12 Pages

Introduction: The Many Scales of Merchant Profit: Accounting for Norms, Practices and Results in the Age of Commerce

This chapter presents the articulation between diverse functions, in the service of supposedly clearly differentiated interests. It examines the commercial advantages linked to official activities taken up in a period of domestic and international political tensions. The chapter explores how holding several offices concurrently made it possible to reduce merchant exposure to risk. It shows that this strategy was based on the prior existence of regional and national business relationships which were mutually reinforcing. The chapter argues that the combination of various public and private functions was part of an overall strategy aiming at distributing risk in order to lessen the exposure of the family to the hazards of trade. The pinets' involvement in political life and in the administration, especially in military supplies gave them such importance that it allowed them to efficiently reduce the various risks to which they were otherwise exposed.