Professional Activity of Tradesmen in Greater Poland during the Inter-war Period
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The fundamental objective of this article is to suggest that the assorted forms of professional activity pursued by tradesmen of Greater Poland during the inter-war period were very broad. This particular, and rather new, field of study has been recently given much attention by social and economic historians. By referring to a number of key concepts (the environment, types of commercial firms, and entrepreneurship of tradesmen), the authoress discusses the various trends of economic involvement upon the example of individual and group undertakings. Entrepreneurship is presented within the perspective of significant economic events and phenomena: the creation of the economic foundations of Greater Poland after 1918, the establishment of new jointstock companies, inflation, the Great Depression, and the increasingly weak position of private trade during the state-controlled years. A detailed analysis inclines towards distinguishing two inter-war sub-periods essential for the functioning of Greater Poland tradesmen: 'emotion and economic euphoria' (1919-1929) and 'sense and economic calculation' (1930-1939). The characteristic features of the 1920s included a striving towards economic success, which led to the social promotion of numerous tradesmen. The situation changed with the Great Depression of the 1930s; financial prosperity eroded, revealing the entrepreneurs' tenuous position, their focus on rapid profit, the absence of economic acumen, and the excessive faith in their financial capacity. In addition, the deteriorating position of the tradesmen served to heighten the impact of the State upon the economy. This article also aids our understanding of tradesmen organisations, assessing their influence upon the socioeconomic life of Greater Poland in 1918-1939. The most relevant and noteworthy examples of their activity include the establishment of the Monetary Exchange and the Commodity and Grain Exchange, the opening and administering of the International Poznan Fair, involvement in Polish-German negotiations, the delineation of the activity of the Industrial-Commercial Chamber in Poznan, envisaged as an economic self-government institution, the establishment of the Trade Academy and other vocational education institutions, the development of the national and professional press, and participation in the work conducted by the Board of the Unions of Tradesmen's Associations of Western Poland. She also draws attention to the co-existence and co-operation of different economic environments, such as the traders of Greater Poland, and the financial and industrial circles.
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