|Trade across religious boundaries in Early Modern France|
|Historians generally assume that coreligionists made up the essential part, if not the totality, of French merchant networks in early modern trade. They explain the strengths of these ties in different ways. Mistrust toward merchants of a different faith could get along with the difficulty of sanctioning opportunistic behaviors outside one’s own confessional network, although the efficiency of social ostracism within the confessional group is more often postulated rather than demonstrated. Also, it has been suggested that the confessional nature of trade networks can be explained by looking at the way networks were built and expanded. As they integrated people who were recommended by a member of the existing network, the chances that this individual belonged to the same confessional group were high, given the importance of family and patronage relationships.
Recent research, however (Molho and Ramada Curto, 2003), has suggested that the capacity of establishing trade relations outside the existing networks was the key to success for large scale merchants, such as Sephardim Raba and Gradis families, or Huguenot merchants Bonnaffé and Nairac of 18th-century Bordeaux, who were able to take profit of French colonial trade which was theoretically opened to Catholic merchants only. Was this the product of the expansion of trade and the normalization of trade norms in the 18th-century, removing reluctances to inter-confessional trade, or is it possible to retrace the existence of this phenomena in early Modern France as well?
This paper aims to reassess the importance of trade between French merchants of different religious faith in early modern France, from the religious civil wars of the 16th century until the end of the 18th century. The analysis will rely on existing literature and case studies of the trade networks of individual merchants. It will examine how far trade with coreligionists prevailed and how this evolved over time. The paper focuses on the assessment of merchants’ capacity of coping with members of different religious groups in order to achieve trade and on their evaluation about the opportunity of doing so.|