Wednesday 24 March 2021
12.30 - 13.45
Finding Buyers: Communication and Intermediation in Early Modern Markets
Christina Brauner :
From Marketing to Markets: Buyers, Sellers, and Early Modern Practices of Advertising
Advertising has long been interpreted as a hallmark of modern capitalism. As such, it plays a prominent part in different narratives about the birth of the consumer society and the retail revolution. Just in line with the different locations in which such revolutions have been discovered, advertising has been attributed ... (Show more)
Advertising has long been interpreted as a hallmark of modern capitalism. As such, it plays a prominent part in different narratives about the birth of the consumer society and the retail revolution. Just in line with the different locations in which such revolutions have been discovered, advertising has been attributed different birthplaces. On a macro level, advertising is viewed both as an indicator of and a catalyst for economization processes whereas in a micro-historical perspective it serves as a sign of profit-orientation and indicates competitive behaviour in the marketplace.
At the same time, human activities of persuasion and promotion are characterized as basic anthropological features and advertising is presumed to be as old as economic exchange itself. Hence, discourses about advertising appear to be intimately tied up with different and controversial assumptions about human nature and ‘the market’ in general.
The paper sets out to disentangle the history of advertising of central ‘modernist’ presumptions such as its connection to the printing press and the realm of modern commodities. Instead, it proposes a more thorough historicization of advertising, focusing on practices of advertising rather than on advertising media in a narrow sense. Building on case-studies from my research on the Lower Rhine region (ca. 1450–1800), the paper analyses how producers and retailers sought out and addressed buyers in different forms like oral, visual, and written communication, through correspondence and by print media, face to face or supported by agents, and at different places: on the doorstep of one’s home and over vast distances in time and space, in the streets, in shops or on market places ,.
In particular, I look at the intersections of these different forms, for three reasons: firstly, such connections hint at a complex, multi-layered world of advertising in which public performances and oral communication are by no means cast away by the printing press but co-exist with, and often complement, handbills and intelligencers. Secondly, tracing similar strategies of building trust, authorizing skills, and attributing value to things across different media and forms of communication helps reconstructing practices beyond the caesuras of media history and ask for specific early modern features. Thirdly, analysing such intersections allows us to examine more closely the function advertising usually is attributed of historical narratives about the market. Advertising, it is suggested, marks the transition from the local marketplace as a space of personal encounters to ‘the market’ which joins anonymous buyers and sellers and is described in terms of abstract ‘demand’ and ‘supply’. If one takes the “work of mutual observing” to be constitutive of markets, studying marketing in this regard might help to gain a more nuanced picture of different ways buyers and sellers could meet in early modern times. Drawing on current sociological discussions about what is ‘global’ in ‘global markets’ (esp. Bühler/Werron 2014), such an approach can possibly also contribute to a rethinking of markets as social fields of action on different, yet interrelated scales. (Show less)
Alexander Engel :
Fortunate Places: Attracting Buyers through Commodity Lotteries and Auction Events
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a dizzying variety of ways and means coexisted to circulate goods, brand new as well as used ones. Some of these forms of allocation, like shops and regular markets/fairs, have a permanent fixed position in space and time: markets occurred regularly on the ... (Show more)
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a dizzying variety of ways and means coexisted to circulate goods, brand new as well as used ones. Some of these forms of allocation, like shops and regular markets/fairs, have a permanent fixed position in space and time: markets occurred regularly on the same marketplace, a shop can continuously be found in the same place. This certainly helped in the attraction of buyers, but other important aspects helped as well: Shops attracted customers by displays and other forms of indulging in a world of desirable goods, a pleasure independent from the act of actually buying them. Markets and especially fairs combined the offering of goods with the offering of entertainment, mingling and socializing. For less permanent institutions for the allocation of goods, conscious efforts to attract buyers were even more crucial. This paper sets out to look into this problem by focussing on events of a usually more singular nature than recurring markets and fairs: auctions and commodity lotteries.
Since the seventeenth century, auctions gained in importance as an institution to match buyers and sellers, apparently at first in the Netherlands and in England. Goods from overseas were regularly auctioned off to wholesalers in European cities, but auctions also became important as one-time events to sell larger inventories of (used) consumer goods from single households. Even more peculiar for modern beholders, the concept of the lottery – mostly used to generate public or princely revenue – had been a tool in marketing goods since the sixteenth century. Compared to selling inventories one by one to individuals, selling lottery tickets to all interested buyers (and some others, interested in wealth more than in the specific goods) and raffling the goods proved often more lucrative.
For potential buyers, both auctions and commodity lotteries were more than rational means to allocate resources, they also promised entertainment and excitement. Such features, in turn, were also profitable from the sellers’ point of view, as they helped to attract more potential buyers to their offers. As irregular, one-time events, they had to be advertised in advance, and presented as interesting beyond the specific goods on offer. Drawing on a larger research project on the Basel ‘Avis-Blatt’ (intelligencer), which also features as the background for the paper by Anna Reimann, this paper will take a closer look at early modern auctions and commodity lotteries as hybrid forms of allocation and entertainment. It will focus in particular on the way these events were announced and staged in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Basel. (Show less)
Christof Jeggle :
Intermediating between Sellers and Buyers: Brokers on the Markets of Eighteenth Century Nuremberg
The Imperial city of Nuremberg was one of the important early modern centres for the manufacture and distribution of a large variety consumer goods. Labelled as “Nuremberg ware” these commodities were in demand throughout Europe and beyond. The long distance trade in the city was not bound to frequent fairs ... (Show more)
The Imperial city of Nuremberg was one of the important early modern centres for the manufacture and distribution of a large variety consumer goods. Labelled as “Nuremberg ware” these commodities were in demand throughout Europe and beyond. The long distance trade in the city was not bound to frequent fairs but took place on a permanent market. The commodities were traded on all levels of markets, by local retailers as well as by whole sale merchants in long distance trade. For doing business on these markets some merchants needed advice for finding proper business partners and they were offered the services of professional municipal brokers.
Since the late Middle Ages the municipal government employed several brokers for assisting merchants with their business negotiations and to control the markets. In eighteenth century three to five of these brokers were employed, some dedicated to the business with letters of exchange and others to the commerce with goods. Their service was voluntary to those merchants that were looking for business partners, while informal brokerage was prohibited and prosecuted by the authorities. The brokers’ task of arranging business deals covered the search for appropriate business partners, the control of the business arrangement that had to be proper and legal, and that the goods were meeting suitable standards of quality. The brokers also had to inspect goods in case of complaints. A further task was registering the actual market prices that were issued in semi-printed price currants.
The historical documents show that typical consumer goods like certain sorts of textiles, spices, imported foodstuff and tobacco appear to have been traded on a larger scale, and that the brokers were considered particularly important for this kind of business. In addition, a large variety of raw and semi-finished materials for the manufacture of consumer goods was traded. Apart from information on professional practices, some documents show how brokers were employed, who applied for the job, and what other people thought about the candidates. The paper will present a comprehensive overview of the brokers and their business of intermediating between sellers and buyers at one of the central market places for early modern consumer goods. In the perspective of a permanent and elaborated market for consumer goods that existed since late fifteenth century until present the notion of revolutions in marketing consumer goods appears debateable and more process oriented concepts need to be considered. (Show less)
Anna Reimann :
A Paper Full of Things: Classified Advertisements in Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century Basel
The paper investigates a new form of intermediation between sellers and buyers that emerged during the seventeenth century in major European cities such as Paris and London: intelligence newspapers (German: Intelligenzblätter), filled with classified advertisements instead of political news. In the course of the eighteenth century, these intelligencers (and the ... (Show more)
The paper investigates a new form of intermediation between sellers and buyers that emerged during the seventeenth century in major European cities such as Paris and London: intelligence newspapers (German: Intelligenzblätter), filled with classified advertisements instead of political news. In the course of the eighteenth century, these intelligencers (and the registry offices issuing them) sprung up even in many medium-sized cities all over Europe. Generally speaking, the purpose of the intelligencer was to attract people offering and people seeking something, to connect them via the registry office. Thus, the advertisements covered a wide scope like real estate, work and travel opportunities, as well as specific services or information. An especially large part of them was dedicated to offering and searching material things.
Those classified ads were highly diverse, both in respect to their contents and the people who placed them. They referred to things lost or found, to things for rent, and to things for sale. They advertised second-hand goods like old furniture and used clothing, newly invented or well-known medical products, imported goods like coffee and tea in different qualities or a variety of printed cottons available at a specific shop or market stand, to name just a few examples. Many of these ads were placed by non- or semi-professional sellers, offering a variety of goods in small quantities and often second-hand. In addition, professional suppliers such as craftsmen, traders and shops also tried to use this new, but soon well-established communication platform to inform the public about their products and to find customers. Therefore, these intelligence newspapers are a particularly interesting source for examining the micromechanics of local second-hand circulation, but also for analysing connections between local, transregional and increasingly global markets of goods during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
One particularly interesting case of an intelligencer is the Avisblatt, a paper printed in Basel, then a medium-sized Swiss city of great social and economic importance for its surroundings and the Old Swiss Confederation. In the case of Basel, the registry office (Berichthaus) and the corresponding newspaper sustained long-lasting success: The Avisblatt existed from 1729 to 1844 and was published once a week, later even daily, with all issues preserved until today. This makes it particularly suited for studying the market for classified advertisements in the longue durée, and for applying digital tools helpful for large serial sources.
Drawing on a larger research project, the paper will present and analyse the Avisblatt as a means to communicate a desire to sell things and to increase the likelihood of finding buyers. The paper will also show how the use of innovative digital annotation tools and evaluation methods helps in this and a variety of other research questions concerning early modern intelligence newspapers. (Show less)