Integration of the Bulgarian Merchants in International Trade During the 18th Century
The Bulgarian merchants’ integration in international trade was part of the overall process of Europeanisation of the Ottoman Empire. The beginning was laid as soon as the Empire was included in the sphere of influence and impact of the stipulations of international law. This was practically accomplished by the conclusion of contracts – the so-called “capitulations” of the Western countries – with the High Porte. By virtue of these contracts, the peoples within the frameworks of the Empire were logically objects of that influence, too, with all the positive and negative consequences thereof.
One of the earliest rules of the contracts concluded in this manner concerned the regulation of trade interrelations of the western countries with the Empire. Its markets were mostly the source of raw materials: foods, mostly grain, hides – raw and processed, wool, wax, cotton, smaller quantities of silk, cotton and woolen yarn. However, according to the rule of the mercantilistic policy, those same markets were not sufficient consumers of the western countries’ manufactured goods. That was the reason why, from the end of the 16th century, with the trend intensifying particularly during the 18th century, they maintained their trade balance by way of the import of coins, specially minted for the purpose.
The Bulgarian merchants became precisely part of the practical realization of the above-mentioned international contract-capitulations from the early 17th century and – very actively – during the 18th century. They became successfully integrated applying all requirements of trade law of that time. As a result they gained good positions on the international markets and particularly on the markets of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldova, of Hungary and Austria, of Hamburg and the fairs in Leipzig. Or, quite some time before Bulgarian society had established contacts with the European values in terms of ideas, and, particularly, the ideas of the Enlightenment, it experienced the influence of the European system of rules and regulations. As a result of this, the tradesmen and the commercial capital were established in the same way as in the western society. Those tradesmen and commercial capital had the assignment to take over the new organization of society and of production. But the Bulgarian merchants outstripped their time, since within the Ottoman economic system there was no opportunity for a back link between capital and its application.