On the spatial nature of institutions and the institutional nature of personal networks in the Spanish Atlantic


  • Regina Grafe Dept of History and Civilisation, European University Institute




Networks, formal and informal institutions, 17th century, English merchants, Basque Country, consulados


Studies of commercial, cultural and political networks in the Atlantic tend to juxtapose the soft ties of networks to the hard rules of imperial law and trade regulation. The implicit or explicit assumption has been that networks in the Spanish Atlantic served primarily as an antidote to the organisation of the empire and broke out of its spatial boundaries. Networks stood for fluidity, as opposed to the static structures of state and church. This article argues in contrast that networks not only were institutions, but that the empire’s institutions were (mostly) networks. It uses the case of the English Atlantic networks operating in northern Spain in the first half of the seventeenth century to show how our interpretation of the interactions between merchant networks and political institutions is transformed when we break up the supposed dichotomy between the two.


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How to Cite

Grafe, R. (2014). On the spatial nature of institutions and the institutional nature of personal networks in the Spanish Atlantic. Culture &Amp; History Digital Journal, 3(1), e006. https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2014.006