Russian foreign trade, 1680-1780: the British contribution
Newman, Susan Jennifer
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This study aims to establish the development of foreign trade in the Muscovite lands, the Baltic provinces and in the areas which were newly settled in the mid eighteenth century with particular reference to the role of British merchants in these changes. This has required an analysis of the structure of trade through the 'Russian' Baltic and White Sea ports and an investigation of the changing patterns of commercial acitivity caused by fluctuations in the boundaries of their supply areas and of internal and external markets for the goods they handled. Detailed consideration has been given to the commodities handled in the import, export and re-export trades utilising data from the Sound Toll accounts together with British and Russian customs statistics. Having established a wide framework for the investigation of Russian foreign trade, detailed consideration has been given to the role of the British commercial community. In order to do so it has been necessary to reconstruct the methods used by British merchants in Russia in organising their commercial activities: this includes examining the structure of the British mercantile 'houses' in all the Russian ports, but especially in St. Petersburg; the patterns of recruitment of young men into the trade and their style of life in Russia; the network of contacts which they established among their compatriots, whether involved in commerce or other professions, with other foreign merchants and also with their aristocratic clients and their Russian counterparts involved in internal trade. Merchants in the Russia trade faced changing costs to their business for freight, insurance and customs duties and the fluctuations in these charges and their responses to them have been assessed. One of the most important aspects of their activities was the way in which they financed their trade. Decision-making in this matter was influenced by events throughout Europe as well as in Russia, for account had to be taken of the relative value in silver of the commodities which the Russia merchant handled in that country and elsewhere. Thus, during the late seventeenth century, they paid for Russian goods in specie whilst increasingly in the eighteenth century it made better economic sense to deal in imported commodities as far as the market allowed and finance the balance with trade surpluses accumulated elsewhere, thereby causing the emergence of a close co-operation between the British and Dutch communities in Russia in financing their trade, with the Dutch lending the proceeds of their import surplus to the British in return for bills of exchange on Amsterdam. The costs arising from the movement of the rate of exchange and interest rates within the financial network so formed, have been fully inves¬ tigated and their effect on the trade explored. The effects of these changes on Russia's overseas trade and the internal impact of the development of this external commercial sector to the Russian economy receives especial consideration with particular emphasis being placed on the response of the aristocracy in both their changing patterns of consumption of imported goods and in the development of their estates to provide raw materials for export or supplying Russian merchant and serf manufacturers who were at this time responding to growing overseas markets for their products.