The Russia Company in the Eighteenth Century

in Russian History
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Although there has been a revival of historiographical interest in eighteenth-century British trading companies, the Russia Company continues to be misunderstood and unappreciated. Far from being a relic of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Russia Company was one of the outstanding success stories of eighteenth-century British commerce. By the middle of the century, the imports of the Russia Company into Britain rivalled those of the East India Company. Furthermore, the Russia Company worked closely with the British government to further Britain’s strategic interests in the volatile Baltic region. Part of the reason for the lack of appreciation of the eighteenth-century Russia Company is that the organization of the company and the political influence of its key managers are not well understood. This article describes the organization of the Russia Company, discusses its overall economic and political significance in the eighteenth century, and illuminates its operations using the experience of some leading company members.

The Russia Company in the Eighteenth Century

in Russian History



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    SternHistory and Historiography p. 1161. K.N. Chaudhuri’s The Trading World of Asia and the East India Company 1660–1760 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1978) remains the best economic study of the eic and has been supplemented for a later period by Huw Bowen’s The Business of Empire: The East India Company and Imperial Britain 1756–1833 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2006).

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     See N.C. Hunt‘Walpole, Holden and the Dissenting Deputies Committee’ in Two Early Political Associations (Oxford 1961) 163–178.

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     See Norman C. Hunt‘The Russia Company and the Government, 1730–42’Oxford Slavonic Papersvol. 7 (1957) 27–39.

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    Douglas ReadingThe Anglo-Russian Commercial Treaty of 1734 (Yale University Press: New Haven1938) 36–7. Reading described English commercial ambitions as being to make Russia to all intents and purposes ‘a very profitable satellite’ of England’s economic system but he also recognized that English trade was a hugely profitable source of foreign currency for the Russians 39–41.

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  • 138

    Geoffrey JonesMerchants to Multinationals: British Trading Companies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Oxford University Press: Oxford2000) 24. Jones noted the disruptive impact of the Crimean War on Anglo-Russian trade.


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