Merchant Cultures

A Global Approach to Spaces, Representations and Worlds of Trade, 1500–1800


Hans Holbein’s Triumphs (1532-1534), commissioned for the headquarters of the Hanseatic League in London and Kano Naizen’s The Portuguese namban (‘foreigners’) painted in 1543 in Japan are representations of worlds of trade, where wealth, speculation, exploitation, poverty, curiosity, encounters and the exotic relate effortlessly. These worlds multiplied in Africa, the America’s, Asia and Europe as mercantile cultures met in a globalizing world. From these encounters, power, subjugation and conflict arose as part of the same world as cooperation, cross-culturalism and cosmopolitism. Understanding early modern merchant cultures is thus paramount to comprehend the sinews of globalization before 1800.

Merchants worldwide shared trading interests. These interests shaped a panoply of encounters of mercantile cultures across space and time. This book sketches the commonalities and underlines the differences of mercantile practices and representations during the Early Modern period.

Contributors are: Laurence Fontaine, David Graizbord, William Pettigrew, Edmond J. Smith, Radhika Seshan, Rila Mukherjee, Jurre J. A. Knoest, Noelle Richardson, Joseph P. McDermott, Mark Harberlëin, Francisco Bethencourt, Edgar Pereira, and Germano Maifreda.

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Cátia Antunes is Professor of Global Economic Networks: Merchants, Entrepreneurs and Empires at the Institute for History at Leiden University. She is currently the principal investigator of the project Exploiting the Empire of Others supported by the Dutch Research Council.

Francisco Bethencourt is Charles Boxer Professor of History at King’s College London. He is the author of The Inquisition: A Global History, 1478–1834 (Cambridge, 2009). In 2017 he organised the exhibition Racism and Citizenship in Lisbon. He is completing a new monograph entitled New Christian Trading Elite, Fifteenth–Eighteenth Century. His long-term research project is on the history of social inequality in the world.
Merchant Preface
List of Illustrations and Tables
Notes on Contributors

1 Merchant Cultures: An Introduction
Francisco Bethencourt and Cátia Antunes

PART 1: Questions, Approaches and Representations

2 Merchant Strategies for Long Distance Trade in Aristocratic Political Economies
Laurence Fontaine
3 Commercial Practices by New Christian/Jewish Groups and Their Sense of ‘Cultural Identity’, ‘Loyalties’ and ‘Belonging’
David Graizbord
4 Subordinate to Strangers: Thomas Kerridge at Ahmadabad in 1615 and the Limits of Mercantilist Dogma in International Commercial Settings
William Pettigrew
5 Commercial Culture in Contested Spaces
Edmond J. Smith

PART 2: The Asian World

6 ‘Indigenous’ Merchant Networks and the English East India Company on the Coromandel Coast in the Seventeenth Century
Radhika Seshan
7 Agents of Empire in Golconda and Bengal: 1630–1757
Rila Mukherjee
8 Doing Business by the Grace of the Shogun: Strategies, Trade Negotiations, and Cross-Cultural (Mis)Understandings in Early Modern Nagasaki
Jurre J. A. Knoest
9 Hindu Mercantile Culture and Practices in Goa, 1750–1818
Noelle Richardson
10 The ‘Way of the Merchant’ in Late Imperial China
Joseph P. McDermott

PART 3: The Euro-Atlantic World

11 Apprentices, Sojourners, Expatriates: Southern German Merchants in European Cities, c. 1450–1650
Mark Häberlein
12 Merchant Culture: Holbein’s Triumphs
Francisco Bethencourt
13 Doing Business with One’s Sovereign: Merchant-Banking and Portfolio Management in Habsburg Portugal and the Empire (1580–1640)
Edgar Pereira
14 Religious Freedom and Institutions in Pre-modern Markets: Is Italy’s Case a Guide?
Germano Maifreda

This book will be appropriate to academic readers, at undergraduate and graduate level, as well as students and knowledgeable readers. Some of the chapters will be particularly interesting for a general non-academic readership.
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