History of Pedlars in Europe.By Laurence Fontaine (Durham, North Carolina Durham is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham CountyGR6 and is the fourth-largest city in the state by population. : Duke University, 1996. 280pp. $17.95/paperback $49.95/cloth).
When this book was published in France, it was hailed for breathing new life into the moribund moribund /mor·i·bund/ (mor´i-bund) in a dying state.
At the point of death; dying.
mor field of social history. That it does. By rethinking the traditional techniques, categories and, assumptions of the Annales school Annales school
School of history. Established by Lucien Febvre (1878–1956) and Marc Bloch (1886–1944), its roots were in the journal Annales: économies, sociétés, civilisations, Febvre's reconstituted version of a journal he had earlier formed , Laurence Fontaine of France's CNRS CNRS Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research, France)
CNRS Centro Nacional de Referencia Para El Sida (Argentinean National Reference Center for Aids) has produced a pathbreaking path·break·ing
Characterized by originality and innovation; pioneering. work which moves a hitherto neglected social type, the supposedly "marginal" pedlar, to the center of early modern European economic, social, and cultural history.
Fontaine begins by questioning the stereotype of the pedlar as a rootless, poverty-stricken migrant living on the verge On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning) is a play written by Eric Overmyer. It makes extensive use of esoteric language and pop culture references from the late nineteenth century to 1955. of criminality. She argues that from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries the term "pedlar" was applied not just to lowly packmen of the stereotype but also to wealthy and respectable city merchants. This leads to her second redefinition, that of the nature of migration. City merchants were "pedlars PEDLARS. Persons who travel about the country with merchandise, for the purpose of selling it. They are obliged under the laws of perhaps all the states to take out licenses, and to conform to the regulations which those laws establish. " because they, like the packmen, had their roots in mountain villages - in, for example, the Scottish highlands
The Scottish Highlands (A' Ghàidhealtachd , the Italian Alps, or the Dauphine dau·phine
The wife of a dauphin.
[French, feminine of dauphin; see dauphin.] . Although they may have lived for generations in a lowland city which an ancestor had first visited as a migrant pedlar (as the book-selling Brentanos of the Italian Alps lived in Frankfurt), they retained ties to their family's native village: cousins who still lived there, houses to which they returned for a few months each year, land, investments. Thus for them migration was not a permanent move from one locale to another, nor was its motive either the traditional "push" or "pull." Instead, migration was a "way of occupying space," specifically a way of making barren mountain land support a large and relatively wealthy population.
This leads to Fontaine's third redefinition, that of wealth and social dominance in peasant communities. We have usually assumed these flowed from land ownership and therefore we have reconstructed rural villages from their cadastres. Liana liana (lēä`nə) or liane (lēän`), name for any climbing plant that roots in the ground. Vardi has recently shown that this approach slights rural protoindustry(1), and Fontaine shows it does not work for mountain communities either. Cadastres paint such villages as "republics" of equal - and equally poor - small holders. In fact, wealthy migrant merchants dominated these communities through the loans and credit they extended to their poorer neighbors. Fontaine meticulously reconstructs this complex financial web from notarial no·tar·i·al
1. Of or relating to a notary public.
2. Executed or drawn up by a notary public.
no·tar archives. Such loans not only brought the merchants more wealth in the form of interest, but also gave them access to land and grazing rights The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
Please [ improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page. for livestock (the collateral of poor debtors), and, very importantly, labor, in the form of villagers who, to pay off their debts, would take to road selling the merchant's goods.
These peddling networks explain the central role of middlemen in the economy of early modern Europe The early modern period is a term used by historians to refer to the period in Western Europe and its first colonies which spans the two centuries between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution. that Fontaine assigns to her merchant pedlars. Eschewing the traditional focus of economic history on one town or region, Fontaine reconstructs the economic activities of her merchant pedlars from account books and bankruptcy records and follows wherever they lead, even across national boundaries (Frenchmen peddled in Spain; Scots in England, Scandinavia, and Poland). Fontaine's reconstructions show that merchant pedlars were the essential link between manufacturers of goods, with whom they cultivated long-term relationships, and the small shopkeepers and pedlars (usually from their home villages) they employed, extended credit to, and vouched for, who actually sold the goods to consumers. Fontaine argues that in early modern Europe most commodities were distributed through such peddling networks.
This was especially true of new goods, like books, and many of Fontaine's examples derive from the well-studied book trade. But it was also true of sheets, curtains, handkerchiefs, pocket watches and other new consumer goods consumer goods
Any tangible commodity purchased by households to satisfy their wants and needs. Consumer goods may be durable or nondurable. Durable goods (e.g., autos, furniture, and appliances) have a significant life span, often defined as three years or more, and , and Fontaine argues that pedlars played vital roles in the consumer revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the cities where they settled, merchant pedlars rather than the native elites were usually the first to adopt the new goods and the new lifestyles they made possible. And packmen brought the new goods to the countryside as well. Fontaine has interesting things to say about the interactions of peasants and pedlars and about the cultural effects of new goods in rural villages: the widening of intellectual horizons, the "selling of dreams" of health and happiness, and the facilitating of the expression through clothes and accessories of one's unique personality.
All this is very impressive and convincing. Of course this book has its flaws. I think Fontaine over-stresses the importance of her merchant pedlars to European commerce. Migrants could move into only a few guild-free cities; in most towns, native-born merchants controlled trade. Fontaine also slights the vast majority of pedlars who functioned outside her mountain-based networks: the native-born pedlars in towns (usually women, as Merry Weisner has shown:(2) craftsmen's wives who sold their husbands' goods; market women who peddled on nonmarket days) and the ubiquitous genuinely marginal, semi-criminal pedlars of the traditional stereotype. And she says amazingly little about fairs, the major source of goods for the latter. This is a history of certain peddling networks, not of peddling per se. Fontaine also overstates the role of pedlars in bringing the consumer revolution to the countryside. Carole Shammas has shown that in rural England consumer goods became widely available only with the rise of the country store, and this was probably true elsewhere.(3) Finally, Fontaine is sloppy about periodization Periodization is the attempt to categorize or divide time into discrete named blocks. The result is a descriptive abstraction that provides a useful handle on periods of time with relatively stable characteristics. . Although she argues that her peddling networks ended in the late eighteenth century, only to be reconstructed in very different forms in the nineteenth century, she neglects the role of the French Revolution, which abolished guilds, licensed pedlars, and altered fairs, market days, and trade routes across Europe, in their demise, and she draws many of her examples from the anomalous nineteenth-century situation.
But these are minor flaws in a major book which should be read by anyone interested in early modern European economic history, the consumer revolution, migration, peasant communities, the formation of the middle classes - indeed, by anyone interested in the future of social history, for it shows what discarding traditional assumptions and simply following where the documents lead can do. But read it in French if possible. This translation is very literal and therefore very hard going.
Cissie Fairchilds Syracuse University Syracuse University, main campus at Syracuse, N.Y.; coeducational; chartered 1870, opened 1871. Syracuse is noted for its research programs in government and industry; facilities include the Center for Science and Technology, the Newhouse Communications Center, and
1. Liana Vardi, The Land and the Loom: Peasants and Profit in Northern France, 1680-1800 (Durham and London, 1993).
2. Merry Wiesner, Working Women in Renaissance Germany (New Brunswick New Brunswick, province, Canada
New Brunswick, province (2001 pop. 729,498), 28,345 sq mi (73,433 sq km), including 519 sq mi (1,345 sq km) of water surface, E Canada. , 1986).
3. Carole Shammas, The Pre-industrial Consumer in England and America (Oxford, 1990), 225-60.