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Research

In my thesis, entitled “Merchants and their hometown : Florentines in Antwerp and the duchy of Florence (ca 1500-1585)”, I have investigated how early modern long distance merchants were affected by and engaged in the development of new policies, social relations and structures in their hometown. I also pay particular attention to the impact of institutional history and the reliance on historical precedents in dealing with new commercial challenges. The interplay between foreign merchant communities and their hosting environment has been studied extensively, as are the effects of market conditions on the choices of merchants, but the effects of a hometown and merchants’ background and embeddedness there have received less attention. However, in order to understand the choices merchants made, it is important to take into account how they related to their place of origin in all its complexity. 

To tackle these questions, I focus on the case of Florentine merchants in 16th C Antwerp. I show how a particular Florentine social background affected the formation of commercial and social ties on the local Antwerp level and a long distance European level. I also point to the effect of institutional shifts and political patronage in the home polity on the choices and attitudes of merchants abroad. My work engages with current debates on the role of family, familiarity, cross-cultural relations, inequality, circulation of ideas and politics in commercial interactions. Ground-breaking work on these topics is based largely on cases of religious and/or ethnic minorities who were often politically and legally discriminated against and did not have a clear home polity. I demonstrate that observations, conclusions and most importantly methodologies and approaches based on such cases are also relevant to cases of merchants with a clear hometown background. Moreover, my work shows that the case of a group of merchants with a clear home background offers new insights that contribute the debate about relation of long distance merchants with formal and informal institutions.

An abstract, the table of content and individual chapters of my dissertation may be shared upon request. Do not hesitate to get in touch if you want to know more about my research or to exchange ideas. (See section contact for details).