Entrepreneurial strategies of building contractors

Heidi Deneweth

Research Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes (HOST)

The case of Antwerp, 1490-1670. Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, 2013-2016

Construction and the building trades have long fascinated architectural and social-economic historians. Whereas most attention has been drawn to the product of their activities and the corporative framework in which they were operating, this project will focus on entrepreneurial strategies of building contractors active on the market for private housing in early modern Antwerp. These entrepreneurs had a crucial function in bringing together capital and labour with the purposes of optimizing the construction process and making profits through speculative investments. The project will investigate the different types of contractors and partnerships, their financial and speculative strategies, the targeted submarkets and the characteristics of their construction or renovation works. The available sources related to real estate are exceptionally rich, so that entrepreneurial strategies of building contractors can be captured far better than those in any other economic sector. This research will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics and financial strategies of entrepreneurs operating within a corporative framework, and yield insights that will transcend the specific context of Antwerp. At the same time, the secondary research questions related to different types of private houses and to the formation and evolution of housing prices, will provide better insight into the processes leading to gradual changes in the social topography of early modern cities.