|The economic role of kinship : brothers and sisters in merchants families (Bordeaux, 18th century)|
|In a recent book, Didier Lett studied the history of the brothers and the sisters. His point of view remains very influenced by the study of family relations and by the analysis of the way brotherhood was lived in the past. But he also shows how this question has often been approached under the angle of patrimonial dynamics when came the time of dividing heritage among brothers and sisters. On the other hand, nothing, or not much, on the role of this family link in an economic, even social perspective.
However, in the traditional society in which family is one of the essential bounds in everybody’s social life, the strong link created by siblings implicates forms of associations that add to traditional family solidarities forms of economic collaboration.
In 18th century Bordeaux, some examples of merchants families allow to show how economic links between brothers, sometimes also between brothers and sisters, were built. These associations could take various forms. Some creates houses of trade together while others runned their business in Bordeaux sending one or several brothers in Martinique or Guadeloupe to manage the plantations of the family, in Holland or Germany to follow the business of reexportation.
In conlusion, these practices reveal how, mostly, siblings appears as an advantage in the growth of an economic activity because perhaps trust and common interests were not so obvious to find with other members of the kinship or with people outside of the family.