'A particular spirit of enterprise': Bristol and Liverpool slave trade merchants as entrepreneurs in the eighteenth century.
PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
It is well known that Liverpool surpassed Bristol as Britain's premier slave trading port in the mid-eighteenth century, but the reasons for Liverpool's dominance remain debated. In this comparative research, the theoretical framework of entrepreneurship and various notions of capital, including financial, human and social, accessed through merchants' associational networks is employed to determine whether or not Liverpool merchants were more entrepreneurial in the trade which in turn made them more successful. An interdisciplinary methodology that embraces concepts from both economic and business history as well as social network and socio-cultural analysis is used to ascertain how slave merchant networks in both ports operated and managed their trade.
Entrepreneurship has quickly become a popular field of study in economics, sociology and business, and provides a new avenue to explore the organisation of the slave trade in both merchant communities. Additionally, by applying the notion of entrepreneurship within Liverpool slave merchant networks, a more convincing and satisfying explanation for their relative success besides their often-argued but little-explained "business acumen" is offered. An examination of nominal data sources, including the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Database and club membership as well as qualitative sources such as merchant correspondence and parliamentary papers are used to map trends in business organisation between the two cities and over time, and to draw conclusions on the relative strength and nature of business partnerships. It is argued that Liverpool merchants managed slaving voyages within comparatively larger investment groups; thus, the business network a Liverpool merchant was part of was also larger. From these larger networks, Liverpool merchants had greater access to knowledge, skills and resources, collectively known as capital, and this larger pool of expertise offered more competitive advantages to their trade. Because of this, Liverpool merchants, as entrepreneurs, were able to surpass their counterparts in Bristol to become the leaders in the slave trade.
Thesis (University of Nottingham only)
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