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A brief history of international courier services


Postal services were the original international couriers and are as old as recorded history. It is quite interesting to imagine the correlation. While the cave paintings and inscriptions on stone are a form of recorded history, the real records are in illustrated documentation of some notable people of different eras. Postal services may have contributed to the preservation and circulation of such records or accounts.

It is difficult to trace back to the exact origins of postal / courier services in the world since we can go back to the beginning of recorded history. It is not like the present day when you have a record of every time you have used an international courier service to deliver an urgent international order. In the ancient times, it was expensive, daunting and time consuming. It is amazing to consider that now we are able to send a parcel to Dubai in only one day, considering how long it would have taken before air travel.

Here is a brief history of world postal services and how we have evolved:

  • The first organized postal service was Cursus publicus. It was owned by the Roman Empire and entirely paid for from the state coffers. It was also the transportation service established by Augustus. Fifteen centuries later, Emperor Maximilian I set up the Franz von Taxis to operate under the the Holy Roman Empire. A hundred years later, Henry VIII set up Master of the Posts. This was transformed into Royal Male by Charles I, circa 1635. This was also the year when Royal Mail could be used and accessed by the general public. The postage charges were to be paid by the recipient.
  • Postal services spread out of the European empires after they started establishing colonies in the New World and in Asia. The first postal service established in a colony was in Boston. A few years later, circa 1660, General Post Office was set up in England. In 1675, the first private postal service was founded and set up in Bern, Switzerland.
  • Through the eighteenth century, postal services evolved in France, the United States and India among other countries, although most were still English colonies or that of France, Portugal or Spain. As railways became more widespread and started connecting the length and breadth of various countries, postal services evolved further. The first train with mails treaded from Britain to Ireland in 1830. The rest as they say is history.
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