March 8th 2017 Toflit meeting


Attending : Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Béatrice Dedinger, Paul Girard, Silvia Marzagalli, Guillaume Plique
1. Workshop Ricardo
We discuss the organisation of the Ricardo workshop in May. Guillaume and Paul suggest the use of gosoapbox and lots of post-its.
2. Simplification of goods / Integration of new data
We did not make progress

3. Price mistakes
Matthias has finished correcting price mistakes

4. Guillaume Plique planning
We confirm we have 16 weeks of funding. 2 have been used up. There are 2.5 weeks of holidays.
Next weeks :
April 10th, 17th and 24th. (3 weeks)
May 1st (1 week)
From Wednesday June 28th to Thursday July 13th (3.5 weeks)
Monday Septembre 4th to Friday September 29th (4 weeks)

Paul and Loïc discuss the organization of the fund transfer.

5. Octobre 2017 conference
We finalize the call for papers

Next meeting : April 20th at 9.30 at the Medialab meeting room 13, rue de l’Université in Sciences Po.

February 3rd 2017 meeting

Attending : Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Matthias Loise, Florence Perret, Guillaume Plique

1. Paul Girard & Sciences Po
Paul is discussing his status with SciencesPo.

2. Guillaume Plique’s planning
We have six confirmed weeks of work :
February 6th and 13th (2)
April 10th, 17th and 24th (3)
May 1st (1)
We have funded 16 weeks of work. We need to plan for the other 10 weeks ? 4 weeks in May, 4 weeks in June and 2 in July seems a bit extreme.

3. Simplification of goods
The works has been completed. Pierre Gervais is going to proofread Florence’s work on the datascape.
Pierre suggested to go further into the simplification, gathering all kinds of ‘agaric’ for instance. The group decides to stick with the original idea and not loose any information at the simplification stage.
During further discussion, it is decided that Pierre will not spend three weeks making sure that all simplification rules have been perfectly applied.

4. Looking for mistakes in the data
Matthias Loise has made a linear regression on the prices using product names, metric measurements unite and year. This way, he could forecast the prices and treat those which are too different from their predicted values. The rate of mistakes is still high. With the residual between 2,5 et 3, there is 60% of « true wrong prices », 20% of « actually right prices » and 20% of doubtful cases. The share of true wrong prices is higher in local data (70%) than in the national data (55%).
As for now he could only work on metric measurements but it could be interesting to work on other units although it’s going to be hard to make comparisons (as those units are not standardized especially those emanating from the colonies).

5. Data: Assistance Publique & Marseille
Loïc Charles will look for new data mentioned to us by François Velde at the Assistance Publique (fond Montyon) during the following week. For now, he has been working on Marseille’s sources.
He basically found many small things, but no missing year.
– Imports per product in Levant’s échelles from 1725 to the mid 1770s (and some exports)
– Some colonial import and export trade statistics giving the destinations.
– Some documents coming from the beginning of the second bureau
– A list of freight costs at the bilateral port level

4. European funding
Loïc Charles met with Lucyna Derkacz/Gomez-Echeverri in charge of European projects at Paris 8. She was enthusiastic about Toflit18 and summed up the criteria to apply for a European funding. It appears that two programs could be interesting for Toflit:
– SSHS program. This depends of the work program and whether we fit in what they are interested.
– FET future & FET exchange programs (
Those are relatively low budget programs which were created to finance interdisciplinary projects including new technologies and private companies, criteria which matches with Toflit. New adjudications are going to be made for 2017-2018.
Loïc Charles thinks that, first, we could duplicate the way we created the database to obtain similar practices, and then build a translation’s procedure and a multilateral database. In this way, we would be able to map not only one country but many simultaneous European perspectives. We could also match our data with maritime data (Sound Toll Registers & Navigocorpus but it would be a lot of work.
Guillaume’s contacts in Dauphine had been more interested in the Infrastructure program.
Guillaume and Loïc decide to each write a 1-paragraph defense of each option and send it around to the list to see who is interested in what.
Another option would be to create an ANR with European partners.

5. We discuss the scientific committee of the 2017 conference

January 5th 2017 meeting

Thank you to Florence for the first version of this report!


Attending : Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Béatrice Dedinger, Pierre Gervais, Paul Girard, Matthias Loise, Florence Perret, Guillaume Plique
1. Planning Guillaume Plique
He is one month late of the preceeding project. And starting in February he is starting on Wasmer’s project (with a workshop at the end of March).
In total we have nearly 4 month (10 700 € from SciencesPo and 13 000 € from INED) Planning:
– First 2 weeks of February
– One or two weeks in March
And the rest ?

2. Paul Girard & SciencesPo

3. Looking for mistakes in the data
Matthias Loïs has been looking for mistakes in the data
a. By looking at trade flows over 25 million l.t. A number of typos.
b. By comparing retranscribed trade flows and predicted (by a repeated sales model) trade flows. Only national trade for the time being. A lot of too-small trade flows that are not very interesting to correct.
c. Will be looking at the difference between retranscribed prices and predicted prices (by a repeated sales model). Many mistakes in Marseille
It is often because they forget to divide by 100 or they mix « sous » and « livres ».

4. Data
Marseilles’s data are a pain to check and integrate in the database. Loïc is doing it on his own and is spending a lot of time on each document.

This is blocking the integration of Dardel’s Rouen.

We decide to put Moyons at the Assistance Publique on the top of the pile.

5. Simplification of goods and measure units
Matthias has treated the measure units with three successive files.
The work on Merchandise Simplification has started again thanks to Florence. Pierre is going to participate and aims at finishing at the end of February or March.

6. 2017 Conference
Pierre makes two proposals.
– Use Chaurand and Gradis and check if their data is compatible with ours
– Study the link between the complexity of classifications and specialization between ports. Start with wine ?

7. Next meetings
03/02-9:30 : medialab
08/03-9:30 : medialab
21/04-9:30 : medialab
01/06-9:30 : medialab

December 9th 2016 meeting

December 9th 2016 meeting

Attending : Sid Ahmed Benabderrahmane, Julien Brault, Loïc Charles, Bruno Chavez, Guillaume Daudin, Ivan Ledezma, Matthias Loise, Nada Mimouni, Florence Perret, Guillaume Plique, Timothy Yeung
Five members of the group « Governance Analytics » (( were attending to discuss possible collaboration
. Post-doc en informatique. Governance analytics. Technologie du web sémantique pour présenter les textes juridiques français. / Bruno Chavez sur Governance Analytics. Immergé à Dauphine, mettre en commun en informatique, traitement des statistiques et économétrie pour appuyer des recherches originales pour PSL. Projet porté deux prof à Dauphine. / Julien Pro post-doc d’économie en histoire analytique / Fiio / Timoty économiste / Ledezma prof à Dijon économiste du commerce / Guillaume Plique.

# Datascape
Paul told us that he solved the bug linked to multiple-criteria request in the « Term Network». It has not been put in production yet.

# Guillaume Plique
Guillaume will be able to work with us between two and three months starting mid-January.
He will probably work part-time, meaning he will be with us till at least mid-May and maybe till mid-July.
# WEHC 2018
The session including hands-on utilisation of the datascape has been rejected. Maybe we will organise a one without the hands-on session, but including Alain Bresson and David Schloen.
We were encouraged to re-submit the other session. We have to re-write the introduction
Re-rédiger l’autre. Réécrire le blurp. Et qui mettre dedans exactement.
## Governance analytics
We have a long discussion about possible collaboration between the Governance Analytics team and TOFLIT18.

Toflit18 has a pressing need for design and development capacities. We have the skill for the data analysis.

It has been very interesting to learn about all the things that are done by Governance Analytics. It is a bit more difficult to see the possible complementarities.

We discuss the ontology of goods following Nada Mimouni’s work. That would be especially useful if we were to work on a multilingual database.

We also discuss temporal graphs with Sid Ahmed Benabderrahmane. This is interesting for some other projects of the Medialab.

Julien Brault is also working on 18th century economic history, as he is looking at the activities of the Conseil du Commerce. The thematic link with Toflit18 is easy to make.

The call for project will take place every six months.

## Future fundings
The only thing we really need future funding for is hosting and archiving.

An ERC funding seems out of reach. Maybe an «infrastructure» project (European Research Infrastructures ? ? Or a cooperative ANR project ?

## 2017 Conference
We will have the final two-day conference of the project next Fall (October ? November ?). Our plan is to organise a scientific committee and an open call with the theme «International trade and the economy, 1600-1870».
It will be followed by a half day closed workshop to discuss further developments.

The conference will be focused on
1. The use of international trade statistics to study economies for which few primary economic series are available.
2. The study of early international trade mechanisms

We look forward to have interpretative papers using Toflit18 data presented by the team. As the database is now in a very advanced stage (but not complete), we will endeavour to help those who have an idea for a paper and want to explore its feasibility by organising a workshop in late winter or early spring to discuss their ideas and provide guidance in the use of the database.

Ivan, Guillaume and Loïc discuss what they can do at this occasion.
This is your last occasion to benefit from the collective means (and minds) of the project. We sincerely hope that you will welcome this research opportunity.

November 2nd 2016 meeting

Meeting Toflit18 – 11/02/2016

Attending : Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Béatrice Dedinger, Paul Girard, Florence Perret

1- Feedback on Chicago’s workshop

The workshop went really well, the project made a very positive impression on the audience.

Paul Girard really appreciated his discussion with Professor James Evans, from the Computational Social Science workshop. He latter contacted him about methodological issues such as the measurements of graph’s spatialization’s quality.

Meeting Yves Gingras and John Padgett was a boon to all of us.

Loïc Charles met with David Schloen from the Ochre meta-project (, which enables the creation of query software with data emanating from ancient texts, tablets and various goods. In order to question the database more efficiently, and also due to the fact that ancient languages do not isolate each words, each letter is an observation in the database. David Schloen thought that Toflit18 and Ochre have similar methodological principles as they were both created in order to fit many types of research and create a space where researchers could compare their data and results with each others with as much flexibility as possible.

David Schloen also work with Alain Bresson, who focuses on the circulation of currencies throughout the Ancient Greek world. They will organize together a conference at the Paris branch of the University of Chicago in 2018. They want to do two conferences back to back : one on ancient history and another one, methodological, on the use of innovative databases in history. The latter one will include projects that deal with data acquisition integration, analysis, publication and archiving. He offered to give a spot to TOFLIT18 in that conference (paying all costs), along with other pre-statistic era data-related projects (Ochre, Alain Bresson’s, John Padgett’s and Toflit18).

2- Boston

Paul Girard also went to Boston and met with members of the MIT medialab and the Harvard metalab at Berckman Center. He insisted on the similarity of their methodological issues with those of Toflit18. He remarked on the lack of integration of inputs from social scientists at the MIT medialab.

3- Leipzig

Guillaume Daudin presented the STRO conference in Leipzig and discussed the depth of collaboration between historians and IT researchers.

4- DH 2017

We missed the deadline. We discuss future papers with Paul: one for (hopefully) Digital Humanities Quarterly presenting the data transforming chain and one on the national and local effect of the loss of Canada for a economic history journal.

Related other papers in DHQ are :

5- The next meeting is on december 9th, 9:15am at the Médialab.

Matthias Loise

Nous accueillons avec plaisir Matthias Loise qui sera stagiaire quatre mois dans l’équipe. Il commencera par faire des retranscriptions (mais comme nous arrivons au bout de celle-ci, sans doute n’y passera-t-il pas quatre mois)

« Actuellement en césure après un Master 1 Affaires Internationales et Développement majeure économie, c’est avec enthousiasme que je rejoins l’équipe TOFLIT18 pour quelques mois. Préparant un Master 2 en Economie Internationale, mais n’ayant pour le moment pas de projet professionnel précis, ce stage représente une opportunité de découvrir le monde de la recherche et d’ainsi me permettre de voir si celui-ci me correspond. De plus, mon cursus universitaire ayant beaucoup été tourné vers l’économie internationale, participer à l’étude qu’effectue l’équipe TOFLIT18 se mêle parfaitement à mon parcours et devrait selon toute vraisemblance s’avérer être une expérience très intéressante et très enrichissante.»


Florence Perret

Welcome to Florence Perret. She will do at least a one-day-a-week internship during the first term. She might decide to stay longer.

« As a history student on my second year of Master degree at the University of Paris- Saclay/Versailles-Saint Quentin, I am currently working on a Master thesis that focuses on the consumption of exotic goods in 18th century Versailles. Considering the theme of this Master thesis, this internship is a real chance for me to learn the basics of academic research in an area that matches my personal interest. Even though my own research is mostly dedicated to social and cultural history, this experience is an opportunity to consider the external commercial trade of 18th century France, and thus, a possibility to familiarize myself with economic history. But, more importantly, this internship will provide me a familiarity with necessary tools and methods such as the creation of a database or the classification of terms and items. This knowledge will be particularly convenient as I consider continuing my research in the following years. I really hope my participation will also benefit TOFLIT18 and help managing the information contained in the database. »



October 26th-28th meeting in Leipzig

Guillaume Daudin was very happy to participate to the international conference:

Transport statistics in pre- and early industrial economic history: The challenges and opportunities of Sound Toll Registers Online 

in Leipzig on October 26th to 28th.


Here is Guillaume’s presentation :


Here is the program:

Wednesday 26.10.2016 (seminar building, room 420)

18:15 – 18:25

Prof. Dr. Manfred Rudersdorf, Dean of the Faculty of History, Art and Oriental Studies (Universität Leipzig)

18:25 – 18:30

Prof. Dr. Markus A. Denzel, Chair of Social and Economic History (Universität Leipzig)

18:30 – 19:30 hrs

Keynote on The Baltic Sea as Realm of Memory

Prof. Dr. Michael North (Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität, Greifswald, Germany)

19:30 –


Thursday 27.10.2016 (GWZ, room 3.215) Introduction

09:00 – 09:45 hrs

The electronic database of the Sound Toll Registers: current state and future potential

Dr. Jan Willem Veluwenkamp (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)

09:45 – 10:00 hrs


Coffee break

Section 1: 10:00 – 11:30 hrs: Theoretical and methodological issues

Discussant: Dr. Jan Willem Veluwenkamp

10:00 – 10:45 hrs

Generating transport statistics based on pre- and early industrial shipping registers: a methodological outline using the example of the Sound Toll Registers Online

Dr. Werner Scheltjens (Universität Leipzig, Germany)

10:45 – 11:30 hrs


The role of transportation in pre- and early industrial commercial history: some theoretical considerations

Prof. Dr. Markus A. Denzel (Universität Leipzig, Germany)

Section 2: 11:45 – 13:15 hrs: Regional patterns of integration through transport and trade

Discussant: Prof Dr. Gelina Harlaftis

11:45 – 12:30 hrs Long-distance circular trade between Northern and Southern Europe

Dr. Magnus Ressel (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Germany)


12:30 – 13:15 hrs The emergence of Finnish long-distance transport (1700-1850)

Prof. Dr. Jari Ojala (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) 13:15 – 14:45 hrs Lunch

Section 3: 15:00 – 17:15 hrs: STRO and the British industrial revolution

Discussant: Prof. Dr. Jari Ojala

15:00 – 15:45 hrs

British shipping to the Baltic seen from London and Elsinore

Prof. Dr. Peter Solar (Free University of Brussels, Belgium)

15:45 – 16:30 hrs

„Ghost acreage“ calculations based on STRO and their contribution to the Great Divergence-Debate

Dr. Klas Rönnback (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Dimitrios Theodoridis MA (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

16:30 – 17:15 hrs



Hemp and Flax exports from the Baltic and their role in the British industrial revolution

Dr. Arne Solli (University of Bergen, Norway)

Roundtable discussion

17:15 – 18:00 hrs The aims and purposes of a scientific committee for promoting STRO- based research

Prof. Dr. Markus A. Denzel & Dr. Werner Scheltjens 19:00 – Dinner

Friday 28 October 2016 (GWZ, room 1.416)

Section 4: 09:30 – 11:45 hrs: STRO and historical database projects: common issues, shared opportunities (1)

Discussant: Dr. Werner Scheltjens

09:30 – 10:15 hrs

Greek shipping statistics and the Sound Toll Registers Online: A comparative analysis of issues and chances of ‘manipulating’ historical maritime data sets

Prof. Dr. Gelina Harlaftis (Ionian University, Greece)

10:15 – 11:00 hrs

The contribution of STRO to the database of French external trade statistics (1716-1821)

Prof. Dr. Guillaume Daudin (Université Dauphine, France)

11:00 – 11:45 hrs

Danube Customs Registers and STRO: A Comparative Analysis of Opportunities and Challenges of Online Databases

Dr. Peter Rauscher (Universität Wien, Austria) & Mag. Andrea Serles (Universität Wien, Austria)

11:45 – 12:00 hrs

Short coffee break

Closing discussion

12:00 – 12:45 hrs

Dr. Werner Scheltjens

October 14th 2016 Chicago meeting

Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Paul Girard, Silvia Marzagalli, Guillaume Plique will participate to a workshop in the  Neubauer Collegium at Chicago University. Here is the program.


From Quantitative to Qualitative Analysis: New Perspectives on Research in Social History

Friday, October 14
9:30 am – 4:45 pm

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

This one-day workshop brings together historians and digital humanities specialists who are working building novel kinds of datasets and putting them to a variety of uses. It aims at discussing the creative use of large databases in the context of interdisciplinary projects with a focus on those exploring historical social and economic data in their quantitative and qualitative dimension simultaneously. We will showcase various methods currently in use (or in development) that go beyond traditional
quantitative methods in order to analyse and visualise data in revealing ways.

A conference of the The French Republic and the Plantation Economy: Saint-Domingue, 1794-1803


9:30-10:00 Coffee and Welcome, Paul Cheney (The University of Chicago)

10:00-10:45 Jo Guldi (History, Southern Methodist University), “On the Interpretation of History by Squiggle: Visualizing Change Beyond the N-Gram”; Chair: Elizabeth Chaterjeee (The University of Chicago)

10:45-11:30 Yves Gingras, (History, Université du Quebec à Montreal) “How Bibliometric Methods Can Map the Global Structure and Dynamics of Science from the 17th to the 21st Century”; Chair: Michael Rossi (The University of Chicago)

Coffee Pause

11:45-12:30 Loïc Charles (Economics, Université de Paris-8) and Guillaume Daudin (Economics, Université de Paris Dauphine), “Mapping the World of Eighteenth-Century Commodities with a Multidimensional Database”; Chair: Paul Cheney (The University of Chicago)

12:30-1:45 Lunch

1:45-2:30 Paul Maneuvrier-Hervieu (History, Université de Caen), « Using and publishing a database: the benefits of XML format for an historical research on food riots in the Eighteenth Century »; Chair: Allan Potofsky (University of Paris-7)

Coffee Pause

2:30-3:15 Silvia Marzagalli (History, Université de Nice), “Visualizing Early Modern Trade: the Navigocorpus”; Chair: Alain Bresson (The University of Chicago)

3:30-4:15 Paul Girard (Médialab, Sciences Po, Paris) and Guillaume Plique (Médialab, Sciences Po, Paris), “Organizing the Reversible Chain of Transformations: from Trade Statistics records to Datascapes”; Chair: Loïc Charles (University of Paris-8)

4:15-4:45 Roundtable

Cosponsored by the Franke Institute for the Humanities and the France Chicago Center.

September 16th 2016 meeting report

We had a great workshop on September 16th. The program and all the presentations are available here: You can see below a quick report on the meeting,

“Classifying international trade before 1945”

Location: Sciences Po (Paris)

Marc Badia, Leslie Bermont, Bertrand Blancheton, Ana Carreras Marin, Léo Charles, Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Béatrice Dedinger Michel Fouquin, Pierre Gervais, Paul Girard, Michael Huberman, Jules Hugot, Wolf-Fabian Hungerland, Ragnhild Hutchison, David Jacks, Aidan Kane, Thomas Le Roux, Ivan Ledezma, Pierrick Pourchasse and Jan Willem Veluwenkamp and several students.

Short welcome introduction by Guillaume Daudin (local organizer)

1st paper:

Making historical international trade data useful (Germany, 1880-1913)
Presentation by Wolf-Fabian Hungerland (Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin)

Wolf Fabian discusses the use of the German source and how the goods therein can be classified. Source volumes are disparate: different number of year per volume, number of categories and classification different. This is what it is very useful to use a SITC classification.

Then, he opens a discussion on the matching issue (how to find a SITC equivalent to the original product as it was labeled in the source volumes), utilization of SITC 4 was privileged. Results are encouraging so far.
Object of the database: study the extensive margin over the long period.

2nd paper:

Standardization of Latin American trade statistics. Sources and methodology for a study on the diversification of export baskets
Presentation by Ana Carreras Marin (Universidad de Barcelona).

Ana Carreras discusses the industrial and geographical diversification of Latin America’s trade c. 1913. There is Trade-off between standardization and the specificity of the economy one is analyzing.
Research issue : multi-goods partners in extensive / intensive margins.
There is a discussion around whether it is a good idea to use the SITC classification?

3rd paper:
Domestic Barriers to International Trade: New Evidence for Brazil, 1920‐1940
by Michael Huberman (Université de Montréal)
In his paper, M. Huberman addresses the issue of the relationship between coastal domestic trade and international trade. Was the former a substitute for the last, or was it part of an educational process of the entrepreneurs that subsequently became exporter ?
Research issue : the study domestic trade in parallel with international trade.

3rd paper:
Custom 15: Constructing a database of Ireland’s international trade 1698-1784
Presented by Aidan Kane

Data capture and cleaning of trade data for each year 1698-1784 is now essentially done, and will be soon generally available. Data typically distinguishes six or seven major trading areas. The data are available for around 25 Irish ports, in each year, and the originals are remarkably consistent in format over the time period. Aidan underlines the small number of commodities (500s). 140 volumes of ledgers digitized over the period 1698-1784. Exports much less precise than imports
They did the arithmetic checks automatically
Right now, no classification but he is looking forward to use SITC.

4th paper:
English/British/UK Trade Statistics 1700-1899
Presentation by David Jacks (Simon Fraser University and NBER)

1 out of 10 years digitized. Around 130,000 raw observations (100,000 in SITC). Looking at gravity (distance versus empire)
Problem of prices (resolved at an aggregated level by indexes)
Names of commodities normalized into the database (original spelling not retrievable)

5th paper:
Choosing a Product Nomenclature: The French Case 1836-1938
By Bertrand Blancheton
Working on « commerce spécial » (without transit trade)
The impact of tarifs on specialization ? Choice of classification : SITC versus ISIC ?

6th paper:
The Norwegian customs project- classification and standardization – a practical solution?
By Ragnhild Hutchinson (University of Oslo and Norwegian Institute of Local history)

27 ports for 9 years from 1686 to 1835. The project tried 4-digit SITC and the 1870 classification, but it did not work out : too much time and the match was no good (classification too modern).
This no classification so far, but she wants to implement a suggested classification option as in Navigocorpus.
Funding obtained mostly through private donors, but it constrained the project somewhat: short-term funding renewed several times and for teaching rather than research purpose.

7th paper:

Sound Toll Registers Online, 1497-1857. Standardisation and classification issues.
By Jan Willem Veluwenkamp (Groningen)
Again, the difficulty of using a precise SITC category is apparent.

8th paper:

Your ‘goods’ are not my ‘products’; a preliminary methodological discussion of our instinctive belief in the permanence of things over time and of its unintended consequence
by Pierre Gervais (Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle)
Argue that the main difficulty that arise with any classification of the trade of traditional economies is that it had to cope with commodities that are to a large extent unique for each local context (an ‘indienne’ in Bordeaux in 1726 might not be the same an ‘indienne’ in Marseille in 1726 or an ‘indienne’ in Bordeaux in 1756, etc.)

Wrap-up session :
Guillaume Daudin presented the datascape methodology and how it was applied in the TOFLIT18 project to manage the French balance of trade dataset. Then, he moved on to show some preliminaty results and how the visualization of the relation between commodities illustrates how La Rochelle changed from a port with a diversified set of exports in the 1720s to a much more specialised one in the 1780s.

Loïc Charles gave some concluding remarks. Suggest that they are two different strategies to build a trade database : either to digitize the data and try to save up as much as you can or try to simplify. The latter was the only option available before the IT revolution of the 2000s. But now, it is of the utmost importance of keeping everything in the database.
Second point : You do not have to define a classification ex-ante. Quite the contrary, the philosophy of the datascape is to have a tool that allow the ex-post creation of several classifications in a relatively short period of time (a few weeks). The argument is that each research issue requires more or less a different classification : if one wants to work on an historical issue, it is better to use a classification close to the sources, while SITC is better for long period studies especially when comparison with 20th century is wanted.
Finally opens a discussion on a possible convergence at a European level, through an ERC project.

Septembre 16th 2016 Workshop «Classifying trade statistics before 1945»

Chers collègues,

J’ai le plaisir le vous informer de la tenue d’une journée de travail « Classifier le commerce international avant 1945 » à SciencesPo Paris (salle Goguel) le 16 septembre 2016.

Vous êtes tous cordialement invités. Pour des raisons de sécurité (et pour que nous sachions combien de plateaux-repas commander), merci de vous inscrire auprès de Biljana Jankovic

Sincères salutations,

Guillaume Daudin



Classifying international trade before 1945

Classifier le commerce international avant 1945

September 16th 2016
Salle Goguel, SciencesPo, 27 rue Saint Guillaume, 75007 Paris

The long history of globalization is blessed with a comparative abundance of data. Foreign trade has long been a sizable source of income for states and the latter have been careful in collecting information on it: series on international trade starting in the eighteenth century exist for several countries and regions such as England, France, Sweden, the Austrian Netherlands, Venice, Portugal, Spain. (Charles et Daudin 2015). The Sound records go back even further. Hence, much information on past economies may be gained through the systematic collection of these data. This calls for the creation of large databases and there are a number of active projects, under different states of readiness: Ireland, Norway, UK, World, France, Germany, the Sound… The identification and classification of commodities is at the core of any project that want to use these databases for comparative analysis or even to simply use the information collected to its potential.

For example, in the French case, there are more than 45,000 different merchandises mentioned in the 18th century sources (for 400,000 trade flows). Correcting for mistakes made by the original scribes and the person in charge of the transcription brings that number down to 20,000. Further identifying synonyms brings it down to 16,000. It is however necessary to devise some sort of aggregation process to be able to use the data collected to answer a wider set of economic history issues such as those linked to the question of trade diversification, intra-industry trade and revealed comparative advantages.

An additional difficulty is international comparison. There are more problems linked to it than the sole issue of translation. The creation of internationally comparable merchandise classification was a long process starting only in the late 19th century (Kolesnikoff 1953) and it is still a work in progress. Yet, it is central to any comparison process.

Choosing a classification to categorize commodities should meet several criteria: it has to be informed by past practices of recording flows (which are different from one place and one time to another), the characteristics of the past society/economy where trade took place, convenience (as classifying goods is hard work), and the research issue. Among the possible options are: 1. the adaptation of modern nomenclatures, which have a great level of detail, accuracy and comparability, but hardly relates to the economic issues of past societies; or 2. the creation of a tailor-made historical nomenclature, which takes into account the historical context of commercial exchange but begs the issue of intertemporal (and often geographical) comparisons. Moreover, creating a nomenclature takes a lot of time in particular if one wants to produce disaggregated categories. A flexible system of classification that can be integrated in data exploration in order to be able to create detailed categorization for specific purposes within a reasonable amount of time and resources would be ideal. But that requires to invest a substantial amount of work in the creation of sophisticated digital tools, as endeavored by the project TOFLIT18 (


9.00-10.45 What can classifications of goods teach us ?

Wolf-Fabian Hungerland (Humboldt) «Making historical international trade data useful: German product-level data from 1880 to 1913 and the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)» .Co-author : Chris Altmeppen
Ana Carreras Marin (Barcelona) «Standardization of Latin American trade statistics. Sources and methodology for a study on the diversification of export baskets » Co-authors:  M. Badia-Miró and A. Rayes
Michael Huberman (Montréal) Domestic and International Trade in Interwar Brazil: Complements or Substitutes?

11.00-12.00 Early stages of data collection

Aidan Kane (Galway) « Customs 15: constructing a database of Ireland’s international trade 1698-1784 »
David Jacks (Simon Fraser) « British Trade Statistics, 1700-1899 »

1.30-3.00 Struggling with the classification of goods (1)

Bertrand Blancheton (Bordeaux) « Choosing a product nomenclature: the French case 1836-1938 »
Ragnhild Hutchinson (University of Oslo and Norwegian Institute of Local history ) « The Norwegian customs project- classification and standardization- a practical solution? »

3.15-4.45 Struggling with the classification of goods (2)

Jan Willem Veluwenkamp (Groningen) « Sound Toll Registers Online, 1497-1857. Standardisation and classification issues. »
Pierre Gervais (Paris-3) « your ‘goods’ are not my ‘products’; a preliminary methodological discussion of our instinctive belief in the permanence of things over time and of its unintended consequence. »

5.00-6.00 Wrapping up

Loïc Charles (Paris-8) and Guillaume Daudin (Dauphine) : «Multi dimensional classification of goods in a datascape : the TOFLIT18 project»
General discussion and wrapping up
This event is open to all. It is funded by the ANR TOFLIT18 (
Organizers: Guillaume Daudin ( & Loïc Charles (
Inscriptions & information: Biljana Jankovic ( 01 45 49 72 51 or

References :

Charles, Loïc, et Guillaume Daudin, éd. 2015. « Eighteenth Century International Trade Statistics: Sources and Methods ». Revue de l’OFCE (Special Issue), no 140: 7‑377.
Kolesnikoff, Vladimir S. 1953. « Commodity classification ». In International Trade Statistics, par R. G. D. Allen et J. Edwards Ely. New-York and London: John Wiley & Sons Inc. and Chapman & Hall, Limited.


Transformations of the french economy through the lens of international trade, 1716-1821