This is a panel accepted for the World Economic History Conference 2015, which will occur in Kyoto, 3-7 August 2015. Recent historiographical debates on Early Modern merchant networks have developed into two mainstreams. The first is related with the seminal work of P. Curtin on “cross-cultural trade”. This approach maintains that in order to maximize their profits, merchants established business partnerships and trade interactions with agents from different geographies, religions and cultures. A more recent theoretical perspective sustains that Early Modern European empires were built as much by the formal structures involved in trade monopolies as by the initiative of private agents who frequently escaped public control and fostered trading activities with formal “enemies”. Acting as “free-riders“, these agents established contacts free of any institutional or national control or guidance. Cooperation and self-organization arise as key concepts in the understanding of the functioning of such systems. This panel will run under these theoretical premises. The Indian Ocean is a perfect laboratory for trans-national and trans-cultural commercial exchanges. Muslim, Hindu, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other merchants tried to trade with each other, cooperating in business partnerships and creating a self-organized system in order to increase their profits. At the dawn of the Early Modern era, Europeans disrupted the existing structures and directly interfered with pre-existing trade dynamics. Even if institutionally-driven commercial systems were created – the Portuguese state monopoly on spices, or the VOC or EIC trade monopolies, for example – individual agents soon realized that they would maximize their revenues by interacting with local and foreign merchants in the region. This session aims at analyzing how the presence of European agents forced an adaptation of the trading system, describing how Europeans fostered business relationships with Asian agents, despite the constraints imposed by the European rulers upon such self-organized trade mingling. On the one hand, the session will highlight mechanisms and rules of fostering and sustaining trade and trust relationships between agents from distinct cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, it will aim at a comparative approach with other economic spaces, as the Atlantic world, with which the East became irrevocably connected, although always based on the Asian seas. Please send your proposals to Amélia Polónia (Professor of the University of Porto, Portugal): firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline of the Call : 30th. July 2014. We plan to shortlist by the end of October 2014 Guideline of the Call Submissions must include title, a 600 words abstract of the paper, 3 to 5 key words and a short CV (200 words) with contact address) Submissions must address the theoretical background of the paper, the concrete research questions to be discussed, and the empirical sources. Full papers of 7500 words must be delivered for circulation by 30 March 2015 The organizers: Amélia Polónia (University of Porto) and Ana Ribeiro (University of Évora).
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