In chapter 7, David Veevers analyses the corporation through the lens of gender. He highlights how the relationship between gender and the primary protagonists in England’s overseas expansion, corporations, has yet to be investigated. As trading companies were, first and foremost, constitutions for the regulation of trade and the government of inhabitants within their jurisdiction, Veevers argues that they were therefore crucial sites of gender formation, in which male and female identities and relationships were proscribed and ordered within a corporate structure. Senior company officials, for example, legitimised their authority by drawing on patriarchal ideas of absolutism and divine right, projecting themselves as the paterfamilias of the settlements and subjects under their government. However, as trading companies expanded in Asia and the Atlantic in the years 1550 to 1750, Veevers notes that their constitutional parameters gradually became more malleable and shifting. This process meant that covenanted servants and their female relations increasingly operated within a decentred corporate framework, one that provided them with the opportunity to reshape and reimagine their own sense of gender to an extent less possible in their domicile nation-states. This allowed women, for instance, to exploit a degree of independence to become partners in the business of their male relations and even private traders on their own account. In more extreme ways, they could even facilitate or instigate conspiracies in an effort to shift the balance of power within particular factions or settlements, to suit the interests of themselves and their families. Furthermore, as the family became a significant actor in establishing expansive Company networks of trade, settlement and movement, men and women crossed cultural and national borders to integrate a number of foreign constituencies into the Company through sexual relations and even marriage. The ingratiation of non-Europeans was crucial for the success of England’s trading companies, and the process transformed corporate settlements into transnational sites of exchange and cooperation, expanding populations and markets, whilst also acting as recruiting grounds for commercial brokers, soldiers and translators. Veevers concludes by illustrating that with the establishment of mixed-race families, non-Europeans were able to exert a degree of agency to shape the corporate landscape around them, challenging and often subverting the order of gender in Company settlements.
Edited by William A. Pettigrew and David Veevers
William A. Pettigrew and David Veevers put forward a new interpretation of the role Europe’s overseas corporations played in early modern global history, recasting them from vehicles of national expansion to significant forces of global integration. Across the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Pacific, corporations provided a truly global framework for facilitating the circulation, movement and exchange between and amongst European and non-European communities, bringing them directly into dialogue often for the first time. Usually understood as imperial or colonial commercial enterprises, The Corporation as a Protagonist in Global History reveals the unique global sociology of overseas corporations to provide a new global history in which non-Europeans emerged as key stakeholders in European overseas enterprises in the early modern world. Contributors include: Michael D. Bennett, Aske Laursen Brock, Liam D. Haydon, Lisa Hellman, Leonard Hodges, Emily Mann, Simon Mills, Chris Nierstrasz, Edgar Pereira, Edmond Smith, Haig Smith, and Anna Winterbottom.