2004
Volume 123, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163

Abstract

Analyzing long-term evolutions in the discourse on the closure of the river Scheldt in Antwerp comes down to unlocking an often overlooked but persistent and pervasive rhetoric on the blessings of free trade and seaborne navigation. This so-called ideology of commerce had its origins in the golden sixteenth century, but remained firmly interwoven with the city’s social fabric and institutions, even after its ideological tenets had become less credible later in the seventeenth century. Thus, understanding this ideology of commerce not only rationalizes much of Antwerp’s urban ceremony and acts of self-representation, it also accounts for the city’s poor economic performance at the turn of the eighteenth century. Despite open pleas for protective measures – even within Antwerp itself – the central government in Brussels lacked the means to break with the liberal tariff regimes, which were originally co-negotiated by the commercial lobby of Antwerp. When the river Scheldt was eventually reopened for sea traffic around the beginning of the nineteenth century, a new generation of international merchants revived the mechanics of this commercial rhetoric, which remains firmly connected with the identity of the city itself.

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2010-11-01
2021-11-28
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  • Article Type: Research Article
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