ALBIN SKOG AND ÖRJAN SÖLVELL PUBLISHED IN JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
The present paper explores a historical case of a location where a group of merchant families established powerful positions over many generations, involving both the international trade of fine wine and human beings sold as slaves. These families lived in Bordeaux, one of the largest trading centers for trade of enslaved humans in the world in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These trading families were concentrated in a few quarters of the city, and most of the leading merchants were active in both lines of trade. More importantly, this paper shows that three of the key trading institutions, namely practices defining ‘product quality’, product classes and how prices were set, were remarkably similar in both fields of trade. This, in turn, facilitated a smooth and successful substitution of trade from enslaved humans into fine wine when abolition was imposed in the early 1800s. Overall, a story of the darker side of agglomerations is revealed. This study facilitates a new theoretical understanding of how wealth and prosperity can be secured over long time periods, through transposition of institutions between fields, and driven by forces of proximity.