Polina Shvanyukova University of Milan “‘A cargo of coffee, sugar, and indigo’: Transatlantic business correspondence in nineteenth-century business letter-writing manuals.”


This paper analyses two case-studies of specialised nineteenth-century business letter-writing manuals (Anderson 1836 and Williams – Lafont 1860). The investigation initially focuses on the dynamics of transnational export of British epistolary guides both to continental Europe and across the Atlantic. The analysis of the three American editions of the first manual (Anderson 1836) offers an insight into the strategies of adaptation performed by different publishing houses. The second step of the investigation is represented by the analysis of specific linguistic strategies of politeness employed in the model letters. The examples clearly show the preference accorded to the strategies of negative politeness, a finding which supports the hypothesis on the ongoing nineteenth-century codification of new negative politeness culture in the British context (Jucker 2012). In summary, this paper discusses the role of specialised business epistolary guides in establishing, maintaining and strengthening transnational commercial networks by imparting rigid sociocultural norms of proper business conduct.

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