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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A cozy countryside getaway from the city hustle – an idea ruined for some Americans by the negative effects of a fracking boom. In places like Texas the ground drilling technology has become a proven way to boost corporate profits. But as Gayane Chichyakyan finds out, its the landowners who pay the price.
A team of researchers peered inside bumblebee colonies and spied on insects individually labelled with a tiny tag to figure out exactly how exposure to acommon insecticide changes their behavior in the nest.
They found that the insecticide — from a controversial group called neonicotinoids — made the bees more sluggish and antisocial, spending more time on the periphery of the nest. It also made them less-attentive parents, according to research published Thursday in the journal Science.
Neonicotinoids, commonly known as “neonics,” are near-ubiquitous in farming in many countries. They’re commonly applied to the seeds of crops such as corn or soy before planting. The plant then carries traces of the insecticide as it grows, even showing up in the pollen, which scientists believe is one way bees are exposed. As NPR’s Dan Charles has reported, “neonicotinoid residues also have been found in the pollen of wildflowers growing near fields and in nearby streams.”
A growing body of research points to their deleterious effects on bees, which serve an important role in pollinating crops. Scientists have previously found that the insecticides can impair a bee’s ability to forage and limit the growth of a colony.
Alba Nava uses an aspirator to gather virus-carrying whiteflies that have been feeding on tomato plants at the University of Florida.
November 7, 20185:09 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition Jane Polston and I are walking over to some greenhouses at the University of Florida,
where she’s a professor. She wants to show me how viruses infect plants, which has been the focus of her professional life ever since she first learned about plant viruses, back in college.
“I just fell in love,” she says.
“With viruses?” I ask.
“Yeah. Isn’t that weird? That’s what scientists do. They say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m in love with this!’ ”
We step inside the greenhouse, where I see a smaller chamber with walls of fine mesh and six tomato plants inside. They don’t look too healthy. Their leaves are wilting. “This is our tomato yellow leaf-curl virus colony,” Polston says.
The tomato leaves look like they’re covered with dandruff. But when Polston reaches in and moves one of the plants, the white particles come alive. They’re tiny flies — whiteflies. They’re also infected. “Because they’re reared on these infected plants, I think probably all of them will have virus in them,” Polston says.
Welcome to Transition Studies. To prosper for very much longer on the changing Earth humankind will need to move beyond its current fossil-fueled civilization toward one that is sustained on recycled materials and renewable energy. This is not a trivial shift. It will require a major transition in all aspects of our lives.
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