Trade, Merchant Capital and Welfare: Port Cities and Public Health, 16th - 20th Centuries
Regular Session at the
XIIIth International Economic History Congress,
Buenos Aires, 22 to 26 July 2002
Port Cities have played a critical role in international development and urbanization. Even in the pre-industrial period, marketing and trade were important factors which affected the pattern of urban expansion or decline, and ports, after capital cities, frequently registered the greatest growth. Maritime commerce, therefore, was a powerful factor behind urbanization, and port cities served as the nexus of the growing world market. As a consequence of this function, port cities were invariably prone to an increased risk of exposure, particularly to infectious diseases. Many of the dominant epidemic diseases, such as plague, cholera, typhoid and yellow fever, were imported via port cities which, in turn, accelerated disease diffusion in coastal areas and dependent hinterlands. The individual demographic regimes of large ports were moulded by similar factors and extending trading networks, together with high levels of in-migration, aggravated the latent exposure risks of the indigeneous population.
At the same time, many ports were characterized by flexible labour markets, a strong reliance on casual work, extensive in-migration and a broad ethnic mix. Moreover, the dominance of merchant capital directly affected the contemporary response to public health issues and had a profound impact on the selection and implementation of specific strategies. On the one hand the need to confront health risks was innitially apparent in port cities, on the other hand there was an unusually high dependency on charity and philanthropy, and a general absence of collective commitment to social welfare provision.
Considerable work has been undertaken in the last few years to create a meaningful typology for analysing port development from the 16th century onwards. This has involved considerable interdisciplinary research, drawing explicitly on work in economic, demographic, maritime, medical, social and urban history. The aim of the session is to bring together a series of contributions covering the long-run development of port economies in the period from the 16th century onwards. It will analyse the selection and implementation of various public health strategies in different port cities in Europe and Asia, as well as in both North and Latin America, and examine the international relationship between overseas trade, urban development, and public health policy.
Proposals should include a 1-2 page abstract and a short curriculum vitae. Proposals should be submitted until December 31, 2001 at the latest.
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