Dealing with foreign traders, dealing with conflict. Strategies of conflict resolution and their role in trade relations in the Baltic c. 1450-1580
This research project addresses an unexplored dimension of historical conflict resolution: the dynamics of strategic choices made by traders engaged in foreign trade in the city of Danzig (Gdansk) c. 1450-1580, a Hanseatic city under the Polish Crown.
- 2011 - 2015
The biggest nightmare for an internationally-oriented trader is conflict. Both when armed conflict breaks out, or when he ends up in disputes with foreign partners, a trader counts his losses. His goods and the position he has attained on the market may be gone in no time. For that reason, effective conflict resolution has always been a vested interest in economic relations. The efficacy of modern conflict resolution is a well-developed area of social research, and today’s results trigger questions regarding the diplomatic and legal strategies employed in the past. Yet until now, the focus has been mostly on the trade politics of kings, princes or local authorities. This research project addresses a different dimension of historical conflict resolution, namely how traders who engaged in foreign trade chose to resolve their conflicts, and the rationale of these choices. The setting is Danzig (Gdańsk) c. 1450-1580.
This research project addresses an unexplored dimension of historical conflict resolution: the dynamics of strategic choices made by traders engaged in foreign trade. The setting is Danzig (Gdansk) c. 1450-1580, a Hanseatic city under the Polish Crown, which was the gateway to Baltic grain trade and one of the main commercial hubs in pre-modern Europe. For Danzig traders, both large- and small-scale conflicts were disruptive to their business. They therefore employed various diplomatic and legal strategies to deal with these conflicts. The project proceeds from the idea that there was a shift in the Baltic commerce in the period, namely states increased their influence, while networks of towns and traders had to renegotiate their position. It investigates the impact of this shift on the choice of conflict resolution strategies by Danzig traders with their foreign partners, and it aims to determine which strategies were (in)effective.
The novel approach is to examine conflict resolution on three levels: micro (individuals), meso (groups) and macro (countries/Hanse towns); this will re-evaluate the effects of 'national' conflicts on relations of groups and individuals. The way Danzig traders handled conflicts with Hansards from other towns and non-Hansards (Hollanders, Englishmen, Poles) will be compared in terms of policy (development of norms), practice (employment of strategies) and perception (contemporary evaluation). Special attention will be paid to the language of conflict resolution. The analysis will be based on published and unpublished sources (in German, Polish, Latin, Dutch and English), the latter mainly from the Gdansk archives. These sources have as of yet only been fragmentarily analysed.
In a broader context, the investigation aims to determine the role of strategic conflict resolution choices in the continuation (or discontinuation) of trade relations in pre-modern Europe, and contribute to both the theoretical and to the general discussion on effective conflict resolution.