#FromtheArchives - Statistics of Trade

Commercial intelligence has always been vital for financial success. While today's traders are able to use modern technology to constantly monitor markets and prices, their 19th century counterparts kept up to date by relying on trade circulars sent by traders and merchants on the ground. Examples of this type of document have been preserved in The Baring Archive's Statistics of Trade series.

One of the items in the series gives a fascinating insight into the goods imported into St Petersburg in 1827 and 1828. The circular lists many familiar items such as cocoa, lemons and oranges, cotton and linen. It also includes items now better known by other names. For example "vitriol" was the common term for sulphuric acid and "brimstone" is now better known as sulphur. Other commodities such as "Dutch Pink", a yellow pigment made from bark or berries and "Dragonsblood", a red resin used in varnishing are much less familiar. Every item listed provides a window into a wider story, for example the hunting of whales and the trade in "Spermaceti", a wax substance found in the head cavity of a sperm whale.

The aim of the circular was to provide solid data to merchants and it was compiled from cargo lists and captains declarations. It is just one example of the type of document that would have influenced Barings' decision making in the early 19th century. 

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An extract from the alphabetical list of commodities imported into St Petersburg in 1827 and 1828
An extract from the alphabetical list of commodities imported into St Petersburg in 1827 and 1828

Posted on Friday, 13th August 2021

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