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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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The English Impact on the Adoption of a Unique Tax in France and Other European Countries: Olivia Langlois



The establishment of a new way of calculating postal taxes was the result of certain aspirations that characterize the advent of the Second Republic in 1848.1 Until then, these taxes were calculated by weight and distance, but from 1 January 1849 onwards, there was a single postal tax regardless of distance. In its day, this reform ignited passionate debates and proved to be to be of major importance in French postal history. The adoption of a uniform tax corresponded to the diffusion of a specific way of conceiving postal service, according to which the state was required to guarantee equal access to correspondence for the greatest number of its citizens as an economic or a geographic right.2 Not only did the adoption of a uniform tax contribute to a change in the way of conceiving public postal service, but it also overturned existing postal structures and customs, especially by requiring the sender to put postage on a letter before mailing it.

It is important to note that the catalyst for the reform came from England, thanks to the persistent actions of Rowland Hill.3 Until 1849, English postal rates, like the French rates, comprised of several different collection zones. In a brochure published in 1837 entitled “Post Office Reforms,” Rowland Hill proposed the adoption of a uniform tax applicable to all distances as well as pre-paid postage through the use of postage stamps. The enthusiasm of both the public and the press won over the...

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