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Merchant Kings

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  186 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Commerce meets conquest in this swashbuckling story of the six merchant-adventurers who built the modern world, as told by "Canada's Simon Winchester" (Globe and Mail)Through the Age of Heroic Commerce, from the 17th to the 19th centuries, a rogue's gallery of larger-than-life merchant kings ruled vast tracts of the globe and expanded their far-flung monopolies to generate ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published December 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 02, 2015 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I realized recently that I hadn't even realized that the Dutch and British East India Companies were two separate entities, so I decided I needed a book to explain the whole thing to me and I settled on this one. This proved an excellent choice. "Merchant Kings" is a very readable survey of six great national monopolies, companies chartered not only to expand their nations' reach but even to rule territory and wage war in their name. The focus is specifically on the six notable and highly ...more
Jun 20, 2016 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This a mini biography of six individuals who spearheaded the greatest merchant companies from 1600-1900.
These individuals/company are namely:
Jan Pieterzoon Coen - Dutch East India Company
Pieter Suyvesant - Dutch West India Company
Sir Robert Clive - British East India Company
Aleksandr Baranov - Russian American Company
Sir George Simpson - Hudson Bay Company
Cecil John Rhodes - British South Africa Company

What was interesting that most of these men were not gentleman, but just very ambitious, clev
Петър Стойков
Jun 20, 2015 Петър Стойков rated it really liked it
Чрез историите на шестима от големите мъже, които са ги управлявали, авторът ни представя шестте най-големи търговски компании, които светът е виждал в цялата си история. Спонсорирани от правителствата монополи, тези компании са управлявали нации, водили са войни, поддържали са частни армии флоти и като цяло са били в авангарда на (а често и причината за) колониалната експанзия на европейските държави между 1600 и 1900 г., докато са изплащали чудовищни дивиденти на акционерите си, направили са ...more
Karl Rove
Through the personalities of the big men that ran them, a Canadian historian examines five government-sponsored monopolies that governed as dictatorial machines over vast swatches on the fringes of an expanding world between 1600 and 1900. These companies raised their own armies, ruled the lives of employees and native peoples, and ruthlessly squeezed profits to send to absentee investors back in their homelands. These trading enterprises included the British East India, Russian American, ...more
Catherine Gentry
Excellent history of the various companies which were instrumental to colonizing much of the world, but far too depressing. I only read the first two chapters. I may go back and read more eventually, but it's emotionally difficulty for me to read of the brutalities of the colonizers who much of the modern world has come to deify as if might makes rights ever.
Catherine Woodman
Interesting book about the role of merchants in worl politics--and instead of going over the entire history, it follows the lives and influence of 6 specific merchants, 17th-19th century figures, and looked at the local and global impact they had.
Josiah Coffey
Oct 24, 2012 Josiah Coffey rated it liked it
Shelves: misc-history
In this somewhat brief overview of mercantilism during the 17th,18th and 19th centuries Brown focuses in on the six leading figures of the six most dominant merchant companies of this period. He tells the story of Jan Coen of the Dutch East India Company, Pieter Stuyvesant and the Dutch West India Company, Sir Robert Clive of the English East India Company, Aleksandr Baranov of the Russian American Company, Sir George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Cecil Rhodes of the British South ...more
Keita Teranishi
Oct 05, 2014 Keita Teranishi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting analysis of historical figures (merchant kings) who lead the chartered companies in the age of colonialism. They were brilliant, heroic and charismatic but ruthless and unscrupulous to achieve their goals for monopoly, territorial expansion and making profit (to please his share holders). The author addressed a spectrum of each figure (personal trait, economics, politics and war in Europe to depict, and ingenious society) to depict the nature of the colonialism that can be seen as a ...more
Mar 03, 2011 Geoff rated it it was ok
Ok book. John Cecil Rhodes was a racist jerk, a product of him time with all the supercilious airs of British superiority. The main point of the book was that Merchant kings mixed politics with business. The states would grant monopolies to the companies to profit in the new world/spiceries. Away from the law and order of their sponsoring Nation, these men created their own law and destiny to deal with the challenges ahead. The author does a great job of referencing Adam Smith in the end, who ...more
Julian Haigh
May 01, 2014 Julian Haigh rated it liked it
Decent book. Bown looks at 6 different monopolies and how and why they were granted such broad powers to create empires in new lands. I had not even heard of the Russian America Company that began populating Alaska, but otherwise these were generally heard stories. What I had been hoping was a little more compare/contrast between the different approaches and while there were some incidental points made, there was a lack of an over-riding narrative that I expected from a book. It's more a ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Ajay added it
I am getting into history and thought that the book provide mediocre, wrote, insight on situations at the respective conquistador's time. It was written to a more fluid textbook with information being loaded onto pages versus providing a more analytical approach to what was happening and why. Again, just getting into history and perhaps books are written as such. Breeze right through it in a day.
Dec 26, 2011 Cate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: secret-histories
Very general. I suppose that a through examination of all six merchant companies would have taken a much larger book, but all the same from what I know of the Dutch East India Company, this was a short, almost cursory history and I suspect the images I now have of the organizations I did not know of beforehand are limited if not inaccurate.
Mohamed Islam
Jun 17, 2011 Mohamed Islam rated it it was amazing
Background information for those who would like to read late Victorian Holocaust and Chruchill's Secret War. Enjoying it so far.
6/14/2011- Eye opening. Learned the history of the famed Rohdes Scholarship. Not a pretty picture. End should never justify the means.
Dec 27, 2012 C.R. rated it really liked it
A fantastic, thorough history of the great mercantile monopolies. Very fluid writing, and excellent storytelling.
Apr 08, 2016 Alan rated it liked it
Mostly good. This isn't Simon Winchester. I can't really warm up to any of the stories and featured characters.
David Weller
Nov 16, 2014 David Weller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Business students/ studiers
A personal look at several individuals and their rise to and fall as heads of corporations. This book has implications for today's "merchant kings."
Kimberly rated it really liked it
Jul 14, 2011
Robert C
Robert C rated it really liked it
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Jun 27, 2014
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Henrik rated it it was ok
Jan 14, 2016
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Jan 19, 2015
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Isaac Cabrera rated it it was amazing
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I am a critically acclaimed author of nine literary non-fiction books on the history of science, exploration and ideas. I take a biographical and narrative approach to my writing, using the techniques of fiction writing – strong storytelling, creative language, emphasizing people, their decisions, actions and motivations – to tell factually and historically accurate stories.
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