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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History


Edited By 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 18 th 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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Expanding the Network of Postal Routes in France 1708-1833: Anne Bretagnolle & Nicolas Verdier

Using a GIS to Capture the Postal Network


Expanding the Network of Postal Routes in France 1708–1833*


Among the networks of communication that have been developed throughout history, the mounted mail,1 which began in France in the Middle Ages, is one of the oldest. From the creation of the first permanent roadhouses for the king’s horsemen at the beginning of the 16th century to the gradual closing of these relay stations that had been challenged by the railroad since the 1850s, the development of an extremely efficient system of communication, whose purpose grew over time, spans four centuries. Its original purpose was to route royal and administrative correspondence (and private mail from the beginning of the 17th century) as swiftly as possible, thanks to a network of relays where horses could be changed. The transport of light and semi-valuable goods was then added to the list of services, followed by the transportation of well-to-do passengers at the end of the 18th century. The fact that the postal network was composed of nuclei rather than links is another characteristic of its physical infrastructure. Evoking the vocabulary of the 18th century, historians prefer to describe it as a “system”2 rather than a “network.” Although the mounted mail made increasing use of the paved or cobblestone roads built by the engineers of the department of Bridges and Roads in the 18th century, it was the aggregate of relay stations and not the sections of roadway that were managed by...

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