Merchant Kings : When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900

Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900

Stephen R. Bown
$28.95 Regular price


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 rogues’ 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; Pieter 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 English East India Company and one of the wealthiest men in Britain; Aleksandr Baranov of the Russian American Company; Cecil John Rhodes of the British South Africa Company and founder of De Beers and Rhodesia; and Sir 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.


 
"Stephen R. Bown has crafted a masterful read in his study of the six major companies...Despite the manifold evils he documents, Mr. Bown manages to put the companies into historic perspective...[A] book that is at once intriguing and disturbing.."
Washington Post

"In Merchant Kings...Bown chronicles the lives of six men who governed and shaped the world as we know it. He deftly interweaves detailed story and back-story, military battles and backroom deals, with global forces and each man's idiosyncrasies. In a highly accessibly style, he recounts the achievements -- and the shame -- of these mercantile actors.."
Vancouver Sun

"Calgary historian Stephen Bown...has ingeniously whittled this multinational history down to vignettes of six of its more notorious figures: Jan Coen operating in what is now Indonesia; Pieter Stuyvesant in New York; Robert Clive in India; Aleksandr Baranov in Alaska; George Simpson in Canada, and Cecil Rhodes in Africa. Excellent biographies exist for them all, and Bown does not repeat that work. Rather, he uses (and fully acknowledges) these biographies to distill their complex life stories into six sharply etched portraits.."
Globe & Mail

"[Bown] deftly interweaves detailed story and back story, military battles and backroom deals, with global forces and each man's idiosyncrasies. In a highly accessible style, he recounts the achievement -- and the same -- of those mercantile actors who 'changes history as significantly as the moist celebrated military generals, political leaders, and technological innovators did..."-
Calgary Herald

"Bown has shown once again that he has a keen eye for details and narrative that bring history to life, even for the impatient modern reader. In this tale, he profiles six men who were crucial to the establishment of international commerce in the 17th to 19th centuries.."
FastForward Weekly

"Stephen Bown tells a fascinating story, one that provides a very different perspective on the colonial period than that which is to be gleaned from the usual grocery list of significant events. I started Merchant Kings on the plane one evening and didn't put it down until the Sun rose the next morning. I lost a night's sleep -- but it was worth it.."
–Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada

"Stephen R. Bown introduces a cast of colourful and often unscrupulous characters. In the Age of Heroic Commerce, these merchant-explorers and the companies they ran, such as the Dutch East India Company, the Russian-American Company, and the British South African Company, ruled vast tracts of the globe, raking in unimaginable wealth. With the backing of their home nations, the companies deposed rulers, raised private armies, waged war and collected taxes.."
History Magazine

"The appeal...to 'broaden' Canadian history and consider it in the context of world events is evidenced in works such as Stephen R. Bown's Merchant Kings, which provides a very readable comparative look at six of the most prominent characters in trading companies that dominated world trade, commerce and colonial expansion...Whether they were truly Merchant Kings, or merely renegades in the wilderness, this book provides a very accessible glimpse into a fascinating era when companies more than countries ran the world and actions of individual men really did change it profoundly.."
Canada's History

"In the present age of wealth and excess, corporate greed and scandal, an ingrained culture of entitlement shared by senior executives and senior bureaucrats, and inexcusable poverty, inequity, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation, Bown's stories resonate with us today on a much more immediate level.."
Northern Mariner

"Bown has produced a magnificent description of the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the 'Heroic Age of Commerce'...[He] presents a fascinating look at the men who exploited resources and native peoples while laying the foundations of empires.."
Publishers Weekly

"Bown has fashioned a chronicle perfectly relevant to our own time and ultimately shows us that a market is free only when those who live and consume within it are protected from the powerful.."
New York Journal of Books

"Engagingly written and refreshingly conversational, Merchant Kings brings a cohesion to such a large and unwieldy historical period, a period that both led directly to, and remains an integral part of, so many contemporary economic and political struggles. And he does so commendably.."
Post & Courier

"Bown's work laudably contributes to the aim of sustaining public interest in history.."
–Ted Binnema, Canadian Literature


Douglas & McIntyre
ISBN: 9781771623315
Paperback / softback
6 in x 9 in - 336 pp
Publication Date: 19/11/2021
BISAC Subject(s): HIS051000-HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries 
 

Description


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 rogues’ 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; Pieter 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 English East India Company and one of the wealthiest men in Britain; Aleksandr Baranov of the Russian American Company; Cecil John Rhodes of the British South Africa Company and founder of De Beers and Rhodesia; and Sir 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.


 
"Stephen R. Bown has crafted a masterful read in his study of the six major companies...Despite the manifold evils he documents, Mr. Bown manages to put the companies into historic perspective...[A] book that is at once intriguing and disturbing.."
Washington Post

"In Merchant Kings...Bown chronicles the lives of six men who governed and shaped the world as we know it. He deftly interweaves detailed story and back-story, military battles and backroom deals, with global forces and each man's idiosyncrasies. In a highly accessibly style, he recounts the achievements -- and the shame -- of these mercantile actors.."
Vancouver Sun

"Calgary historian Stephen Bown...has ingeniously whittled this multinational history down to vignettes of six of its more notorious figures: Jan Coen operating in what is now Indonesia; Pieter Stuyvesant in New York; Robert Clive in India; Aleksandr Baranov in Alaska; George Simpson in Canada, and Cecil Rhodes in Africa. Excellent biographies exist for them all, and Bown does not repeat that work. Rather, he uses (and fully acknowledges) these biographies to distill their complex life stories into six sharply etched portraits.."
Globe & Mail

"[Bown] deftly interweaves detailed story and back story, military battles and backroom deals, with global forces and each man's idiosyncrasies. In a highly accessible style, he recounts the achievement -- and the same -- of those mercantile actors who 'changes history as significantly as the moist celebrated military generals, political leaders, and technological innovators did..."-
Calgary Herald

"Bown has shown once again that he has a keen eye for details and narrative that bring history to life, even for the impatient modern reader. In this tale, he profiles six men who were crucial to the establishment of international commerce in the 17th to 19th centuries.."
FastForward Weekly

"Stephen Bown tells a fascinating story, one that provides a very different perspective on the colonial period than that which is to be gleaned from the usual grocery list of significant events. I started Merchant Kings on the plane one evening and didn't put it down until the Sun rose the next morning. I lost a night's sleep -- but it was worth it.."
–Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada

"Stephen R. Bown introduces a cast of colourful and often unscrupulous characters. In the Age of Heroic Commerce, these merchant-explorers and the companies they ran, such as the Dutch East India Company, the Russian-American Company, and the British South African Company, ruled vast tracts of the globe, raking in unimaginable wealth. With the backing of their home nations, the companies deposed rulers, raised private armies, waged war and collected taxes.."
History Magazine

"The appeal...to 'broaden' Canadian history and consider it in the context of world events is evidenced in works such as Stephen R. Bown's Merchant Kings, which provides a very readable comparative look at six of the most prominent characters in trading companies that dominated world trade, commerce and colonial expansion...Whether they were truly Merchant Kings, or merely renegades in the wilderness, this book provides a very accessible glimpse into a fascinating era when companies more than countries ran the world and actions of individual men really did change it profoundly.."
Canada's History

"In the present age of wealth and excess, corporate greed and scandal, an ingrained culture of entitlement shared by senior executives and senior bureaucrats, and inexcusable poverty, inequity, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation, Bown's stories resonate with us today on a much more immediate level.."
Northern Mariner

"Bown has produced a magnificent description of the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the 'Heroic Age of Commerce'...[He] presents a fascinating look at the men who exploited resources and native peoples while laying the foundations of empires.."
Publishers Weekly

"Bown has fashioned a chronicle perfectly relevant to our own time and ultimately shows us that a market is free only when those who live and consume within it are protected from the powerful.."
New York Journal of Books

"Engagingly written and refreshingly conversational, Merchant Kings brings a cohesion to such a large and unwieldy historical period, a period that both led directly to, and remains an integral part of, so many contemporary economic and political struggles. And he does so commendably.."
Post & Courier

"Bown's work laudably contributes to the aim of sustaining public interest in history.."
–Ted Binnema, Canadian Literature

Details


Douglas & McIntyre
ISBN: 9781771623315
Paperback / softback
6 in x 9 in - 336 pp
Publication Date: 19/11/2021
BISAC Subject(s): HIS051000-HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries