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Fischer, David (1970) The Development and Organisation of English Trade to Asia: 1553-1605. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Two primary motives behind Elizabethan trade with Asia were the desire to tap directly the markets of eastern Asia and the need to maintain avenues of distribution for English goods which were jeopardized by the decline of Antwerp. Though the first effort to reach eastern Asia by sea in 1553 failed it resulted in the formation of the Muscovy Company. Subsequently, that body attempted a land route and though it failed again the outcome was the beginning of direct English trade with Persia. Under the auspices of the Muscovy Company, trade was conducted with Persia for 20 years and seemed finally to be on the verge of resulting in a permanent establishment when it was brought to an end in 1580 by a political controversy between the Russian and Ottoman governments. By September 1581 the Muscovy Company's Asian trade had been replaced by that of the Turkey Company's trade with the Ottoman Empire, using the Mediterranean sea route. The timing of the Turkey Company's appearance was probably determined in part by the political troubles in Persia and similar troubles which interfered with Anglo-Spanish trade. The Turkey merchants traded in a joint-stock under a monopoly of seven years duration granted by letters patent. During the same period another group of merchants held letters patent which granted them a monopoly of trade by sea with Venice and the Venetian dominions to last for six years. This Venice Company conducted a regulated trade based mainly on the import of currants. The two letters patent expired at about the same time and the companies subsequently decided to unite and form a single trading body encompassing both monopolies. This Levant Company, chartered in 1592 for 12 years, had a somewhat broader membership base and was organized as a regulated company. Because the Company raised large sums of money by way of an imposition on currants imported by non-members, the patent was called into question and lifted at the end of eight years. A new patent in December 1600 transferred the income from these impositions to the crown at the rate of £4000 per year. Controversies over these impositions and over the payment of the ambassador in Constantinople resulted in the voluntary surrender of that patent and its replacement in 1605 by the charter of monopoly which, in effect, remained in force until 1825. The English were continually interested inland periodically attempted to trade directly with east Asian markets. But it was not until the Dutch presented effective competition that any serious effort was made by the merchant community to organize a trade based on the sea route around Africa, This resulted in letters patent of 31 December 1600 which created the East India Company. Throughout the period under consideration the companies were continuously faced with several problems. The need to secure a set of formal privileges from the government in whose territory they wished to trade; the need, consequent upon the first, to maintain some degree of formal diplomatic representation with those governments, and thus, the need to work closely with the English government; the need to maintain in those places where they traded, a permanent commercial establishment; and finally, the need to solve the problem of how to acquire the purchasing power to conduct an unfavorably balanced trade in an area where payment in hard money was favored over payment in goods.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:21

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