Abstract: Action at a Distance: The Creation and Recreation of the Port Supply Chain

Paul Duguid


This paper takes the supply chain as a particular type of commercial network with distinct features. It explores the emergence of a dedicated supply chain trading wine from the north of Portugal to Britain out of the more general merchant networks of the eighteenth century. It highlights diplomatic, fiscal, and regulatory actions that helped shaped the chain and commit participants to one another, allowing them to coordinate activities over distances of time, space, and culture. It then explores what happened when, in the nineteenth century, the institutional structure supporting the chain collapsed and participants had to find alternative means to protect their commitments. This change exposed complex tensions inherent in such chains, whereby participants found themselves in competition for control with those with whom they also had to cooperate.