For a very long time, the areas available for continuous long-distance trade were limited to territories of Braudel’s Mediterranée (1949). Whatever the commercial organizations (merchants in the Roman or the Fatimid Empires, the Hanseatic League, the Florentine Companies) were, their trade was not able to directly handle branches more than a month’s sailing from their main base (in the best conditions). During the three centuries after Vasco de Gama had reached India, European trading areas dramatically expanded to the shores of Asia, and a long period of harsh competition set the East India Companies of the main European powers of the time against one another. What were the elements that allowed these companies to maintain transactions over such vast areas? And why were some of these companies far more successful than the others? A large set of secondary sources focusing on one company or on a particular aspect of trade (Chauduri, 1978; Israel, 1989; Subrahmanyan, 1993; Ames, 1996) exist, however, none of them treat their successive successes and failures. The aim of this paper is to briefly review these sources, to extract information from them and to compare the economic adaptations and innovations that allowed these companies to be the greatest of their time.
- European Trade Empires,
- Estado da Índia,
- Dutch East India Company,
- English East India Company
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