Entrepreneurial structure of the mercantile company in pre-industrial Catalonia
The mercantile company was the basic form of enterprise in pre-industrial Catalonia. The aim of this paper is to study the formation and development of the mercantile companies in Barcelona whose end was the wholesale and retail sale of textiles in the “botigues de teles” (textile retail shops) throughout the eighteenth century. These firms were officially registered before a notary and their deeds reveal how these establishments were administered and managed. The study covers a sample of 121 mercantile companies, and the articles and documentation that were put into effect by 32 notaries who were active in Barcelona in the 18th century have been consulted in their entirety. From an initial selection of documentation, a total of 228 deeds registering companies have been found, 107 of which (47%) relate to the creation of companies whose various activities were centred in taverns, textile manufacturing, braiding.... While the 121 companies, which make up our sample and which account for 53% of the deeds registered with the notaries mentioned above, focused exclusively on the management of textile retail shops located in the commercial heart of the city. Thus one point of interest that the documentation reveals is that the majority of the mercantile companies registered by Barcelona notaries throughout the 18th century were establishments which traded in textiles. The first part of the article focuses on the structural characteristics of these enterprises, the number and socio-professional status of the partners and the extent of each partner’s involvement in the administration and management. The second part of the article examines the capital investment made by each partner, their rights and obligations agreed on, the sharing out of profits and possible losses and the duration of the companies. The final aim of the paper is to highlight the evolution of these companies through one specific case.
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