Sources, Databases & Repositories – The Danube Trade Project — Andrea Serles


Serial sources such as toll registers, municipal account books, company accounting records, or trade registers provide valuable data for economic historians. Because they allow scholars to study the evolution of economic behaviour at both the macro- and microstructural levels, these books have long been used as primary sources in economic and social history. However, the sheer volume of data has often hindered scholarly editions and detailed research. On the one hand, online editions can open up new opportunities for dealing with this type of source, but on the other hand they create many new problems, especially for historians without a sound technical background.The Danube Trade Project, which has been running since 2008, makes available essential sources on the economic history of Austria during the 17th and 18th centuries in the form of open-access databases. The analysis of these databases can be particularly helpful in identifying the activities of trade networks as well as single merchants, shipmasters, and other individuals who made up the bulk of market participants. They also provide quantitative and qualitative data for the study of trade cycles, the type, and quantity of the commodities transported on the river, and migratory processes — to name just a few examples.

The main objective of this paper is firstly to present the sources and databases of the “Danube Trade Project” and secondly to discuss the challenges, failures and possible solutions to problems encountered during the (still ongoing) editing process.  

About Andrea Serles

Andrea Serles studied History at the University of Vienna, where she holds the position of a research assistant since 2013. Before that, she was working at the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture (IMAREAL, subdivision of the Austrian Academy of Science/University of Salzburg). The main focus of her scientific work is the edition of sources related to the Danube trade in early modern times.  

Apart from history of trade, Mrs. Serles’ research interests cover the history of public finance, administration, and constitution as well as town history.