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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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Comparative Evolution of the Post Service in Spain and Europe during the Second Half of the 19th Century: Gaspar Martinez Lorente & Pedro Navarro Moreno



Beginning in the 1830s, liberal Spanish politicians followed in the footsteps of their predecessors in the age of Enlightenment. They understood the importance of improving and modernizing the postal service in order for the State to function more efficiently, and viewed this as indispensable for establishing fluid and efficient communications between governments, provincial and local administrations. On the economic level, the modernization of the post office had become the instrument of choice for the development of the national market. Since 1835 the normalization and lowering of rates had encouraged individuals, the press, publishing houses, and the business sector to make use of the postal service thus transforming the very nature of the post office: from that point on, it was no longer perceived only as a revenue for the State but also as a public service.

Among the many reforms, the adoption of the stamp as a new means of postage replacing cash payment by the recipient is of capital importance. The Royal Decree of 24 October 1849 concerning “the postage and registration of correspondence,” established the legal framework for the introduction of the postage stamp in Spain. The fixing of lower, more rational rates as well as the adoption of a single rate for the entirety of the national territory added to the convenience provided to customers. Concurrently a campaign was launched to extend daily mail distribution to every community in the country. From 813 communes in 1855,...

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