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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History


Muriel Le Roux and Sébastien Richez

The cursus publicus, established by the Roman Empire to connect all its conquered territories, may be considered to be the ancestor of all modern post offices. Therefore, mail service networks are part of an organization, dating from Antiquity, which is common to the entire European community.
From the 18th century onwards, the French mail service network may be divided into three successive phases. First, the consolidation of the transportation system that was being set up. Second, the development of the system’s ability to deal with increasing traffic (through broader human resources). Thirdly, the diversification of its operations and the development of its technical modernisation.
What was the situation in other European countries? Are there similarities and differences in how their networks were set up and organized? Finally, how did European Post Offices cooperate with each other in spite of their differences?
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The Scales of Postal Communication in New France in Context: John Willis



Since the work of Harold Innis students of communication have focused upon the technological properties and impact intrinsic to a means of communication as the defining feature or “enjeu majeur” of a communication system.1 The bias of communication unfolds itself in space or in time according to its intrinsic lightness and mobility in the first case (space) or its durability in the second (time).2 For New France, it might be preferable to approach communication not in terms of its bias but rather in terms of the discrete objectives it sets out to achieve. Communication is two things.3 According to the transmission view, it is a process whereby messages are transmitted and distributed in space for the control of distance and people. Communication is one with transportation. In the pre-electronic world there simply was no other means of carrying about a message other than on horseback, on foot or aboard a ship. One is reminded of the complicity between pen and sword:

The written word signed, sealed and swiftly transmitted was essential to military power and the extension of government. Small communities were written into large states and states were consolidated into empire.4 ← 143 | 144 →

The ritual view: communication is not directed toward the extension of messages in space, but rather the maintenance of society in time. It is not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs. The ritual form binds a community in church, at a coronation,...

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