Commerce meets conquest in this swashbuckling story of the six merchant-adventurers who built the modern world, as told by “Canada’s Simon Winchester” (Globe and Mail).
Through the Age of Heroic Commerce, from the 17th to the 19th centuries, a rogue’s gallery of larger-than-life merchant kings ruled vast tracts of the globe and expanded their far-flung monopolies to generate revenue for their shareholders, feather their own nests and satisfy their vanity and curiosity. Their exploits changed the world during an age of unfettered globalization, mirroring a world we know today.
Merchant Kings looks at each ruling monopoly through its greatest merchant king and considers their stories together for the first time:
Jan Pieterszoon Coen of the Dutch East India Company
Pieter Stuyvesant of the Dutch West India Company
Robert Clive of the English East India Company
Alexandr Baranov of the Russian-American Company
George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company
Cecil John Rhodes of the British South Africa Company
Bown (A Most Damnable Invention) has produced a magnificent description of the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the "Heroic Age of Commerce." Bown demonstrates how the corporations served as stalking horses for kings and parliaments while enriching shareholders and the powerful managers themselves. Jan Pieterszoon Coen of the Dutch East India Company was particularly noteworthy for cruel tyranny in what is now Indonesia. The English East India Company's Robert Clive, through genius and perseverance, rose to a position of near-absolute power in India. Aleksander Baranov of the Russian American Company, known as the "Lord of Alaska," was bound by ties of decency and responsibility to the company's men, but also had a deep strain of brutality. Cecil Rhodes of the British South Africa Company and of De Beers, the South African diamond monopoly, was dedicated both to the British Empire and to the success of his various enterprises. Bown presents a fascinating look at the men who exploited resources and native peoples while laying the foundations of empires. "Neither heroes nor angels," Bown says, their global impact was as great as that of any king. Illus.; maps.