Offering a fresh analysis of late imperial China, this cutting-edge book revisits the roles played by merchant networks, economic institutions, and business practices in the divergence between Europe and China during the trade revolution.
Focusing on the operating modes of three major regional trading networks active in Fujian, Huizhou, and Shanxi from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, François Gipouloux assesses the driving forces behind their dynamism, the role they played in Chinese economic development, and the constraints in which they were embedded. Examining merchants’ business practices, partnerships, and investment strategies, chapters portray the three central figures of China’s economy – the financier, the middleman, and the business entrepreneur – and their complex relationships with the imperial bureaucracy. By analysing the divergent trajectory of seemingly identical institutions in China and Europe, Elusive Capital takes a comparative approach to shed light on the factors that inhibited the transformation of commercial development into an industrial revolution, ultimately discovering why capital accumulation proved so elusive in late imperial China.
Revealing novel insights from primary documentation including trial accounts, Elusive Capital will prove an invigorating read for students and scholars of economic history, business studies, and Asian urban and regional studies