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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 Revolution of the German Mail Coach System in the Early 19th Century: Klaus Beyrer



In Germany as well as in other countries of Central Europe the stage coach traffic follows a normal evolution. After the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) the sovereign principalities established their own sovereign postal organizations. The State and private monopolies ensured links and guaranteed transport services on numerous routes. The regular mail coach service’s effect was that travelling was institutionalized. The ordinary stage coach operated on the basis of a timetable ensuring a regular and reasonably priced service at fixed times independent of fluctuations in demand for service. Around the mid-18th century, the routes and in some places even the timetables were coordinated to establish a network of services.

But it was not before the early 19th century as the stagecoach system became part of a revolutionary progression. The highly sophisticated system of express coaches and mail services introduced in 1821 allowed the travel time on the national routes to be halved. Following the French example, the passenger services were raised to the level of the courier services so that the passengers were now transported as fast as the mounted postal services. This meant that the time at the stations was limited as much as possible: five minutes for changing horses, 10 to 15 minutes for the passengers at the central stations. Conductors, equipped with a pocket watch and timetable, strictly supervised adherence to the schedules. On the route from Berlin to Hamburg the express postal services reduced the old travelling time between 85...

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