Trust in Long-Distance Relationships (Forrest & Haour)Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz
Sometimes it is difficult to do justice to an article in our #RetroConflictsInspirations, when it is as rich as Ian Forrest’s and Anne Haour’s contribution to the history of trust. For now, let us focus on their answer to one popular question: How did pre-modern merchants overcome challenges of long distance trade?
Generally, trust serves as a central component for explaining pre-modern trade since it reduced the risk and contingency of dealing with far-off, unmonitored partners. Much less effort, however, is taken to explain trust itself. Often, it is treated as given, resulting naturally from merchants’ common culture, i.e. common language, kinship, and faith. Yet, by turning to individual actors and their practices on a micro-level, Haour and Forrest suggest a reversal of perspective. ‘We might say that the work of creating trust was the work of creating culture. It was a matter of skills, knowledge, practices and learning, rather than possession of some essential similarities.’ Creating and preserving trust required constant attention and fostering on an individual level through language and performance, making it a core-competence for successful merchants. When we consider trust a main component of conflict-prevention and the central role trust-related language played in Hanseatic communication, the inspiration to #retroconflicts is clear.