Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 February 2015
A social network consists of a finite set or sets of actors and the relation or relations defined upon them. The presence of relational information is a critical and defining feature of a social network.
Historians have become increasingly interested in networks as an analytical tool for eighteenth-century commerce. In much of the historiography these networks are treated as inherently beneficial for the wider economy and the actors themselves. Recently, however, historians have started to problematize networks and to complicate our understanding of them. Indeed, the quote above stresses that a network is not simply the actors within it, but the relationships between them. Realizing this facilitates an understanding of how such networks function.
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