Agents of European overseas empires

Private colonisers, 1450–1800

Editors:
Agnès Delahaye
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Elodie Peyrol-Kleiber
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L.H. Roper
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Bertrand Van Ruymbeke
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Agents of overseas empires considers overseas colonisation as a process initiated by myriad private, individual and institutional actors, whose relationships with governments varied. Instead of regarding colonisation as a phenomenon orchestrated from a governmental centre on to overseas territories or governed in accordance with the ‘centre–periphery’ model proffered by sociology, this collection demonstrates how ‘private interests’ – as they would be termed today – fuelled the exercise and management of power in overseas enterprises. It investigates the extent to which individuals or trading companies both advanced imperial prerogatives and formed colonial societies, whether in conjunction with or in spite of governmental interests. It is from this perspective that the contributors to Agents of Overseas Empires have analysed often understudied primary sources in which commercial companies established their proceedings, and company agents and recruits recorded the fulfilment or failure of their commissions – the records, papers and narratives in which merchant adventurers and colonial sponsors devised and promoted their colonial projects. The authors regard empire as a series of assumptions, failures and innovations in the practices of overseas trade and colonisation, through which European overseas interests became entrenched over the course of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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