Private partnerships in early modern Antwerp (1621–1791)
This dissertation investigates private partnerships in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Antwerp (1621–1791) from both a legal historical and a socioeconomic perspective. Whereas the legal-historical part deals with the interaction between Antwerp customary law and learned legal literature (the ‘law in books’) related to business practices in the form of notarised and privately drafted agreements (the ‘law in practice’), the socioeconomic historical part focuses on the functions a partnership could fulfil in an early modern society. The aim of this dissertation is to gain more insight into the extent to which customary law affected business practices and the extent to which entrepreneurs adhered to the rules. Additionally, this dissertation challenges the categorisation often used in the literature whereby partnerships are grouped into ideal-types, such as general partnerships and limited partnerships. Finally, this dissertation analyses the underlying arguments for entrepreneurs to opt for a partnership. For this purpose, the city of Antwerp serves as an excellent case study because entrepreneurs were forced to adapt themselves continuously to geopolitical and socioeconomic developments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The most important legal principle that Antwerp customary law—the *Consuetudines impressae* (1582) and the *Consuetudines compilatae* (1608)—and jurists adhered to regarding establishing partnerships was that entrepreneurs could resort to freedom of contract. Based on a research sample consisting of 221 notarised partnership contracts and 20 privately drafted agreements, this dissertation demonstrates that entrepreneurs used this right to create a partnership contract that conformed to but also partially deviated from the existing legal framework. Furthermore, analysing partnership contracts makes clear that partners were more concerned with internal relations than with external liability. They made agreements not only on fundamental aspects regarding partnerships, such as the division of profits and losses, but also on socioeconomic aspects. This dissertation argues that partnerships could be established to create some form of legal security for the partners involved and their family members, to stimulate or constrain the circulation of knowledge and skills, and to prevent or resolve conflicts. In this way, partnerships contributed to economic development and played a role in addressing social issues in early modern Antwerp.
Maastricht : Maastricht University & University of Antwerp , 2024
vi, 372 p.
Supervisor: Hofstraeten, Van, B. [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Puttevils, J. [Supervisor]
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The publisher created published version Available from 11.01.2026
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Creation 06.12.2023
Last edited 24.01.2024
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