Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900: Stephen R. Bown

Commerce meets conquest in this swashbuckling story of the six merchant-adventurers who built the modern world

It was an era when monopoly trading companies were the unofficial agents of European expansion, controlling vast numbers of people and huge tracts of land, and taking on governmental and military functions. They managed their territories as business interests, treating their subjects as employees, customers, or competitors. The leaders of these trading enterprises exercised virtually unaccountable, dictatorial political power over millions of people.

The merchant kings of the Age of Heroic Commerce were a rogue’s gallery of larger-than-life men who, for a couple hundred years, expanded their far-flung commercial enterprises over a sizable portion of the world. They include Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the violent and autocratic pioneer of the Dutch East India Company; Peter Stuyvesant, the one-legged governor of the Dutch West India Company, whose narrow-minded approach lost Manhattan to the British; Robert Clive, who rose from company clerk to become head of the British East India Company and one of the wealthiest men in Britain; Alexandr Baranov of the Russian American Company; Cecil Rhodes, founder of De Beers and Rhodesia; and George Simpson, the “Little Emperor” of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who was chauffeured about his vast fur domain in a giant canoe, exhorting his voyageurs to paddle harder so he could set speed records.

Merchant Kings looks at the rise and fall of company rule in the centuries before colonialism, when nations belatedly assumed responsibility for their commercial enterprises. A blend of biography, corporate history, and colonial history, this book offers a panoramic, new perspective on the enormous cultural, political, and social legacies, good and bad, of this first period of unfettered globalization.

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Dutch Navies of the 80 Years’ War 1568-1648: Bouko de Groot, Peter Bull

The tiny new state of the United Provinces of the Netherlands won its independence from the mighty Spanish empire by fighting and winning the Eighty Years’ War, from 1568 and 1648. In this long conflict, warfare on water played a much bigger role in determining the ultimate victor.

On the high seas the fleet carved out a new empire, growing national income to such levels that it could continue the costly war for independence. Yet it was in coastal and inland waters that the most decisive battles were fought. Arguably the most decisive Spanish siege (Leiden, 1574) was broken by a fleet sailing to the rescue across flooded polders and the battle of Nieuwpoort in 1600, the largest successful invasion fleet before World War II, was one of the most decisive battle in western history. Using detailed full color artwork, this book shows how the Dutch navies fought worldwide in their war of independence, from Brazil to Indonesia, and from the Low Countries to Angola.

Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672-1752 : William A. Pettigrew

 

In the years following the Glorious Revolution, independent slave traders challenged the charter of the Royal African Company by asserting their natural rights as Britons to trade freely in enslaved Africans. In this comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the RAC, William A. Pettigrew grounds the transatlantic slave trade in politics, not economic forces, analyzing the ideological arguments of the RAC and its opponents in Parliament and in public debate. Ultimately, Pettigrew powerfully reasons that freedom became the rallying cry for those who wished to participate in the slave trade and therefore bolstered the expansion of the largest intercontinental forced migration in history.

Unlike previous histories of the RAC, Pettigrew’s study pursues the Company’s story beyond the trade’s complete deregulation in 1712 to its demise in 1752. Opening the trade led to its escalation, which provided a reliable supply of enslaved Africans to the mainland American colonies, thus playing a critical part in entrenching African slavery as the colonies’ preferred solution to the American problem of labor supply.

The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World: Wim Klooster

 

In The Dutch Moment, Wim Klooster shows how the Dutch built and eventually lost an Atlantic empire that stretched from the homeland in the United Provinces to the Hudson River and from Brazil and the Caribbean to the African Gold Coast. The fleets and armies that fought for the Dutch in the decades-long war against Spain included numerous foreigners, largely drawn from countries in northwestern Europe. Likewise, many settlers of Dutch colonies were born in other parts of Europe or the New World. The Dutch would not have been able to achieve military victories without the native alliances they carefully cultivated. Indeed, the Dutch Atlantic was quintessentially interimperial, multinational, and multiracial. At the same time, it was an empire entirely designed to benefit the United Provinces.

The pivotal colony in the Dutch Atlantic was Brazil, half of which was conquered by the Dutch West India Company. Its brief lifespan notwithstanding, Dutch Brazil (1630–1654) had a lasting impact on the Atlantic world. The scope of Dutch warfare in Brazil is hard to overestimate―this was the largest interimperial conflict of the seventeenth-century Atlantic. Brazil launched the Dutch into the transatlantic slave trade, a business they soon dominated. At the same time, Dutch Brazil paved the way for a Jewish life in freedom in the Americas after the first American synagogues opened their doors in Recife. In the end, the entire colony eventually reverted to Portuguese rule, in part because Dutch soldiers, plagued by perennial poverty, famine, and misery, refused to take up arms. As they did elsewhere, the Dutch lost a crucial colony because of the empire’s systematic neglect of the very soldiers on whom its defenses rested.

After the loss of Brazil and, ten years later, New Netherland, the Dutch scaled back their political ambitions in the Atlantic world. Their American colonies barely survived wars with England and France. As the imperial dimension waned, the interimperial dimension gained strength. Dutch commerce with residents of foreign empires thrived in a process of constant adaptation to foreign settlers’ needs and mercantilist obstacles.

Dutch in the Atlantic Slave Trade: Johannes Postma

Presenting a thorough analysis of the Dutch participation in the transatlantic slave trade, this book is based upon extensive research in Dutch archives. The book examines the whole range of Dutch involvement in the Atlantic slave trade from the beginning of the 1600s to the nineteenth century.

ISBN-13: 978-0521365857
ISBN-10: 9780521365857

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