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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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A European System for a New Network.The Airmail Service with no Surtax in the 1930s: Léonard Laborie



Offices and enterprises that have been built and spread throughout a service area for the purpose of interfacing with users are the basic elements of postal networks.1 The significance of railroad networks cannot be reduced to train stations, and by the same token, it is difficult not to integrate the connective elements between terminus points into the equation of postal networks along which the flow of the mail runs its course. Without this consideration, it would be difficult to talk about the concept of the network in the fullest sense of the term. In this context, postal networks are unique. First of all because postal operators make use of transportation infrastructures that are not inherently part of their system and which the do not create (roads, railways, port installations, and airports).

Postal networks are also unusual in that the do not always use these infrastructures directly: transporters who operated outside the postal conveyors are compensated by the post office for providing the connective service. The postal service has to integrate a variety of external networks and participants in order to operate effectively, which implies defining the technical norms and standard rates that provide their interconnection. This takes place on the various scales of mail circulation, both national and international, through the mutual cooperation of postal functions.2 The regulatory mode that results from the negotiation between all these participants is crucial to an understanding of the nature and the dynamics of the postal networks....

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