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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 “Change”, between History and Management: Eric Godelier



Until now the scope of this colloquium has been historical, but we will now attempt to address the future. Historians, however, often seem uncomfortable when asked, “What are the lessons to be learned from history that help us foresee the future?” In the field of history itself, the problem has long since been resolved: we no longer try to foresee the future, and historians have become more prudent, if not reticent, when presented with this type of exercise. At best they try to present certain contexts for reflecting on and interpreting the present, or in some cases, for extending certain tendencies or scenarios into the future.

I have the advantage of occupying a rather unique position in this round table discussion, since I am something of a Janus-like figure in that I am both a historian and a manager. As such, historians view me pejoratively as a manager, a sort of plumber who is ensnared in the day-to-day practice of corporate management. What this means to them is that we are incapable of getting any critical distance on work modes or daily operations, so we have nothing to say to the public who has no experience with management! On the other hand, managers perceive me as a historian. This is a problem for many of them, for whom history is of little use, especially because history has no room for theory, or categorically refuses to theorize a problem. What’s more, history has no practical...

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