Forms and effects of (economic) exchange

The Basel Avisblatt (1809), p. 87.

In his research on the Avisblatt, Alexander will focus on the different forms of economic interaction and means of allocation that it involves. The vast majority of advertisements either seek or offer to buy, lend, lease, hire, share or donate; or they refer to possible places and events for allocation: shops, auctions, lotteries. In addition, important results of economic action - victual prices from the City of Basel's markets - are published in the paper on a regular basis. The Avis-Blatt reflects myriads of ways to organise economic exchange, to interlink persons of complementary economic interests, to spin the socioeconomic web. Studying the facets and structures of this web, can we make out tendencies in the rearrangement and transformation of economic life in Basel between the consumer and the industrial revolution - maybe the rise of a market economy?

A first paper in this context will be devoted to auctions and lotteries as temporary and one-time events of economic interaction (as opposed to shops and regular markets). For potential buyers, both auctions and commodity lotteries were more than rational means to allocate resources, they also promised entertainment and excitement. Such features, in turn, were also profitable from the sellers’ point of view, as they helped to attract more potential buyers to their offers. The paper takes a closer look at early modern auctions and commodity lotteries as hybrid forms of allocation and entertainment. It will focus in particular on the way these events were announced and staged in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Basel.

The victual prices are at the centre of a different current strand of the investigation, which connects to long established research into of the history of prices and quantitative economic analysis.

In 2020, a major area of research will develop from studying the labour market of the Avisblatt.