The Reach of the Continetal Blockade – The Case of Toulouse

smugglers unloading contraband


Finding a definition of globalization feels like finding a description for a phenomenon that can only be defined by itself. A definition for globalization is like a fraction that tries to approach π. In the same way the approximation gets closer and closer to the true value of π, but never reaches it, definitions for globalization describe the concept better and better but fail to define it exactly. Although it is impossible to find a precise definition, a close approximation can still help us out, and we have plenty of those. For Saskia Sassen, globalization is an epochal transformation, which “consists of an enormous variety of micro-processes that begin to denationalize what had been constructed as national – whether politics, capital, political subjectivities, urban spaces, temporal frames, or any other of a variety of dynamics and domains”.(1) The World Bank describes globalization as “the observation that in the recent years a quickly rising share of economic activity in the world seems to be taking place between people who live in different countries (rather than in the same country)”.(2) And for O’Rourke and Williamson, globalization is simply the integration of commodity markets.(3) However, the purpose of this chapter is not to define globalization but to determine whether Toulouse was already a global city at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In order to come to a meaningful conclusion, I chose an indirect way. In the first part of this chapter, I will describe the most important historical events that are relevant when analyzing Toulouse. I hope to build up a historical framework for a deeper analysis of certain historical events and their influence on the city. The second part touches on the history of Toulouse in order to illuminate the position and importance of the city around 1800. The fourth part presents calculations of commodity price integration for Toulouse from 1772 to 1830. When defining Toulouse as a global city, we need to look not at the commodity price integration during those years but at the correlation between the commodity price integration of Toulouse and the commodity price integration of France. In addition, we need to estimate the influence of major historic events on the commodity price integration of Toulouse in order to see how much Toulouse was connected with the rest of the world. If commodity price integration in Toulouse correlates with that of France and if it reacts to historical events as expected my calculations will provide evidence that the city of Toulouse was actually integrated in the world system and thus globalized. However, the conclusion is ultimately based on a particular definition of globalization and thus merely an approximation of the truth.

Sassen, Saskia (2006): Territory, Authority, Right: From Medieval to Global Assemblages. New York: Princeton University Press.

O’Rourke, Kevin H./Williamson, Jeffrey G. (2002): “When Did Globalization Begin?”, in: European Review of Economic History 6(1), 23-50.

World Bank (2000): “Sustainable Development Networking Programme” online at: (accessed 29 Feb 2012)

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