University of Cambridge > > Financial History Seminar > Crowdfunding an early modern startup: mapping investment in the East India Company

Crowdfunding an early modern startup: mapping investment in the East India Company

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Networks have become a key focus for historians in understanding how early modern society functioned. In this paper, I will utilise the idea and methodology of network economics – such as those used by Sanjeev Goyal and Andrea Galeotti in their article Influencing the Influencers – to examine investment for the foundation of the East India Company at the turn of the seventeenth century.

Between 1599 and 1601, members of London’s commercial community raised the political support and finances necessary to found what rapidly became the largest company in England. Due to the nature of the trade to Asia, it was necessary for the company to have both permission to trade with Asia and the cash reserves necessary for sustaining large-scale activities across the globe. In order to do so it was necessary to find significant investment from within London’s commercial community. This paper will explore the development of networks within the larger community that were dedicated to finding this investment. By analysing these networks, this paper will examine where investment came from and how key members of the community influenced the pattern of investment through key nodes, thereby exploring the effect of networks on the company’s structural development.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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