The Company That Sparked Our Corporate World


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How far would you go to make sure your food doesn’t taste bland? Would you cross the seven seas for cinnamon, like the British East India Company did?

In the early 1600s, King James I of England needed cash. And he built on a charter that Queen Elizabeth I - his predecessor - had issued. What James did would, in modern times, be considered a breach of power. He allowed the East India Company to establish a virtual monopoly over trade with Asia and, in return, he asked for a share of the company’s profits.

Mixing private and public interests may be frowned upon today, but the dividing line in the 17th century was a lot more ambiguous, according to Rupali Mishra, an associate professor of history at Auburn University and author of the book, “A Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company.”

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