Trade Capitalism and its Places

This article discusses the activities of merchant houses in the early modern period and how their different places were gendered. Merchant houses had their base in the city house, where the merchant’s family and business staff lived and were involved in the business in different ways. The theory, which is tested, holds that the merchant himself, his sons and male staff were more active in places at a distance from the city house – either physically or through writing – while the merchant’s wife, daughters and female servants to a larger degree took part in activities in and close to the city house. The different arenas of the merchant houses’ activities are discussed. The merchants’ training involved travels or studies abroad for sons, less regular education for daughters. The running of the trade was based in the city house with its specialised rooms with their gendered activities. Regional markets and the trading ship linked to the world outside the home base and were mainly masculine arenas. While the theory to some degree holds true, the discussion shows that borders between spaces could be crossed, especially by widows. Studying the smaller shopkeepers could show a less rigid result.