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Colonial Institutions and Trade Patterns

Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics

ISBN: 978-1-78560-093-7, eISBN: 978-1-78560-092-0

Publication date: 10 August 2015


This paper uses the case of the English East India Company to consider the impact of colonialization on patterns of trade. The East India Company went through a commercial and a colonial period in Asia and therefore provides a rare case in which fixed national effects are held constant while the degree of colonialism varies. We use this variation to consider the impact of colonial institutions on the degree of concentration in overseas trade. We find that the onset of colonialism is linked to increasing inequality in the distribution of traffic across ports. This finding is significant because of the relationship between overseas trade and the potential for long-term economic development: the development trajectories of the individual ports were likely to have been affected by these different rates of trade. Our findings also highlight how the negotiation between political and commercial goals in early modern trade and imperialism produced different macro-structural outcomes for global trade patterns.




The authors would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for its support.


Erikson, E. and Samila, S. (2015), "Colonial Institutions and Trade Patterns", Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 95-121.



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