< Back to previous page


Private partnerships in early modern Antwerp (1621-1791).

This project focuses on private partnerships in Antwerp in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Whereas historians have paid much attention to the rise and corporate structure of Dutch trading companies, the origins and early development of private partnerships remain understudied. In the seventeenth century, French jurists put forward a model consisting of several ideal-type categories of private partnerships, in which the extent of the partners' external liability was one of the main distinctive features. For instance, this factor was used to differentiate general and limited partnerships. However, these ideal-types are based on French legal sources and cannot simply be translated to the Low Countries. Preliminary studies on partnership contracts in early modern Antwerp (1480-1620) have demonstrated that entrepreneurs did not think in terms of liability to third parties; instead, they were more concerned with partnership-internal relationships. The discrepancy between, on the one hand, the ideal-types, and, on the other hand, 'real life' or how the entrepreneurs conducted trade in practice is the starting point of the project. The main goal is to challenge the ideal-type narrative for the Low Countries and to draw lessons about the interplay between legal contexts and economic practices. In this respect, Antwerp proves to be an excellent case study because the bylaw ledgers (Consuetudines impressae and Consuetudines compilatae) contain many clauses related to commercial practices (the law) and because of the large number of notarial ledgers that have been preserved in the city archives (the practices). By studying these bylaws and notarized private partnership agreements, this project strives to broaden our knowledge about early modern corporate structures in early modern Antwerp, while at the same time aiming to establish the extent to which entrepreneurs complied with statutory legislation. In sum, we expect to be able to paint a dynamic and diverse picture of early modern Antwerp, in which many different contracts and private partnerships existed.
Date:1 Nov 2021 →  30 Apr 2022
Disciplines:Economic history, History of law
Project type:Collaboration project