Networks, trust, and risk mitigation during the American Revolutionary War: a case study

Carolyn Downs
Published Online:
09 Nov 2016
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 70 Issue 2

Additional Options

This article takes a case study approach to the question of how entrepreneurs developed and used networks to support trade during the American Revolutionary War (American War of Independence). Using the business letter books of Daniel Eccleston of Lancaster, covering January 1780 to December 1781, the article shows how he used trust‐building activities and developed open networks in Britain and the West Indies in order to build, sustain, maintain, and diversify his commercial activities to reduce risk and develop new opportunities. Eccleston's letters illustrate a competitive market in which entrepreneurs helped drive the industrial revolution through stimulating demand and encouraging trade. They show that mutual trust was the foundation of strong networks, and that networks were significant in underpinning entrepreneurial success through allowing the mitigation of business risk and offering the opportunity for diversification supported by the network. The article makes use of the work of Casson, Pearson and Richardson, and Wilson and Pop.

© Economic History Society 2016

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