Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600--1900” as Want to Read:
Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600--1900
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600--1900

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  102 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Commerce meets conquest in this swashbuckling story of the six merchant-adventurers who built the modern world

It was an era when monopoly trading companies were the unofficial agents of European expansion, controlling vast numbers of people and huge tracts of land, and taking on governmental and military functions. They managed their territories as business interests, trea
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 7th 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Merchant Kings, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Merchant Kings

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 291)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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, Hudson ...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.
Keita Teranishi
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
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 st ...more
Josiah Coffey
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 Afr ...more
David Weller
Nov 16, 2014 David Weller rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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."
Julian Haigh
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 compila ...more
Just could not get interested. The beginning is slow and somewhat repetitious. Bailed early.
Mostly good. This isn't Simon Winchester. I can't really warm up to any of the stories and featured characters.
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.
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
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.
A fantastic, thorough history of the great mercantile monopolies. Very fluid writing, and excellent storytelling.
Feb 04, 2012 Smuda is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
A little blunt but then again so was the VOC
Quoting himself was the last straw.
Greg hook
didn't finish Ipad went away
Shelby Sanford Pedersen
Shelby Sanford Pedersen marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2014
Annika Cleeve
Annika Cleeve marked it as to-read
Nov 20, 2014
Aaron marked it as to-read
Nov 17, 2014
Rosella marked it as to-read
Nov 15, 2014
Oliver marked it as to-read
Nov 13, 2014
David Meek
David Meek marked it as to-read
Nov 13, 2014
Jonathan marked it as to-read
Nov 10, 2014
Eirik marked it as to-read
Nov 04, 2014
Paige marked it as to-read
Nov 02, 2014
Rebecca Radnor
Rebecca Radnor marked it as to-read
Oct 31, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World from Prehistory to Today
  • Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution
  • After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405
  • Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit
  • Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations
  • The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675
  • The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty
  • Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India
  • The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe
  • Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Human Nature & the Social Order
  • City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
  • The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813
  • Pirates Of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th-Century Mediterranean
  • Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon
  • Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil
  • High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg
  • Champlain's Dream
  • The Opium War
I am an award-winning author of historical non-fiction with seven books to my credit (and the manuscript for my eighth book is almost complete). My book Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail was an international critical success and was selected as one of the Globe and Mail's Top 100 books of 2004. A Most Damn
More about Stephen R. Bown...
Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen 1494: How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver

Share This Book