B – Economy, trade, and finances

Scaling early modern entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship and power relations in business history

Event Details

  • Date

    Thursday, 25 June - 15:30 – 17:30

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    B – Economy, trade, and finances
Convenor
  • Kaarle Wirta (Tampere University)
Chair
  • Elisabeth Heijmans (Leiden University)
Commentator
  • Anu Lahtinen (University of Helsinki)
Panelists
  • Mari Välimäki (University of Turku)
  • Marion Pluskota (Leiden University)
  • Kaarle Wirta (Tampere University)
  • Igor Fedyukin (Higher School of Economics)

Papers

  • Mari Välimäki
    Iron Lady – Elin Såger, Head of a Family Business

    Iron Lady – Elin Såger, Head of a Family Business

    Until recently the study of early modern business has focused mainly on men and seen as masculine activity. In the presentation the focus is shifted on women and especially on an entrepreneurial behavior of a widow, Elin Såger, who lived and did business in seventeenth century Sweden. Elin Såger acted for then years as a head of her household and as a head of a large-scale family business, which entailed e.g. three ironworks. In the presentation her position as part of most prestigious bourgeoisie in the coastal town of Turku, as a head of a family business as well as household is examined. What were her rights to engage in business and act as an entrepreneur in a patriarchal world? The presentation illustrates how the contemporary legislation, patriarchal organization of society and family, and different norms and customs of the commercial milieu provided both opportunities and constraints for women for them to become involved in economic activities.
  • Marion Pluskota
    ‘Entrepreneurship of the lowest class’: reconsidering 18th-century prostitution through the lens of entrepreneurship

    ‘Entrepreneurship of the lowest class’: reconsidering 18th-century prostitution through the lens of entrepreneurship

    This paper focuses on entrepreneurship in 18th-century prostitution in western Europe. By looking at case-studies of prostitutes in ports and in capital cities, the paper shows that for some women prostitution was seen and experienced as a socio-economic venture, involving risk-taking behaviour, and value-adding and value-extracting decisions (Analoui and Herath, 2016). A particular emphasis will be put on the socio-cultural context surrounding prostitution at the time, and how that context benefitted, or on the contrary quashed, entrepreneurial behaviours. By combining examples of famous courtesans, brothel-owners with the stories of local prostitutes, this paper analyzes and compares the entrepreneurial strategies of women who chose to use their body to create their own economic and social opportunities.
  • Kaarle Wirta
    A Day of Entrepreneurship: A study of international business through the Deutz family and their everyday entrepreneurship

    A Day of Entrepreneurship: A study of international business through the Deutz family and their everyday entrepreneurship

    This paper investigates the everyday life of early modern entrepreneurship in the context of international business. The paper focuses especially on the mothers and children of the Amsterdam based Deutz family. The family migrated to the city from abroad and established themselves in the city through an entrepreneurial lifestyle and business-oriented approach. The family specialized in commodity trade, especially in tar, paper, books and quicksilver. In the paper, it will be shown how family background and social strategies were closely tied to entrepreneurship in international business. This paper will place the conceptual framework of seventeenth century entrepreneurship in a societal context and discuss the close connection between social power relations and the development of international business in Amsterdam.
  • Igor Fedyukin
    Administrative Entrepreneurship: A study of institution-building in early modern era.

    Administrative Entrepreneurship: A study of institution-building in early modern era.

    This paper outlines the idea of “administrative entrepreneurship” as a key driving force behind early modern institution-building. It draws on the examples from early eighteenth century Russian history to push for deconstructing the notion of a unitary state-as-an-actor and for building an alternative narrative focused on individual actors. The novel organizational forms and institutions of early modern Russia were built by specific individual and group actors who benefited from particular institutional arrangements and therefore mobilized resources (whether administrative, political, financial, or other) in order to create new institutions or transform existing ones. A closer look at particular episodes of institutional change during this period will usually reveal the involvement of a grandee, royal official, or freelance expert, who expected that change would bring him power, resources, access to the sovereign, or opportunities to gain royal favor. In order to achieve their goals, these agents had to act entrepreneurially: they had to step outside existing institutional arrangements, both formal and informal, and beyond their official duties by asserting novel problems in need of solving, proposing and implementing novel solutions, and mobilizing and combining resources in novel ways. Their enterprising efforts focused on the administrative domain, both in the sense that they sought to benefit by shaping administrative structures, and also in the sense that they relied on their administrative positions to propose change and mobilize resources for implementation. Quite often these enterprisers aimed at expanding or defending their administrative standing, and they did so by inventing or repackaging emergent theories and methods of “rational” and “bureaucratic” administration. These actors thus served as administrative entrepreneurs or projectors. The paper offers a preliminary typology of early modern administrative entrepreneurship and maps out their methods of of work and their agendas.

Abstract

This panel explores different scales of early modern entrepreneurship by discussing the links between entrepreneurship and power relations. Generally, entrepreneurship is about coordinating business based on the resources at hand and taking decisions despite risks and uncertainty. However, we seek to look at the function of entrepreneurship in early modern societies from a social and administrative point of view. We aim to demonstrate that entrepreneurship is not only about individuals orchestrating large business transactions. Entrepreneurial behavior, strategies, goals and aims are also found outside the areas of conventional business history. The panel discusses the usability of the concept of entrepreneurship, in sectors of society where the concept has usually not been prominent. In our panel, entrepreneurship has wider social and gendered implications than what is usual portrayed in business history; this panel shows as well that entrepreneurship takes place even at the margins of society. The four contributions of this panel take different approaches towards entrepreneurship, and our contributions are testing how flexible and applicable an entrepreneurial lens is on the activities of different groups and individuals in the early modern societies. We argue that it is worthwhile to focus on social and cultural aspects, such as gender, education, bureaucracy, family relations and social capital when entrepreneurship is studied. Together, these contributions focus on the power relations of entrepreneurship. The contribution by Kaarle Wirta studies the relationship between international business and the social strategies of northern European families in the seventeenth century. The contribution demonstrates that valuable insights on international business strategies are found in the structure and behavior of migrant families. The contribution by Mari Välimäki focuses on the entrepreneurial behavior of a widow in seventeenth century Sweden. The presentation explores her position as part of most prestigious bourgeoisie in the town, as a head of a family business and family as well as household. What were her rights to engage in business and act as an entrepreneur in a patriarchal world? The contribution by Marion Pluskota focuses on entrepreneurship in 18th-century prostitution and how prostitutes navigated the early modern economy and society. By combining examples of famous courtesans with local prostitutes, this paper analyzes and compares the entrepreneurial strategies of women who chose to use their body to create their own economic and social opportunities. The contribution by Igor Fedyukin outlines the idea of “administrative entrepreneurship” as a key driving force behind early modern institution-building in Russia. Fedyukin shows how, novel organizational forms and institutions were built by specific individuals and group actors who benefitted from particular institutional arrangements. Collectively we want to raise the point that entrepreneurship is always bound to the societal and temporal context. For us entrepreneurship is a broad form of agency, where gender, social background, family relations and upbringing matter a great deal. Our contributions touch upon several corners of Europe and beyond. Our idea is conceptual, and we wish to attract the interest of historians around the world to discuss transregional, transnational and even global comparisons regarding the links between entrepreneurship and power relations.