Advances in Regulatory Economics series
Edited by Michael A. Crew, Paul R. Kleindofer and James I. Campbell Jr
Chapter 1: Postal Reform: Introduction
1. Postal reform: introduction Michael A. Crew†, Paul R. Kleindorfer‡ and James I. Campbell Jr.§ 1. INTRODUCTION AND ORIGINS OF POSTAL REFORM Although Herodotus wrote admiringly of Persian messengers undaunted by ‘either snow, or rain, or heat, or darkness of night’, not the Persian Empire, or the Greek city states, or the Chinese Emperors, or the Senate and People of Rome ever developed a service that is comparable to what is today known as a ‘postal service’. None provided a universal collection and delivery service for documents and parcels. Persian messengers and their successors were, government couriers to whom the citizen had no access. The concept of a public service for the transmission of documents developed gradually with the development of Europe after the Middle Ages. In the twelfth century, inexpensive paper (as opposed to parchment) was introduced. Enterprising Venetian merchants of the fourteenth century organized private courier systems to deliver commercial documents, eventually extending their reach into the German hinterland. The Renaissance saw, after centuries of repression, the reemergence of scholarly exchanges of ideas. Monasteries and universities, notably the University of Paris, began to organize messenger systems. In the ﬁfteenth century, the invention of a printing press with moveable type accelerated the dissemination of ideas. The ﬁfteenth and sixteenth centuries saw the slow emergence of nation states in France and England. Royal governments sought to ban private messenger services, especially international services, as part of the process of consolidating their authority. Postal communications thus became a government monopoly. At...