|Tracking Trades in Navigocorpus. The Examples of Fish and Cotton|
|The NAVIGOCORPUS data-base contains information on approx. 400,000 thousands ship voyages from the late 16th century to the early 19th century. The main purpose of this project, which has been carried out from 2008 to 2011, was to preserve existing data-bases of individual researchers and to create a data-base apt to capture any kind of sources related to ship voyages without losing any of the information they provide.
Although it contents is far from being exhaustive, Navigocorpus provides researchers with a considerable amount of data on cargo items and their circulation in time and space. At the moment, the data-base contains about 3,000 different occurrences of commodities, which have been collected in five different languages. If we are working at a dictionary which will enable users to queering the data-base in English, we decided – at least in this first phase of the project- not to assemble data in collective categories because of the difficulty of determining abstractly the kind of use that researchers might want to do and the categories they might require.
This paper tracks two different kinds of trades which can be defined by two apparently simple conceptual categories: fish and cotton. We will show the kind of information that the data-base can provide on fishing and fish trade on the one side, and on the trade in cotton and cotton manufactured goods on the other side. In dealing with the data, we will stress the delicacy of creating meta-categories. A researcher interested in fishing might want to include not only the different kinds of fishes which compose ship cargoes, but also data on departures for fishing activities, which are not always clearly stated as such in the sources. A researcher interested in cotton will have first to identify which kind of manufactured goods are made out of cotton, and to gather them in a collective category. But he or she will also be faced with the much more delicate task of separating manufactured cotton goods from row cotton – a task which many sources do not allow to carry on consequently.
The bulk of the data concerns the 18th century and early 19th century. They are issued from a variety of sources: all French clearances for 1787 (Archives Nationals, Paris, G5), on the entrances of selected years between 1770 and the 1800s in Marseille (Archives départementales des Bouches du Rhône, 200E, Santé maritime), Consular records of the United States (NARA, RG 84) and of Denmark (meta-bases of consular records collected by Dan Andersen), and different sets of data on the North sea and Baltic trades.|