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“The International Scope of Bordeaux Port: Logistics, Economic Effects and Business Cycles in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”

from Part I - Port Case Studies

Hubert Bonin
Affiliation:
Professor of Modern Economic History at the University of Bordeaux 4
Bruno Marnot
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor at the University of Bordeaux.
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Summary

By contrast with the brilliant eighteenth century, the prevailing view in the literature is that Bordeaux in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a declining port. Nonetheless, most of the city's merchants never abandoned hopes of maintaining an international scope for their port, despite a new economic environment which appeared unfavourable to their interests. That is why it is useful to survey the international involvement of the port and its capacity to adapt to major maritime revolutions over two centuries. In this study we will focus on some aspects of the evolution of the harbour, such as the structure and features of Bordeaux's trade; the pattern of investments and their influence on the growth of trade; the logistic development of the port and connections with the hinterland; the relationship between foreign trade and industrial or business cycles; and links with France's constricting colonial empire. We also intend to place the port within an international and national framework of production, transport and logistics and examine how this affected Bordeaux's competitive position. After the Napoleonic wars, the nineteenth century was marked by a lengthy effort to re-establish trade links using traditional expertise and local comparative advantages. Despite an increasingly peripheral location in the twentieth century, the port tried to maintain its role as an international entrepot, especially in passenger traffic, and strengthened its colonial ties until the 1960s. In the last three decades of the century the port had to adjust to radically different national and international commercial climates.

International Links and Nineteenth-Century Port Modernisation

After two decades of war the trade of the port of Bordeaux, as elsewhere in Europe, was stagnant in 1815. Its activities during the Continental Blockade (1806-1814) were maintained only by neutral US vessels and the “regime of licences.” The city's merchants were no longer in touch directly with overseas markets. After these dark years, they had to face two challenges: to revive the former trading ties that had generated so much prosperity in the eighteenth century and to adapt to a new maritime environment dominated by British shipping. Since the merchants knew that it was impossible to restore all of Bordeaux's trading patterns, finding new markets was crucial if it was to remain among the main ports of France and Europe.

Type
Chapter
Information
Making Global and Local Connections
Historical Perspectives on Ports
, pp. 1 - 22
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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