The Power and Pains of Polysemy: Maritime Trade, Averages, and Institutional Development in the Low Countries (15th–16th Centuries)


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As the fall-out of the Ever Given Suez canal blockage shows, an ancient instrument like General Average (GA) is still highly relevant in redistributing risks and costs in maritime trade. However, bar marine insurance, not much is known about the development of tools of maritime risk management like GA, which redistributes extraordinary costs incurred for the common safety of maritime ventures.

This book investigates the development of General Average and other so-called Averages in the Low Countries on the eve of the early modern period, showing how the various varieties of Averages played a significant role in the development of maritime risk management and the broader institutional development in the Low Countries.

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Gijs Dreijer (Dr. Mult.) is a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University. In 2021, he received his dual Ph.D. degree at the University of Exeter and Vrije Universiteit Brussel with a dissertation on Averages in the Low Countries. This is his first monograph.
"Dreijers boek biedt als eerste een systematisch overzicht van averij-grosse en andersoortige averijen in de rechtstheorie en -praktijk van de zuidelijke Lage Landen in de vroegmoderne periode. [...] Voor de rechtshistoricus biedt de analyse van een omvangrijk bestand aan primaire (archief)bronnen een onmisbare ingang op de juridische en commerciële praktijk. Het boek vormt daarmee een waardevolle aanvulling op de bestaande rechtshistorische literatuur. [...] The Power and Pains of Polysemy is een verrijking voor het onderzoek naar het vroegmoderne maritieme privaatrecht."
Tim Lubbers (Leiden University), in: Pro Memorie, Vol. 25.2 (2023), p. 277-282.
List of Images, Tables, Figures, Maps and Graphs

1 Introduction
 1.1 General Average: A Long History from Rhodes to the Ever Given
 1.2 Transaction Costs, Protection Costs and Institutional Development
 1.3 Maritime Trade and Risk Management
 1.4 General Average and the Lex Maritima
 1.5 Introducing the Low Countries’ Maritime Economy
 1.6 State Formation, Jurisdictional Complexity and Legal Sources
 1.7 Sources, Approach and Structure of the Book

Part 1: The Development of General Average and Risk Management

2 The Power and Pains of Polysemy
 2.1 Introduction: The Polysemic Meanings of Averages
 2.2 Etymological Origins of GA
 2.3 The Principle of GA Explained
 2.4 Contemporary GA and Historical Reality
 2.5 Averages in the Sixteenth-Century Low Countries
 2.6 Risk Management
 2.7 Cost Management
 2.8 Conclusion

3 General Average in Formal Sources of Law
 3.1 Introduction
 3.2 GA in Sources of Formal Law
 3.3 GA, Salvage, Shipwreck and Ship Collisions: Shifting Legal Boundaries
 3.4 Weytsen’s Tractaet van Avarien
 3.5 Conclusion

4 GA in Legal Practice
 4.1 Introduction
 4.2 The Governance of GA Procedure in Bruges and Antwerp
 4.3 The Position of the Shipmaster and Legal Strategies
 4.4 The Insurability of GA, Moral Hazard and Changes in Risk Distribution
 4.5 ‘Atypical’ GA Cases
 4.6 Conclusion

Part 2: Varieties of Averages and Cost Management

5 Contractual Varieties of Averages and Cost Management
 5.1 Introduction
 5.2 Contractual Varieties of Averages
 5.3 The flete y averías as a Cost Management Structure
 5.4 Conclusion: Averages and Cost Management

6 Consular Averages, Compulsory Contributions and Protection Costs
 6.1 Introduction
 6.2 The Seville avería as an Example of Protection Costs
 6.3 Privileges and the droit d’avarie: False Friends?
 6.4 Disputes on the avería de nación
 6.5 The avería(s)
 6.6 Conclusion

General Index
All interested in the early modern Low Countries, in particular its institutional development and its legal, economic and maritime history, as well as those interested in maritime risk management more broadly.
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