Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Transnational and Cross-Cultural Agents in the 17th Century Overseas Expansion

Why is Crossnational and Cross-cultural agents such as Henrich Carloff and Willem Leyel important when studying Early Modern expansion?

2013 - 2017

In my research, I examine how the early modern long-distance trade was built and maintained from an individual perspective. I am interested in how early modern entrepreneurs built their careers and what roles they played in 17th-century global trade and geopolitical developments. These men worked in and for several different countries; I especially focus on Scandinavian, German and Dutch entrepreneurs. My geographical focus is mostly on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, and I argue that the cross-cultural connections of these men with local populations in various parts of the world was of crucial importance to their success.

Hitherto the overseas expansion has mainly been studied through an institutional perspective. We know a lot of about the competition between various early modern trading companies. However, we know very little about the collaboration between the various agents involved in the overseas trade. My research aims to shed light on this topic. I argue that the early modern long-distance trade was built on cross-cultural and transnational networks, which consisted of both European and non-European entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs used various social mechanisms in order to accumulate their social capital. Occasionally these mechanisms clashed with the interest of the companies, which created serious conflicts between the agents and the companies. My research hypothesizes that the European long-distance trade both in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean consisted of various entrepreneurs who worked both with, for and against these trading companies. In my case I am following the business networks and career paths of two entrepreneurs in order to see how the entrepreneurial aspects of the expansion actually worked and what role these types of men played in a broader context. My work will contribute to the academic field by underscoring that in the case of early modern long-distance trade, the social mechanisms and informal networks, along with a multitude of cross-cultural and transnational contacts, were at the core of building and maintaining  trade over long distances

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