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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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INTRODUCTIONThe Post Office: From Past To Future: Michèle Merger



Michèle MERGER

Since its inception, the mission of the Post Office has always been to connect people regardless of the distance that separates them and to fulfill the basic human need to communicate. This need called for the creation of a broad-based undertaking that joined the forces of a central administration, in charge of organizing and managing the dispatch of correspondence and parcels, with a postal network that gradually expanded over time by relying on other major transportation networks (roads, railways, and later air traffic). Collectively these networks were among the elements that allowed for the restructuring of space on the local, regional, national and continental levels. Serving all communities equally, the Post Office soon expanded its services, to the benefit of financial services that are now becoming one of the most important economic sectors, after having been marginalized for many years, Finally, since the 1990s, the Post Office has been subject to significant judicial changes, compelled by guidelines issued by the European Commission in Brussels.

The purpose of this brief introduction is not only to recall some of the main events in postal history but also to suggest some topic for further reflection on recent transformations and concerns about the future of the postal sector in the context of a European continent that is constantly striving toward further integration.

The dispatch of letters and correspondence has always been regarded with considerable importance from a political, diplomatic, and economic point...

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