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Merchant Kings Hardcover – 1 Mar 2010

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Conway; First Edition edition (1 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844861147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844861149
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 759,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A masterful read."--"The Washington Times" "Engagingly written and refreshingly conversational, "Merchant Kings" brings a cohesion to such a large and unwieldy historical period, a period that both led directly to, and remains an integral part of, so many contemporary economic and political struggles. And he does so commendably."--"The Post and Courier """ "A chronicle perfectly relevant to our own time--and ultimately shows us that a market is free only when those who live and consume within it are protected from the powerful."--"New York Journal of Books"
"["Merchant Kings"] offers an easily digestible overview of the period and its major figures."--"The New York Times"
"Bown ably deploys biography to present the successes, costs, and legacies of an era's commingling of private money and state sovereignty."--"Booklist"
"Bown has produced a magnificent description of the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the 'Heroic Age of Commerce.' ... Bown presents a fascinating look at the men who exploited resources and native peoples while laying the foundations of empires. 'Neither heroes nor angels, ' Bown says, their global impact was as great as that of any king."--"Publishers Weekly "(starred review) "Bown's well-researched text brings these remarkable men to life, his eye for detail and infectious passion transporting readers through this passage in history. Battles and brawls, ruthless vision, despair, folly, grandeur are all woven into an exciting and gripping tale of men who would 'command the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself'. An excellent historical study and a very engaging read."--"Liverpool Daily Post" Praise for STEPHEN R. BOWN

"Stephen Bown has ingeniously whittled this multinational history down to vignettes of six of its more notorious figures. . . . These characters are as familiar to us as evil storybook characters, yet as foreign to contemporary business standards as Genghis Khan."

--Timothy Brook, author of "Vermeer's Hat "on "Merchant Kings"

"Stephen Bown tells a fascinating story, one that provides a very different perspective on the colonial period than that which is to be gleaned from the usual grocery list of significant events."

--The Right Honourable Paul Martin, former prime minister of Canada, on "Merchant Kings"

"[Bown]'s particularly good at penning provocative theories that link seemingly modest events to monumental changes in the course of history. . . . Bown also has a good eye for the unintended consequences, ironies, and contradictions that are the product of social and technological forces of great magnitude."

--"Publishers Weekly "on "A Most Damnable Invention"

"A spirited, stimulating account of how the cure for the feared disease was found, lost, and found again. Splendid, popular history."

--"Kirkus Reviews" on "Scurvy"

Stephen Bown has ingeniously whittled this multinational history down to vignettes of six of its more notorious figures. . . . These characters are as familiar to us as evil storybook characters, yet as foreign to contemporary business standards as Genghis Khan.--Timothy Brook, author of Vermeer s Hat on Merchant Kings"

Stephen Bown tells a fascinating story, one that provides a very different perspective on the colonial period than that which is to be gleaned from the usual grocery list of significant events.--The Right Honourable Paul Martin, former prime minister of Canada, on Merchant Kings

A masterful read. "The Washington Times"

Engagingly written and refreshingly conversational, "Merchant Kings" brings a cohesion to such a large and unwieldy historical period, a period that both led directly to, and remains an integral part of, so many contemporary economic and political struggles. And he does so commendably. "The Post and Courier"

A chronicle perfectly relevant to our own time--and ultimately shows us that a market is free only when those who live and consume within it are protected from the powerful. "New York Journal of Books"

["Merchant Kings"] offers an easily digestible overview of the period and its major figures. "The New York Times"

Bown ably deploys biography to present the successes, costs, and legacies of an era's commingling of private money and state sovereignty. "Booklist"

Bown has produced a magnificent description of the six great companies, and their leaders, that dominated the 'Heroic Age of Commerce.' ... Bown presents a fascinating look at the men who exploited resources and native peoples while laying the foundations of empires. 'Neither heroes nor angels, ' Bown says, their global impact was as great as that of any king. "Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

Bown's well-researched text brings these remarkable men to life, his eye for detail and infectious passion transporting readers through this passage in history. Battles and brawls, ruthless vision, despair, folly, grandeur are all woven into an exciting and gripping tale of men who would 'command the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself'. An excellent historical study and a very engaging read. "Liverpool Daily Post"

Stephen Bown has ingeniously whittled this multinational history down to vignettes of six of its more notorious figures. . . . These characters are as familiar to us as evil storybook characters, yet as foreign to contemporary business standards as Genghis Khan. Timothy Brook, author of Vermeer s Hat on Merchant Kings

Stephen Bown tells a fascinating story, one that provides a very different perspective on the colonial period than that which is to be gleaned from the usual grocery list of significant events. The Right Honourable Paul Martin, former prime minister of Canada, on Merchant Kings

[Bown]'s particularly good at penning provocative theories that link seemingly modest events to monumental changes in the course of history. . . . Bown also has a good eye for the unintended consequences, ironies, and contradictions that are the product of social and technological forces of great magnitude. "Publishers Weekly on A Most Damnable Invention"

A spirited, stimulating account of how the cure for the feared disease was found, lost, and found again. Splendid, popular history. "Kirkus Reviews on Scurvy"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Stephen R. Bown is the author of Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver (2008) Scurvy (2003), published in six territories, and A Most Damnable invention: Dynamite, Nitrates and the Making of the Modern World (2005). He lives in Canmore, Alberta.'


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Format: Hardcover
"Merchant Kings" is a great book for those, like me, who feel that they know way, way too little about the great merchant companies of the C17-C19 - the Dutch east India Company, our own East India Company, the Hudson's Bay Company et al. It proceeds in a series of chapters essentially each taking a company and a main character associated with that company. It then majors on the company as at the time of prominence of that person, but fills in quite a lot of the back story and after story too, so you can come out with a feeling of having a fairly good overview of each one, and their relationships to each other.
The companies/personalities dealt with are: Jan Pieterson Coen and the Dutch East India Company, Pieter Stuyvesant and the Dutch West India Company, Robert Clive and the English East India Company, Aleksandr Baranov and the Russian American Company, George Simpson and the Hudson's Bay Company and Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company. I suspect if you know much about more than one of these the book will not suit you, but if you share my lamentable ignorance you should certainly find it worth while. It also points the way to more detailed studies, some of which are not likely to be found easily in this country.
The writing and the stories are both lively, which makes it a very easy read. I am not giving it 5 stars because I felt neither the writing nor the research were first class - sound but with nothing original about either (and I do think quoting our own books is a bit off!). But don't let that slight whinge put you off - I am certainly very pleased I have read it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I certainly would not give this book high marks for a really good analysis of the Merchant Kings. It is a good introduction to the businesses they conducted , but it really doesn't have the scope, to examine in great length the entire episodes of all the companies he began to investigate and if you are looking just to do preliminary reading about these companies then so be it... buy it , but be warned, it will leave you a bit unsatisfied and hungering for more information at least it did to me and plenty of others.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 19 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done parallel history of six companies that acted like empires 25 Feb. 2012
By Jeff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Bown's Merchant Kings has a clever idea for a book and several ripping good yarns to tell. Like many books these days with subtitles, this one's "When Companies Ruled the World 1600-1900" is an overreach, but it still has quite the tale to tell.

In a nutshell, several European countries during this time frame established companies to be put together which effectively had governmental power over the territories they managed. This book covers six: the Dutch East India Company; the English East India Company; the Dutch West India Company; the Russian American Company; the Hudson Bay Company, and the British South African Company. Each story is quite interesting, although I found the first, third, fifth, and sixth companies to be considerably more interesting than the Russian or British East India company.

There are some pretty amazing and dictatorial characters in this book, and Bown is very good about sketching them with enough detail for them to be really interesting, but not so much they get bogged down. As one example, it took 9 months for the governor of the Dutch East indies to ask for instructions from home, and another 9 months for him to receive a reply. Not surprisingly, this leads to extremely autonomous governing, done by virtual tyrants. There are some amazingly cruel acts committed here against natives, and this is part of Bown's point. I'm not sure it was his intention, but whenever you hear about sweatshops in far off lands, pick this book up and you'll quickly remember what real exploitation is like.

This is a fine book for anyone interested in history in general, and the history of the corporation in general.
33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Globalization/Exploitation (101) 31 Dec. 2010
By R. A. Barricklow(Scaramouche) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
So we cannot carry on trade without war, nor war without trade.

Sound familiar?
These are words expressed in a letter by Jan Pieterszzon Coen, who had assumed command of the Dutch East India Company(VOC), the first great global corporation, in 1622, to the company's governing "Council of Seventeen". This, his long-held conviction: violent force was necessary for profitability, would soon be put into action, sheding any pretence, that the corporation's true business practices would be peaceful. When these violent actions were called into question he fired back to the Council/...I swear that no enemies do our cause more harm than ignorance and stupidity existing among you, gentlemen! This he wrote to his superiors!
Needless to say Stephen R. Bown has found, not only a rousing tale to tell, but one that runs parallel today's ongoing wave of globalization. Indeed, Mark Twian's/History may not repeat itself, but it damn sure rhymes - was a continuing backdrop theme for me as the author's pages seamlessly turned. The simularities are striking, and quite frankly, frightening.
He tells the story of six Merchat Kings and the companies they commanded: Dutch East India Copany, Dutch West India Company, English East India Company, Russian American Company, Hudson Bay Company and the British South Africa Company. A story of how these companies ruled the world, that foreshadow today's transnational corporations.
I envy the reader, as he or she travels back with the Merchant Kings for the first time, even as stark backdrop echoes of an ever reverberabing present/future tense, put one on edge.
An extremely entertaining read and as important.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!!!!!

P.S. For those wanting to continue with a Globalization/Exploitation (201) please read: Gods of Money/Wall Street and the Death of the American Century by F. William Engdahl.
Unlike the British Empire, which was based on military conquest and direct possesion of colonies, the American version of global domination was based on financial conquest and economic possession. It was complexly layered by refinement, one which allowed US corporate giants to veil their interests behind the flag of 'democracy and political rights' for 'oppressed colonial peoples,' support of 'free enterprise' and 'open markets'. These were the policies reflected by the Council on Foreign Relations task force, and they were antything but democratic. It represented the interests of an elite handful of American banks and industrial corporations that had developed global interests. The businessmen and their law firms were a breed apart from the rest of Americans, an oligarchy to themselves, an aristrocracy of power and money.
Not recommended for the feint of heart, or the dolled-up in red, white, & blue.
P.P.S. Exploitation 301 google: jim fetzer podcast. go to Friday, August 19 2011 Leuren Moret 1:36:28 clicks in, to 1:41:28 clicks in.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars six men who controlled large parts of the world 23 Oct. 2013
By K. Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Merchant Kings" by Stephen Bown is the story of six very powerful men who built their own empires within the construct of colonialism and the rise of capitalism. Mr. Bown's writing is easy to follow, and he is able to describe the situations, difficulties, and temptations that each of these men faced, as well as how they fared during their lives. He also includes an honest assessment of the brutal conditions each man created for the majority of the people, so that others (i.e., shareholders, nobility, etc.) could profit. This is a very interesting book and it provides a good understanding of these men and their times.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Easy Read 28 Dec. 2012
By Ohio Girl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book expanded my worldview and historical knowledge in a very readable way as the stories of each merchant king are broken down into relatively short chapters/vignettes that discuss their often-blood thirsty (or sometimes not so) exploits. After reading this less than 300 page book, I now possess a better comprehension of world history that was at times gruesome yet fascinating, as it outlines the how countries motivated by greed and power manipulated weaker or less sophisticated cultures in order to control natural resources. On a side note - some of the accounts are a little graphic, revealing the near-psychopathic undertones of a few of the company leaders.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Casual History 30 Oct. 2014
By Peter Beacom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stephen Brown profiles the careers of six leaders of quasi-governmental companies across the age of discovery. The work is informative and a well written general overview of six companies and their most potent leaders. I was particularly pleased to learn about the Russian American Company, of which I was previously ignorant. Something about the text left me longing for more insights and occasionally disagreeing with stated conclusions. Overall a recommended read, especially if you are unfamiliar with the subject.
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