May 5th, 2015 meeting

May 5th meeting

Attending: Emmanuelle Lavallée, Ivan Ledezma, Loïc Charles, Guillaume Daudin, Béatrice Dedinger, Paul Girard, Guillaume Plique, Cyril Mouton and Pierre Hollegien.

1-Team Management

First we welcome Cyril Mouton, student in Paris-Dauphine, who will work with us for three months. He will be working at least on data transcription and databases.


The budget discussion has taken place in SciencesPo. It appears that SciencesPo has still 9000€  available for missions, as  only 2 have been financed yet.

The purchasing budget for a second computer will be allocated in advance. Moreover it appears that we will not have to pay to use the servers. In that case, the 4500€ will be allocated for other purposes:

  • To design the platform?
  • To extend Guillaume P. contract for 1 month (only)?

The Medialab has  paid for the TOFLIT LiveDrive.


A paper will be submitted to the Historical Methods review (rank A) on data development.
Paul is still hesitating on how to integer the technical parts in this paper. The website should be mentioned but there will be no special focus on it. The paper should insist on the construction of the database (scripts, data cleaning, etc…). The visualization part will not be the paper’s major point. This new database should be available online but the format is not yet well defined (.csv, SQLite ?). To construct this new database, Heurist or GitHub will be used.
The paper should be finished before  summer.

The website it  not ready yet. However a workshop will take place in early July (6-7 ?) to finish it. Beatrice, Paul, Guillaume D. (?) and a developers team will attend.



GitHub is working just fine but the size limit could be reached soon. We currently have 319 000 trade flows, 27 000 merchandises and 10 000 normalised merchandises.
Several questions remain unsolved:

  • How many digits after the decimal point?  2  or more ?
  •  We have lost some information because of uncontrolled scientific notation. Pierre and Paul are retrieving the data.
  •  What to do with commodities with different quantity units and reported twice? Same for taxes. For now we carry on with our notation system (2 lines in the first case, 1 extra column in the second case)


  •  Cyril is working on colonial trade flows. They will be available by the end of summer.
  •  Bayonne’s imports are ready but the whole will be available by the end of June only. As for Marseille we might need to wait until the end of summer (except for years 1730, 49, & 51)
  • Rennes, Rouen and Caen are available but need to be reviewed.
  • 1789 (Direction) is on its way as Ahmed is working on it. He might finish La Rochelle as well if he has enough time. Two major “Directions” will then remain : Besançon & Lyon
  • There might be something in Lyon (Archives de la Chambre de Commerce)
  • As decided, the retranscription of some years remain unscheduled for Bordeaux / Rennes / Marseille / Nantes. Maybe we need to hire a new intern ? If so we might also deal with 1792-1793 data.


Guillaume Plique will work with us from July 1st to January 2016. He already has enough materials to start working on the project.
Interns might migrate with Loic to the INED during the second week of July. To confirm.

For next year:

  •  The database should be ready soon, and will remain unchanged so economists and IT can work on it.
  •  Task 2 is postponed to next year.
  •  End of January: Guillaume P.  will have completed his work.

Three big meetings are scheduled for 2016:

  • an internal meeting in January 2016 to discuss the result of Guillaume Plique’s work
  • a workshop in Chicago in March or June  2016. We will need to have a few results to present. We could spend half a day on data management and half day on economists’ achievements.
  • an open meeting at the end of  2016 gathering people working on databases. That could be in the continuation of the meeting organized by Nikolaus Wolf in October 2015 in Berlin

7-Research perspectives

Loïc will use Gephi to perform a regional analysis with commodities.
Ivan and Emmanuelle suggested using the data to test a weak form of the Law of Comparative Advantage using  a vector of autarky prices (prices during war time in 1760?) and international trade data during an «open» period.
It is not clear yet how they will be able to determine autarky prices as prices from TOFLIT are those obtained from trade.

Another issue is how to aggregate commodities. If we are doing aggregates, the current SITC one might serve. Another one would be the Revolution and Empire categories.

We could also work on  well-known commodities instead of aggregates.

Other ideas have emerged:

  •  Work on protected sectors (especially the painted canvas trade and other regulated goods).
  • Terms of trade evolution
  • Effects of Revolutionary / Napoleonic wars on economy (demographic impact)
  • With the end of colonial trade, we could try to establish a reverse Dutch Disease for France. Indeed colonial commodities might be considered as natural resources at the disposal of France that vanished during the last decade of the 18th century.

Next meeting is scheduled at 9 am, at the Médialab on June 5th. The provisional program is available here.

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