Helmsman graphicMonitor graphicHelmsman graphic The Cozens/Byrnes Merchants Networks Project - Updated 26 March 2012

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a website project by Ken Cozens/Dan Byrnes

Notes on Methodology

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A website intended to be of greatest use for anyone interested in economic history ... maritime history ...

Apologies to netsurfers: Temporarily ... This website is now having its navigation system redesigned. From 26 July, for any navigation question (depending on which page you landed on via a search engine if you did not arrive to this page via the index page), go first to the sitemap. The sitemap presents a complete and hyperlinked list of files comprising the website in alphabetical order - Editor

An assertion re method, Modern genealogy humanizes or can help to humanize, views of both Economics and Economic History. It can also help summarization of findings. Improved genealogy allowed by the net also acts as a way to net and summarize, re-summarise findings.

The Australian historian, Hainsworth, in Sydney Traders, in his introduction cites Prof. Arthur H. Cole ...  "... to study the 'entrepreneur' is to study the central figure in modern economic history and ... the central figure in economics ..." We don't entirely agree. And we wish to draw attention to work on merchant networks, partly since The Internet Age proposes new tactics to be used by researchers. There is much to be discussed.

This file will soon carry an enlarging explanation of the methodology for development of our project on Merchant Networks (hub-to-fringe/metropolis-to-colonies). In this project, at last initially, most attention is given to the English-speaking world, circa 1700-1860.

Modernity vs the past?

Arrow graphicThe authors working on this website are fully aware of the requirement that the historian should not do violence to the ways that the people of the past are to be understood - on their own terms. On the other hand, we are both aware of the modernity of the technology used to produce this website, and are unashamedly modernistic, because we enjoy both the history and the technology used to develop the pictures we draw about the history.
A remark here is necessary regarding footnoting style. Using ordinary HTML code is a rather untidy methodology for rendering footnotes, but initially, footnotes in text delivered here will be given either below the footnote-as-numbered, or in a block-as-numbered to the bottom of a body of text. Re Modernity - we hope to improve here the integrity and usefulness of our information on the people of the past.

We feel though, that perhaps, given the technology which produces it, a website should make no attempt to try to preserve the actual flavour of periods of the past. The Internet is a highly modernistic method of delivering information, and the action of using the technology that creates a website tends to make an effort to try to preserve the flavour of the past inherently absurd.

For this and other reasons, we will try simply to use this website to organise information to show how Merchant Networks formed, behaved, operated, functioned, overlapped, inter-related - and lived or died. This is perhaps work enough for a website now in its second phases of development.

(Note: Where " -Ed" is referred to in various files, it refers to Dan Byrnes as the webmaster for this project)

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Delving deeper into the Merchant Networks methodology

A hub-to-fringe approach

The periods we working on for this website (deliberately chosen) are roughly 1700-1900. We have developed a basic outlook for these topics which we term - hub-to-fringe. (Or, metropolis-to-colonies, and back again.) Soon, this webpage will present notes on a methodology for the exercise.

The idea firstly for a book to be completed by Cozens/Byrnes is to regard London as the hub of commercial events as the boundaries of the British Empire changed 1700-1900; in particular, as Australasia is drawn into changing British networks after the American Revolution. We will then treat topics - and merchant networks - arising in a zoom-in/zoom-out fashion, moving from hub-to-fringe, and back again.

One purpose of this is to illustrate how networks connected with each other, and/or, overlapped. We have also, perhaps, in the book we have planned, been somewhat original in that we have redrawn the merchants of British-India into the patterns that historians have drawn of merchant networks, decades ago. Of course, the merchants of British-India also worked in a hub-to-fringe set of networks.

One reason to do this is that so many of the wealthy "Nabobs" of British-India returned home to engage in politics, particularly, and predictably, politics relating to the future of the British East India Company.

However, this website will merely present the outlines of ideas to be further developed as the writers produce a book, as a separate project. (For those interested, some books of recent origin on merchant networks are briefly noted in the Bibliography for this website.)

(To avoid scoping problems for as long as possible, this Merchants Networks website has been designed to cope with increasing numbers of files grouped into particular timeframes. -Ed)

A methodology for work on merchant networks, by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens

Merchant networks have existed since the dawn of historical time. As of renown, Ancient Egypt imported the cedars of Lebanon – timber. The legend or view exists that Queen Nefertiti was a Cretan, and if so, there was presumably regular trade-by-sea between Egypt and Crete. Presumably, the art of stowing ships safely to help guarantee a successful voyage is an ancient one. (1)

Ancient historians treating the Aegean Sea have discussed merchants’ use of the institution of the respondentialoan, the complicated arrangements used by merchants to facilitate trade-by-sea, and to help them to justly share the risks of sea-voyaging. Financially, trading by sea usually involved two related matters, apart from the employment of a trustworthy ship’s captain. One was the carriage of articles that are relatively low in weight and volume and high in price. The other was the amount of capital – and/or credit - needed to execute all the financial manouvres necessary for the completion of all transactions and to ride out the time taken till profits and losses are counted. Space unfortunately does not permit an extended introduction on ancient times.

Fix note on respondentia loan, definition of ...

Our main preoccupation for matters methodological here is with timeframes before and after the American War of Independence. Our view is also that the British settling of eastern Australia, at Sydney, as a convict colony, was an aftermath of the American War of Independence, but that this in terms of a re-inspection of merchant networks, can be better understood, as aftermath, in Australia, Britain and the United States. So we ask the question: what can be found out about merchant activity that is new, that can help support such a claim? We feel that there is much.

Britain, of course, once had an Empire. The period after the American Revolution is regarded as the second founding, or the re-founding of the British Empire. This Empire was no more from the end of the Second World War. And of course, a long list can be made of wealthy merchants who assisted the expansion if not the maintenance of the Empire while it approached its heyday; some by supplying military and naval forces. British historian John Brewer has written analytically on these matters in his book, The Sinews of Power, and in this book, we try to follow-up Brewer’s themes.

There were, however, many merchants of interest engaged in other pursuits – tobacco trading, contracting and trading in convict labour, slaving business, trading in India, promoting businesses regarded as part of the Industrial Revolution. And some engaged in opium trading. In Australia, convict labour was not sold, as it had been in America to 1775, by merchants who shipped convicts. Here, the convict service had a different role, that of increasing British hegemony in the Pacific Ocean. The merchants are treated here not as individuals however, but as part of networks.

There is nothing new about British historians writing about merchants, in illuminating single articles, in parts of book chapters, sometimes in entire books. We find, however, that this sort of writing has led to only partial disclosures. We find, that by tracing merchants working in networks, far more information arises both for the historian and the general reader. Any new disclosures we make, we feel, ought to at least make for entertainment. And entertainment with quite some fresh use of metaphors about merchants.

A main circuit cable: or, the pursuit of metaphors in economic history?

In that stunning movie, Apocalypse Now, a certain Captain Willard is contacted by military authorities to be given the secret mission of moving up the Nong River, apparently in Vietnam, to find and assassinate beyond the western borders a certain Colonel Kurtz. As a military man, Kurtz has gone mad and is rampaging, out of control, conducting his own war with what seems to be embarrassing success, but with “methods unsound”. Here, in late 1960s South Vietnam, the fictional Nong River is spoken of as “a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable”.

"A main circuit cable"? Is this a useful metaphor? While developing its Empire, Britain engaged in many conflicts, especially the Napoleonic War. But there were not only military conflicts. British interests engaged in trade wars, financial wars. Given racism, given the slaving trades, British interests also engaged in a kind of ethnological war against Africans, at least till the anti-slavery movement began, successfully promoted by many well-principled men who were merchants – Russia merchants. Their network happened to be called, even in their own day, The Clapham Sect. Much work has been done on their political and philanthropic work, relatively little on their actual business lives - networks.

We do not wish here to over-emphasise questions of either racism, or war contracting, but we thought the metaphor “main circuit cable” fits nicely the way any major power will act to protect its interests. Bearing in mind also, Tuchman’s famous formula in The March of Folly, that folly is acted-out when states adopt policies that work against their own best interests. Certainly, whenever attacked, any state has a legitimate duty to defend itself, in which circumstances, a government will have to engage war contractors. Such merchants, or businessmen, for a time will have to provide extra power to “the main circuit cable”.

Otherwise, Metaphors…

Follows a list of metaphors commonly encountered in economic histories. The list has been compiled, of course, as we try to forge ahead, linking merchants in networks, linking networks to networks. Perhaps we might find something more organic, or less cliched than other writers have found?

... the main circuit cables”…??

Given that Apocalypse Now is an anti-war movie, we suppose that the metaphor - main circuit cable – could be taken as an allusion not to a life-supporting river currently in a war zone, but to the warning that US ex-President Eisenhower once delivered to the American people about the future (the Cold War), about the rising influence of “the military-industrial complex”. US President Lincoln to the end of a ferocious civil war issued an earlier, similar warning to posterity, against what he called, “the money interests”.

These sorts of warnings have earned huge popularity in the more radical American popular culture, but there is less of any similar feeling in either Britain or Australia.

Because of current events (since, say, 9/11) we have here given some attention to the historical bases of some conspiracy theories popular in the US, which feed on such anxieties in the US population.

The main circuit cable metaphor also suits the structure of this book, since as co-authors, we developed a list of noted British merchants appearing in British life between 1690 and 1900, which certainly seemed useful for refining any new approach to the discussion of merchant networks. (An annotation of an early version of the list covered almost 90 pages!)

So we considered also a list of metaphors often used by historians (and journalists, or politicians) to refer to business life in illustrative ways, that is, ways somewhat detached from the dry terminology often used to describe “economic behaviour”.

Metaphor traps for economists and economic historians?

Various tensions - including contradiction - exist between assumptions used by economists and the findings of economic historians. Some of the tensions can be due to findings made, sometimes by the action of different sorts of imagination, or due to ineffective efforts in cross-disciplinary studies. There is no need to read the metaphors as being in any particular order. (Across centuries, they recur all too often!)

(Metaphor 1) Darwinian survival of the fittest. It’s a jungle out there! Possibly, given old histories of Mercantilism, today’s questions of developed/under-developed economies smack too much of this metaphor?

(Metaphor 2) Family networks, and/or businesses mostly owned and operated by families only, and sub-varieties thereof. Sometimes termed, micro-studies?

(Metaphor 3) Apocalypse – eg., Malthusian scenarios of The Ride of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse - epidemic disease, pestilence, famine, invasion, earthquake, volcanic eruption, problems various due to excess population.

(Metaphor 5) Ethnic networks, where at the worst end of the genre we find accusations about, say, “Jewish money-lenders”, and their ilk, so beloved of conspiracy theorists, of course. Here, any variation on considerations of merchants who share a particular ethnic/cultural background. A worst-case scenario here in recent years, we regret to say, would be Rwanda, Africa. where massacre had some economic motivations. Possibly the single healthiest ethnic network in the world is formed by Chinese people living outside China.

(Metaphor 6) Eco-economic history – regarding climate change, or very large regions dominated by climate considerations, eg., the Monsoon Zone, relatively rare but likely to be popularized in the future. For historians who are not scientists, or climatologists, as most are not, this is a more-than-challenging area of work for the future. Present-day challenges from global warming may well demand that such work is done!

(Metaphor 7) The Medical Model – of economic health, growth, maturity, decline, decay, health versus disease, panaceas, need for support mechanisms, curative measures, underlying causes of problems, self-destructive behaviour, sector problems (eg, sub-metaphors such as “infection”, “paralysis”, “contamination”) in an otherwise healthy or a potentially-healthy body.

(Metaphor 8) The Plunder Model - re highly aggressive growth in markets earlier moribund, rapid business growth due to new technology quickly overtaking, so that new models, new products, new styles of operation, virtually plunder their competition, Plunder, as with the British as often seen in India. Dispossession of indigenous peoples (plunder of land). Plunder also in the model of “the barbarians”. Ghengis Khan’s hordes engaged in plunder as a use of an economic model, so did the Vikings before them.

(Metaphor 9) Numbers games - the often-dry material found using trade statistics, discussions of reams of regulations; use of tax-based models or maths-based models. Also, discussion about government intervention, or not; arguments about free trade.

(Metaphor 10), Scientific Progress - new forms of production or distribution due basically to scientific inquiry and technological innovation. In terms of the oft-noted linkages between war efforts and the use of new technology, throughout history, this metaphor can easily re-morph as a business of re-powering a “main circuit cable”.   Scientism, in the comparative sense, especially re questions of comparative rates of technology transfer,

(Metaphor 11), Religious Prescription - discussion of business ethics and behaviour as religion-based, especially religion of the more fundamentalist variety, see re, eg, in USA, “the gospel of prosperity” currently popular in US Protestant Christian circles, lately being exported to Australia. Discussions of cultural models. Today, much talk is of “Asian values” in East Asian business success ("tiger economies"), or the allegedly religion-based rage of radical Islamists. Deepak Lal’s book cited here is partly dominated by the religion metaphor.

(See Deepak Lal, Unintended Consequences: The Impact of Factor Endowments, Culture and Politics on Long-Run Economic Performance. London, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 1998.)

(Metaphor 12) Booms and Busts - with which everyone is familiar (sometimes from dismal personal experience). Trade cycles? Cyclical phenomena? The Internet-connected "dot.com boom" ending in 2000-2001 was predictable to the point of being comical, and was in part based based on the rising popularity of, versus ignorance about, the emerging new technology. 

(Metaphor 13) Heresies - Capitalism versus Communism or Socialism. Marxism. Notions of Social Credit. Arguments about currency: bimetallism or not, gold standard or not, etc. Today, perhaps, whether funds for Internet transactions could or should be regarded as “borderless cash”, ie, any de-nationalised form of money. Problems re money-laundering/illicit transactions. Experiments, new-waves ideas of various sorts.

(Metaphor 14) Legalisms - Role of the law in economies. Role of old or new legislation in providing regulations, in supervising the advent of new products (eg, pharmaceutical drugs), or technology. Legal versus illegal economic activity. The law versus "black economies", eg, today's illegal drug trade. Compensatory mechanisms or lack of them. Questions of customs regulations, export licencing, regulation of air space, food hygiene. Legal and/or police oversight (or lack of it) of frauds, scams, etc.

(Metaphor 15) Zonings - Something of an umbrella metaphor for other metaphors. Perhaps regarding climatic zoning (arid zones, Monsoon Zone, "Fertile Crescent"). Zoning might also be used where writers treat subsets of cycles (parts of a boom-bust cycle), changes in the use of technology. Local or regional history. Comparison of similar or dissimilar metropolitan centres or political regimes. Areas influenced more by one form of currency or type of production than another (as compared to another zone). 

Metaphors and cliches commonly used by metahistorians:

(1)  Periphery, versus a centre of hegemony (2) Empires, Imperialism versus other sorts of regimes, perhaps along a comparative spectrum to outright anarchism, etc, (3) Dynamisms, challenge, monumentalism, engagements, perception(s), (4) Freedom (5) Illumination (epiphany) (6) Underlying assumptions (genealogies of influences, eg, "genealogy" of morals, or themes); contextualisms;  (7) Diadisms, eg, Anglo-American, or, bi-lateral relations, moving on to triadic-trilateral, alliances, betrayal, cultural similarities or dissimilarities, conflict versus conflict resolution, (8) universalism(s), globalism(s) or not, relativisms, colonialism or creoleism versus cosmopolitanism or metropolitanism, regionalisms and localisms, provincialism, (9) Manifesto-ism, agendas, goals and aims, realpolitik, The Communist Manifesto, Nazism and "triumph of the will", formal terms or politicization of hegemony, authoritarianism,  royalty versus republicanism, peace versus war, patterns of response (in the more military sense),  (10) Timing 1 Periodization and characterizations of periodisation, pre versus post, eg pre-industrial versus post industrial, pre-scientific, treatments on basis of before-during-after, high points versus low points,  (11) Traditions, heritages, outlooks, legacies, focus, criticalism, novelty, modernity, creations, rates of change, level of artistic achievement, anachronism, and also, related, geographic shapes which help to influence eg tradition, metaphors varieties of social differentiation in any given society, eg continents, islands, archipelagoes, borders and barriers versus entrances and exits, peninsula, hill vs plain, effects of environment (geographicalization of humanity and/or humanization of geographies), type of world under discussion (eg, maritime or political or Imperial), rural versus urban, (12) Philosophical, epistemological and/or other polarities (freedom versus slavery), popularity of societal use of reason/logic, rationalizations of respectability, sourcing of legitimacy of regime, structure(s) and superstructure(s), framework, transitions, method, (13) Dominance, dominators versus those dominated or subordinate (12a) Civilization and its rationales, or views on civilization, claims about civilisation or lack of it, power struggles, factionalism, disparities, coherence vs splinters or fragments, (15) Timing 2 -  foundations, antecedents, precedents, continuities, discontinuities,  duration, eruptiveness, apex versus, nadir, apogee, epitome, (16) Control Mechanisms and ways of referring to the range of hegemony, such as tenure, forms of organisations, ownership and control of property and broad territory, institutionalism, politico-military risk taking behaviour, concessions, invasion, annexation, stability versus instability, formal versus informal, macro versus micro, rates of migration versus cohesion of the receiving society, (17) Intellectual Geometry, triangulation, diagonalism, rectangularies, circularities, spirals, spheres, dimensionalities, vertical versus horizontal, trajectory, (18) Intellectualism; conceptualisation, implications, rationality, theory, descending to views on education, interpretation,   (18) Adjectivalism in process, dynamism, interactionism, sophistication, speciality,  refinement, mentalite (the French word), inspiration, perceptions of division versus fantasies of unity, objectivity versus myth-making, use of metaphors drawn from Ancient Greek mythology,  multi-layerism, descending to buzz-words,   such as - (19) Virtuosity about virtues: freedom, liberty, perfectibility of humanity (or not), fulfillment of potential (or a separate category, Potentialism - ), multi-dimensionality, latency, inherencies, individualism versus communalisms, failures due to lack of virtue, success due to maintenance of virtue, adventurism, romanticism, 
(20) Exceptionalisms, singularities versus commonalities, high prominence, and lastly, the one word that no historian can ever, ever do without, more so in the area of metahistory - the single and entirely unmeasurable word,  "important".  

More to come here soon ... Genealogy as a tool for hunting and gathering information, data and evidence. 

Continuing on methodology ... a review of some of the literature, and other facets of interest ...

And not forgetting, the whaling industry...

Whaling graphic

Many Australians seems to remain mystified that London-based whalers used various of their ships to transport convicts to Sydney between 1786-1800. This mystification seems to persist partly because Australians have not examined the merchant networks behind the British government's deployment of convict transports as the new convict colony at Sydney survived, against some odds, and slowly grew.

We find, from the later 1790s, that as major London-based merchants maintained only a minor interest in Australasia, the networks they were part of changed in ways that still remain partly-mysterious. Various merchants involved here in convict transportation had links to British-India, 1800-1840, that we still do not fully understand, so parts of this website will be concerned with further research into matters related.

In some cases, little is known of some such merchants except their name, and sketchy details of their genealogy(s) which tend not to assist work in more formal business history. Some such names of merchants interested in Australian colonies in the nineteenth century are: some of the partners (Money- Wigram) of the 1811 re-organisation of Forbes and Co. of Bombay; John William Buckle of London; Duncan Dunbar II. (Files for some of these names may still be in preparation. A file on Dunbar has been lodged on the werbsite for some time - Ed)

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