Where did free ports emerge?
It is pretty safe to say that free ports started as an Italian phenomenon. In the course of the eighteenth century European states started to establish free ports. First in the Mediterranean, then in other parts of Europe, as well as in their overseas possessions, mainly in the Caribbean. The idea also arose that an entire country, Britain or the United Provinces might be turned into a free port. It is important to bear in mind that may of these ports were known as free ports, but their regulations differed considerably. For example, it is quite generally accepted that Marseille became not a real free port, but that its later eighteenth-century regulation was designed to fit with specific political economic objectives, some of which made Marseille function a bit like a free port. By the early nineteenth century a Spanish political economist compared the free ports that then existed, for the purpose of establishing Cadiz as a free port (or something that resembled a free port). He listed all the then existing free ports. As part of this project we will build an infographic that shows the spread of free ports over time. For more ….