Competitive Collaboration: The Dutch and English East India Companies & The Forging of Global Corporate Political Economy (1650-1700)
This dissertation explores how, during the seventeenth century, the rival Dutch (VOC) and English (EIC) East India Companies forged a corporate political economy that transcended national political and economic frameworks. The dissertation argues that the half-century between 1600 and 1650 was characterized by state dominance over the companies’ dealings, and mutual alienation between officials of the EIC and the VOC. However, in response to external challenges and opportunities, during the 1650s, company officials developed shared commercial, capital, and communication networks that integrated institutions and ideologies from across Europe and Asia, forming a common body of practice and thought. The dissertation’s analysis of company, state, and personal records reveals how this inter-corporate organization facilitated the evolution of the language and concepts of economic competition, political conflict, and international law. This dissertation challenges notions of “modern” private, collaborative regulatory regimes, while simultaneously introducing a non-state global organization as an influential force in early modern economic and political history.
This project draws into conversation previously unrelated sources from archives throughout the U.K. and the Netherlands, as well as Cape Town, adding a new dimension to the history of European empires, political institutions, and the patterns of global economic organization and governance. The dissertation is situated at the intersection of early modern history, political history, legal history, and economic history; fields which focus on the roles of the rival companies in the coalescence of national bodies of political and economic policy. By combining the study of economic and legal institutions with the analysis of the durable patterns and trends of intra-Asian and Eurasian exchanges, the project examines the formation of political economy as lived experience in a global integrative process.
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