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Principle-agent problems in the French slave trade: the case of Rochelais Armateurs and their agents, 1763-1792

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  • Albane Forestier
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    Abstract

    La Rochelle, the fourth largest slaving port in France in the eighteenth-century, is used as a case study in the application of agency theory to long-distance trade. This analysis explores an area not accounted for in the literature on French commercial practices. Being broadly couched in a New Institutionalist framework, this study explores the formal and informal institutions designed to curb agency problems, and emphasizes the ex-post strategies such as social rewarding, to which little attention is usually paid. It also finds reputation-effect strategies were efficiently combined with a well-operating legal system. It subsequently challenges the traditional dichotomy between societies where personal links dominated the economy and modern societies where business links are predominantly impersonal. As a result, this empirical analysis leads to a reappraisal of private ordering as opposed to legal centralism and calls for more theoretical research.

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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22478/
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22478.

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    Length: 53 pages
    Date of creation: Apr 2005
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22478

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    Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
    Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
    Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/
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    1. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
    2. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1985. "Reputation and Hierarchy in Dynamic Models of Employment," Working Papers 628, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    3. Carlos Ann M., 1994. "Bonding and the Agency Problem: Evidence from the Royal African Company, 1672-1691," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 313-335, July.
    4. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
    5. Wintrobe, Ronald & Breton, Albert, 1986. "Organizational Structure and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 530-38, June.
    6. Eltis David & Richardson David, 1995. "Productivity in the Transatlantic Slave Trade," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 465-484, October.
    7. Carlos, Ann M, 1992. "Principal-Agent Problems in Early Trading Companies: A Tale of Two Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 140-45, May.
    8. Eaton, B Curtis & White, William D, 1982. "Agent Compensation and the Limits of Bonding," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(3), pages 330-43, July.
    9. Greif, Avner, 1998. "Historical and Comparative Institutional Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 80-84, May.
    10. Allen, Douglas W., 2002. "The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 204-231, April.
    11. Carlos, Ann M. & Nicholas, Stephen, 1990. "Agency Problems in Early Chartered Companies: The Case of the Hudson’s Bay Company," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(04), pages 853-875, December.
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