Cross-checking the Sound database with the French Balance du Commerce data
During the eighteenth century Europe set the cultural, political and economic conditions for its entry in the industrial era. While the role of international trade has been for a long time considered as a minor factor in the industrial revolution, the focus of economic history has changed somewhat during the last two decades. The emergence of a global perspective in economic history has led prominent scholars to account for the important role of international trade in the rise of Europe over other world regions 5 But whereas extra-European trade is comparatively well known and has been the object of recent syntheses,6intra-European trade has largely been neglected. The scarcity of works on foreign trade statistics of preindustrial times is all the more unfortunate as external trade flows are the single economic data that (some) early modern states have collected with the most care. Indeed, the first attempts at measuring foreign trade regularly can be dated back to the seventeenth century. From 1696 on, the English crown was able to collect a continuous series of customs data and release a yearly evaluation of the English balance of trade. The French royal administration created the Bureau de la balance du commerce in 1713. Its task was to produce a yearly document that detailed the French external trade and calculated its general balance. There was a pan European move towards a more extensive and better measurement of external trade throughout the eighteenth century, with various countries gathering the same data through their central administrations .
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