The global interests of London's commercial community, 1599–1625: investment in the East India Company

Edmond Smith
Published Online:
09 Mar 2018
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 71 Issue 4

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The foundation of the East India Company coincided with a dramatic expansion of England's overseas activities brought about through new trading, colonial, and exploratory ventures. This period has received considerable attention in relation to the development of the British Empire, but little is known about how merchants and other commercial actors invested in and contributed to these organizations. Using a newly developed dataset of membership and investment in overseas activities, this article reconstructs the individual portfolios of East India Company members in 1599, 1613, and 1624. This analysis reveals that investors took advantage of opportunities across the globe, and diverse portfolios were common. The implications of this are two‐fold. First, this article makes clear that our current understanding of the East India Company as closely connected with the Levant Company is not sustained with evidence from investment patterns. Second, the interests of London's commercial community suggest new avenues for understanding the early British Empire as a tightly connected, globally focused set of institutions, people, and networks.

© Economic History Society 2018

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