches, guilds and the mercantile system, came under pressure as well. Markets served as meeting places for people of many different backgrounds. What were the social consequences of easy access to the global market place by so many? How did people react to or use the new possibilities? How did the global marketplace affect the everyday life of groups and individuals by influencing social hierarchy and gender relations?

Meeting Places and the Exchange of Knowledge and Ideas

Knowledge and ideas were also subject to exchange, globalization and market orientation. A central question, therefore, is to what extent this led to conformism or stimulated the diversity of ideas, possibly leading to heterodoxy. The reorganization and generalization of the knowledge economy and the extension of the literary market with its flourishing literary undergrounds created a situation where ideas circulated at a rapidly increasing pace. This was accomplished through diverse channels and by a large variety of agents. Prostitutes, charlatans and quacks, travelling from village to village often carried subversive ideas. The regular book trade flourished at the same time, and intellectual networks persisted and adapted to the new situation. Encyclopaedists gathered knowledge of places throughout the world, which led to new and often more tolerant views of other cultures. Thanks to Linnaeus and Buffon, new networks of natural history were created. The Republic of Letters and the establishment of new learned societies gave rise to a specific cultural sociability. But how important were these developments for the history of science? When did the Republic of Letters give way? And what are we to make of the eighteenth-century “crisis of the university?”

Specific groups reflected the general developments. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, some 300,000 French Protestants were forced into exile, robbing France of many of its most talented scholars, merchants and soldiers. By the early eighteenth century, a return to their native country was already highly unlikely for the Huguenots who had found refuge in Switzerland, Holland, England, Germany and North America. While the Huguenots clearly enriched the national cultures of the countries they fled to, their ways of assimilating to their new surroundings varied considerably. As important players in the international community of scholars, they were able to prescribe a new “ethos” for the civil exchange of scholarly services. In view of the major role the Refuge played in the Dutch Enlightenment, we believe the Huguenots deserve particular attention.

Political Economy & Economic Politics

Thanks to globalism and the development of markets, the authorities were obliged to define policies. As a result, the eighteenth century witnessed a new interest in public policy, economics and anthropology. The new sciences of political economy and statistics were developed to provide the basis for government. The scientific study of society took many forms, whether French physiocracy, German cameralism, or the Scottish “science of man.” The Enlightenment produced revolutionary ideas about the development of a commercial society. The mercantile system came under attack. Success in international trade was considered crucial in the quest for survival. Rivalry between nations and the recognition of the need for maritime power also fuelled the rise of a political economy aimed at improving governance. Paradoxically, the rise of globalism and international exchange provided the framework for the development of national consciousness and citizenship.

The Representation of the Marketplace

Early modern economic and financial re-organization also had an effect on cultural, literary and artistic production. Art and literature depicted and commented on economic activity. The merchant and his family became major characters in novels and plays, while economic success and crises formed the basis of many plots and were a source of humour. The “paper revolutions” following the financial “bailouts” of 1720 spurred an international, speculative trade in pamphlets in which the cultural consequences of the new financial system were researched and ridiculed. Thanks to literary and artistic images, new metaphors were developed to better describe the new aspects and organization of finance. How could “good trade” be distinguished from “bad”, or immoral, economic behaviour? The eighteenth century can be seen as the birthplace for the metaphor of the “marketplace of ideas”, which, in the twentieth century, would become one of the most important expressions for describing the organization of modern society.