Captains' Mail Circuits: Examining Social Relations in Letter Transfer, 1700–1774

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During the eighteenth century, a dual mail system emerged in the British Atlantic. One operated in fits and starts through the administration of imperial officials. The other operated on a more limited basis, less formally, and at a far lower cost through the administration of mercantile sea captains. Captains transported the mercantile information contained in letters for their friends and local acquaintances in port. The letters in a captain’s mailbag regularly numbered in the hundreds. Upon arrival in the next port of call, captains delivered the letters or arranged for their collection. Stationary people expected their captain-friends and acquaintances to transmit their letters. Captains who refused or failed to collect letters suffered the ire and ostracism of their friends. While captains’ efforts burnished their reputations, which might translate into future mercantile favors or credit, captains performed postal functions for many individuals in their trading communities who did not possess the mercantile wherewithal to advance captains’ careers. Thus, captains forged circuits of commerce among their friends and acquaintances that operated efficiently alongside the imperial postal system. Examining eighteenth-century mercantile captains’ mail circuits demonstrates how captains’ circuits of commerce became effective nodes in a polycentric web of information transfer.
TitelLiving Better Together : Social Relations and Polycentricty in the Work of Ostrom and Zelizer
RedaktørerStefanie Haffele, Virgil Henry Storr
Antal sider22
ForlagPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Trykt)9783031171260
ISBN (Elektronisk)9783031171277
StatusUdgivet - 2023
NavnMercatus Studies in Political and Social Economy


  • Zelizer
  • Ostrom
  • History
  • Captain's mail