Critically analyse the role of mercantile companies in the expansion of European empires.
In order to critically analyse the role of mercantile companies in the expansion of European empires have to look at each individual empire in Europe and see how the mercantile companies affected them. The empires that this essay examines are the British and Dutch and their mercantile companies. The British East India company was founded in 1600 whilst the Dutch East India company was founded two years later. However, during the closing end of the seventeenth century, France also come into the mercantile business to battle with the English and Dutch. The mercantile companies played a significant role in the expansion of European empires as it as it confined different countries from openly exchanging and growing their country which made them quickly second rate compared to the significant European realms. This essay examines how each individual company played a role in the expansion of the British and Dutch empires.
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The British East India company played an important role in the expansion of the British Empire due to the effective methods they used. The British East India Company understood that it needed to take out the other European organizations from exchanging movement and got consent to assemble fortresses and to enhance its military quality. In Chaudhuri’s book he says that the East India Company was a “manifestation of and casual force behind the changes that were taking place in the structure of England’s overseas trade” After the massacre at Amboina in 1623 where the Dutch tortured and killed English traders, the British East India Company decides to focus on trade with India. This leads them to manufacture a base in Madras where the Company ships Indian cotton to different nations in the East Indies. Then in 1690 the company then sets up trading centers in Calcutta as there is a great need for Indian textiles in Europe so it was seen as a must to set up a trading base. This greatly helped the company as they were able to gain enormous amounts of profits due to the textile trade. The decision to open trading centers greatly influenced the expansion of the British Empire because they were able to expand their trade in Europe which would mean they were able to compete with their European rivals. In addition, the Navigation Acts set in 1651 were designed to strengthen the British empires control over trade between Britain and the rest of the world. The East India Company played a role in this as they had to make sure that the goods being traded wherein British ships so they can gain the profit. This meant that their rivals such as the Dutch and other colonies were unable to fully profit from the trade as due to the tight government control. Additionally the British East India Company used ideological strategies to expand their empire in Rana’s article the British used ideological bases to mentally program the locals of India and the world that what they did to India was in light of a legitimate concern for the advancement and improvement of India and it was more right than wrong to socialize India. This shows that the East India Company made people think that it was only right for the British Empire to expand because they are only trying to improve countries.
However in Patrick O’Brien book he sees that it was more down to British individual merchants that led to the expansion as by I66o English individuals had settled perpetual manors on the American territory in New England and the Chesapeake and in the Caribbean islands of St Christopher, Barbados, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, and Jamaica. A three-route example of trade had been set up demonstrating their mass expansion.  Merchants in London obtained the abilities expected to raise the fund and in addition to dealing with the circulation of exchanged goods around the globe. O’Brien sees that the merchants linked producers in Europe, Africa, and Asia into the world economy so that Britain was able to trade with them. It can be said however that Britain military power also had an important role in the expansion of the British empire. Britain’s naval strength meant that other countries were unable to rebel against the British. With the Royal Navy getting ever bigger, a British merchant abroad was never far from the military help of the Royal Navy. By 1679 the Navy had 86 ships and inside ten years had multiplied that number. Bayly sees that British naval strength was evident in the expansion of the British Empire as “British naval strength had allowed her to destroy and annex the greater part of her enemies’ colonial empires” showing that none of the colonies could compete with Britain’s military ability. Although Britain’s naval strength meant that they could fend off any competition that threatened their empire and expand to take control of other colonies, the role of the British East India Company had a more influential role as the government was able to use the company to monitor other countries trading and restrict them.
The Dutch East India Company played a big role in the expansion of European colonies. From 1611 to 1617 the Dutch East India Company had a serious rivalry with the English East India Company over the trading bases that they both had and the potential bases they were fighting for. Amid the two centuries somewhere in the range of 1600 and 1800, Dutch empire history was ruled by the joint-stock sanctioned organisations that controlled parts of worldwide exchange by means of fortifications, estate islands, and pilgrim enclaves. For the vast majority of the seventeenth century, the Dutch East India Company was utilizing a more effective procedure than the English East India Company and accordingly came to rule the Asian exchange courses because of their money. The Dutch wanted to have complete control over the European trade in spices from Chinsura and Jakarta pressuring the English from trading altogether. They took control of the sources of production, offered singular rulers security and prohibit them to pitch to contenders. For instance, the shock on Amboina was an endeavor to drive the English out of the spice trade.  This strategy of the Dutch East India Company benefitted them as British trade in Asia was limited whilst the Dutch would be able to trade their spices without any trouble. Farrington demonstrates that the Dutch for the following 80 years were in front of the English regarding cash, men power, and more ships.  Also, they were able to win the Anglo-Dutch wars because of their abundant financial strength which allowed them to to be to maintain and expand their trade routes in Asia. In addition to this by the mid seventeen century, the Dutch East India Company had supplanted most local trading systems with their very own with a progression of braced exchanging posts. Cape Town (South Africa) was additionally established in 1652 as an urgent stage for the long Europe-Asia voyage. Afterward, plantations, which constrained the presentation of new types of development, for example, tea in West Java in 1723, were set up. This was another strategy that benefitted the Dutch East India Company because it led to a growing amount and assortment of cargo being exchanged which would expand their trading business. This demonstrates that the Dutch East India Company had a significant role in the expansion of the Dutch Empire as their strategies stagnated the progress of their rival empires whilst they were able to expand their trade routes.
To conclude mercantile companies did play a massive role in the expansion of the European Empires due to the strategies they made which greatly benefitted them. The British East India Company introducing the Navigation Act meant that countries were not capable of expansion due to the limits put on them by the acts and they were able to stop the flow of effective trade from the Dutch. Also by the company opening new trading bases meant that they financial profited from expanding their trade which meant they could use that money expand the empire. In contrary to this, Britain’s naval strength can also be said to have a contributing role to the expansion of the British Empire as they could the royal navy to take control of plantations they desired to allow them to easily expand. Also, the British individual merchants had an important role in the expansion of the British Empire as they were able to bring in Africa, America, and Asia into the world economy to trade with Britain which allowed Britain to expand their trade around the globe. As for the Dutch East India Company, they played an important role because their trading in Asia allowed them to profit from goods that were in high demand such as fine spices gave them enormous amounts of profit. Finally, the mercantile companies played an important role in the expansion of European empires mainly due to the strategies they made as without the decisions made by the two companies their progress would have been put on hold and they would have allowed subordinate countries to expand and defeat them.
- Bayly, C. A, Imperial Meridian The British Empire and the World 1780-1830
- Chaudhuri, Kirti N, The English East India Company (London: Routledge, 1999)
- “Dutch East India Company, Trade Network, 18Th Century”, The Geography Of Transport Systems, 2018 <https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=1089> [Accessed 1 November 2018]
- Farrington, Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia 1600—1834, 2018
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- O’Brien, Patrick, The Oxford History Of The British Empire Vol. II The Eighteenth Century Vol II, 2018
- Prakash, Om, The Dutch East India Company And The Economy Of Bengal, 1630-1720
- Tandfonline.Com, 2018<https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07341510701616915?scroll=top&needAccess=true> [Accessed 2 November 2018]
- “The Expansion And The Consolidation Of The British In India”, History Discussion – Discuss Anything About History, 2018 <http://www.historydiscussion.net/history-of-india/the-expansion-and-the-consolidation-of-the-british-in-india/2077> [Accessed 2 November 2018]
 Kirti N Chaudhuri, The English East India Company (London: Routledge, 1999).
 “The Expansion And The Consolidation Of The British In India”, History Discussion – Discuss Anything About History, 2018 <http://www.historydiscussion.net/history-of-india/the-expansion-and-the-consolidation-of-the-british-in-india/2077> [Accessed 2 November 2018].
 Patrick O’Brien, The Oxford History Of The British Empire Vol. II The Eighteenth Century Vol II, 2018.
 “Historians’ Views Of The British Empire”, Britishempire.Me.Uk, 2018 <http://www.britishempire.me.uk/viewsofempire.html> [Accessed 31 October 2018].
 C. A Bayly, Imperial Meridian The British Empire and the World.
 Farrington, Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia 1600—1834, 60
 Farrington, Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia 1600—1834, 56
 “Dutch East India Company, Trade Network, 18Th Century”, The Geography Of Transport Systems, 2018 <https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=1089> [Accessed 1 November 2018]
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