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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History

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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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The Post Office as an Instrument of Administrative Centralization? Its Role in the Local Administration of Isère from 1800 to 1840: Marie-Cécile Thoral

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Its Role in the Local Administration of Isère from 1800 to 1840*

Marie-Cécile THORAL

The law of 28 pluviôse year VIII (17 February 1800) establishing a new administrative organization in France, appears to have set up a highly centralized and pyramid-shaped system, in which orders were immediately conveyed and executed along the administrative chain from the government level down to the mayor’s office in the tiniest village.

As a means of communication between central and local powers, and among various local administrators and officials, correspondence would seem to be an essential tool of this centralized administration. Orders, directives, and instructions from different authorities are often transmitted through the mail. Letters also informed prefects and then the government of the goings on in their department. When the letter mail service (“la Poste aux lettres”) was granted the monopoly for distributing mail on 16 June 1801,1 it became an indispensable aid to local administrators and officials in the efficient administration of their department. The study of the functions and roles of the postal services in a local administration gives us a better understanding of the broad political importance of the post office and the mail, specifically their contribution to the establishment of a centralized administrative organization that has been both rationalized and formalized and, generally to the creation of an administrative culture and identity. It would be a misperception, however, if we did not also take into account the limits and imperfections...

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