Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics: Volume 29

Cover of Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics
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Table of contents

(21 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Abstract

Ever since its introduction into the vernacular of imperial historiography over a half century ago, the concept of “informal empire” has had a profound influence on how historians have understood the size and nature of British expansion in the modern world. While offering a crucial corrective to definitions of empire that had focused exclusively on “formal” colonial holdings, such a division has also obscured other frameworks through which we might understand the contours of imperial power, while also underscoring traditional bifurcations between early modern and modern forms of empire. This paper suggests instead an approach that privileges schema that take into account the different institutional and constitutional forms that shaped imperial expansion, and specifically argues that the corporation was one such form, in competition with others including the monarchical and national state. Looking specifically at the early modern East India Company and its modern legacies, particularly George Goldie’s Royal Niger Company, it also suggests that institutional approaches that de-emphasize distinctions between behavioral categories, such as commerce and politics, allow the possibility of excavating deep ideological connections across the history of empire, from its seventeenth-century origins through the era of decolonization.

Abstract

Several explanations for the Royal African Company’s failure around the turn of the eighteenth century have been suggested. The paper argues that these reasons can be integrated into a more comprehensive account of the company’s failure through the introduction of a modified version of principal-agent theory. Instead of focusing on abstract, dyadic relationships, the paper proposes a model that accounts for the meaningful character of principal agent interactions and for the complex networks and multiple role identities of actors within those networks that comprised principal-agent relations within the company. On the basis of this model the failure of the company can be seen as a result of contradictions between its dual role as both agent and principal. The symbolic importance of inefficient trading practices helps to explain why the company was unable to pursue alternative strategies or otherwise benefit from its monopoly.

Abstract

English chartered companies began to trade with both the Ottoman and the Mughal states in the last decade of the sixteenth century. In India, as recent work has shown, the rudiments of an English polity were established very early and eventually metastasized into a sizeable colonial empire. In Turkey, on the other hand, no “company-state” ever took root. This paper endeavors to explain this divergence from the perspective, not of the highly “successful” East India Company, but of the “failed” (and much less well-studied) Levant Company, which, with short interruptions, maintained a monopoly English trade with the Ottoman Empire from 1592 until 1803. The paper offers an account of this divergence that emphasizes the importance of an independent overseas administrative apparatus, something that the EIC had but that the Levant Company lacked. The Levant Company lost control of its overseas administration in the 1630s, when the Crown began to regard the Ottoman Empire as too diplomatically important to leave England’s representation there to “mere merchants.” Thereafter, the company was at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis rival commercial organizations that, because they had established a territorial base, could control and cheapen production in the colonial sites with which they traded.

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Abstract

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.

Abstract

Our research is about the trade in material goods from Asia to Europe over this period, and its impact on Europe’s consumer and industrial cultures. It entails a comparative study of Europe’s East India Companies and the private trade from Asia over the period. The commodities trade was heavily dependent on private trade. The historiography to date has left a blind spot in this area, concentrating instead on corruption and malfeasance. Taking a global history approach we investigate the trade in specific consumer goods in many qualities and varieties that linked merchant communities and stimulated information flows. We set out how private trade functioned alongside and in connection with the various European East India companies; we investigate how this changed over time, how it drew on the Company infrastructure, and how it took the risks and developed new and niche markets for specific Asian commodities that the Companies could not sustain.

Abstract

Why, despite clear economic incentives, did eighteenth-century slave traders fail to defend their business interests against the abolition campaign? We focus on the outport of Bristol as a case in point. Our main argument is that slave traders lacked an organizational basis to translate their economic interests into political influence. Supporting evidence from merchant networks over the 1698–1807 period shows that the Society of Merchant Venturers offered such an organizational site for collective political action. Members of this chartered company controlled much of Bristol’s seaborne commerce and held chief elective offices in the municipal government. However, the Society evolved into an organization that represented the interests of a closed elite. High barriers to entry prevented the slave traders from using the Society as a vehicle for political mobilization. Social cohesion among slave traders outside the chartered company hinged on centrally positioned brokers. Yet the broker positions were held by the few merchants who became members of the Society, and who eventually ceased their engagement in slave trading. The result was a fragmented network that undermined the slave traders’ concerted efforts to mobilize against the political pressure of the abolitionist movement.

Abstract

The Royal African Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the East India Company used both owned and hired ships in their seventeenth and eighteenth century trading operations. Why such critical assets were sometimes owned and sometimes rented is explored. Contrary to economic reasoning, ship rentals occurred in shipping markets that were uncompetitive. The use of hired ships was correlated instead to market power in the companies’ selling or output markets. The pattern of ship ownership can be attributed to the close social proximity of shipowners to decision-makers in the companies. By modeling the input hiring decision while allowing for variation in the competitiveness of output markets, it is argued that rent-seeking behavior on the part of company insiders may explain the ownership patterns.

Abstract

The great chartered companies that spearheaded early modern European empire combined economic accumulation and the projection of sovereign power. They operated through networks of geographically dispersed imperial agents, experiencing bottlenecks in the long-distance flow of goods and enforcement and significant lags in communication with, and among, their agents. We develop an agent-based model, comparing an entrepot and networked structure of metropole and outpost relations. The model enables us to highlight the associated outcomes of a range of dyadic and triadic colonial networks exemplified by the Dutch East Indies Company and English East India Company, respectively. It captures basic network structure and the impact of temporal lags bound up with the policing of agents and delivery of goods over great distances. We conclude, first, that overall profits are higher for the triadic form, but as the colonial entrepot becomes a bottleneck, it accrues a disproportionate share of those profits. Second, we reveal the potential impact of the bottleneck on the evolving triadic form. The closer the entrepot is to the metropole, the better the outposts perform; however, the entrepot itself fares much worse, ultimately depressing profits at the system level. Time lags are shown to pose significant challenges for both competitiveness and control; they are a seedbed of colonial autonomy.

Abstract

As the Dutch East India Company expanded its presence in Asia during the seventeenth century, discovery of new products and medical materials was central to its continued success and survival. This new product innovation was difficult to manage directly however because the routine-driven, efficiency-focused organization was ill-suited to research and discovery required for bioprospecting and innovation. Instead, the Company tacitly allowed its employees in Asia to conduct this research on their own. Scientists became free riders, exploiting their administrative authority and corporate resources to further their private research projects. This symbiotic public–private partnership enabled employees to use Company resources to undertake large-scale economic and scientific surveys of its Asian domains. These decentralized, entrepreneurial projects cut across the boundaries of caste, language, religion, and theoretical orientation to assemble new, systematic views of Asian knowledge. While not centrally planned (nor always officially condoned), these surveying efforts had all of the hallmarks of a systematic colonial project to map out the sources of value in foreign colonies.

Abstract

German legal historians of nineteenth and twentieth centuries defined the main characteristics of the corporations and believed that one renaissance institution, the Casa di San Giorgio at Genoa (1407–1805), was similar to the corporations of later centuries. This paper proposes to reverse this perspective: did the founders of early modern corporations know the financial model of the fifteenth century Casa di San Giorgio? The research shows the connection between the model of the Casa di San Giorgio and the Mississippi Company of John Law (1720), the famous financial scheme and bubble. The history of the Casa di San Giorgio was mainly transmitted through a passage of Machiavelli’s History of Florence (VIII, 29). The paper offers new biographical evidence that Law had been to Genoa and introduces sources connecting the genesis of Law’s scheme for the Mississippi Company in France with the model of the Casa di San Giorgio.

Abstract

This paper considers the East India Company’s emergence as a territorial power from the 1760s until the revocation of most of its commercial functions in 1834. While this period has been a key episode for historians of the British Empire and of South Asia, social scientists have struggled with the Company’s ambiguous nature. In this paper, I propose that a profitable way to grasp the Company’s transformation is to consider it as a global strategic action field. This perspective clarifies two key processes in the Company’s transition: the enlargement of its territorial possessions; and the increased exposure of its patrimonial network to intervention from British metropolitan politics. To further suggest the utility of this analytic perspective, I synthesize evidence from various sources, including data concerning the East India Court of Directors and the career histories of Company servants in two of its key administrative regions, Bengal and Madras, during this period of transition.

Cover of Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics
DOI
10.1108/S0198-8719201529
Publication date
2015-08-10
Book series
Political Power and Social Theory
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-093-7
eISBN
978-1-78560-092-0
Book series ISSN
0198-8719