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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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History of Post Offices and Communications. Exchanges and Territories. A Series at the Crossroads

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Why create a series on the history of postal services, communication, exchanges and territories? The obvious answer is that no such series currently exists in France or in any other European country. Despite this fact, exchanges, in the broadest and most widely accepted meaning of the term, are an inherent part of European societies and, for several centuries now, postal services, in whatever format, have often been major players in the sector.

The fact that this field has been left untouched is all the more astonishing given the huge change in the relationship between the increasingly enlightened public and human and social sciences, It was for this reason that in 1998 Daniel Roche, then Professor at the Collège de France, stressed that the Committee for the History of the Post-Office (Comité pour l’histoire de La Poste founded in Paris in 1995) provided a great opportunity for the academic community as it enabled a “faithful assessment” of its own needs, as well as those of the enterprise La Poste and those of the society in which the postal service was evolving and changing.

It is worth asking ourselves whether, in establishing this committee, the forces in play were actually responding to a demand for legitimisation, in particular considering the fact that the postal office’s administration, now a private company, was going through a key phase in its evolution. Yet, according to a very French tradition, as underscored by Christophe Charle, “unless in possession of a certain...

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