TRADERS, PIRATES AND MONEY LAUNDERERS
The Danes and India 1616 - 1845
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The Danish traded in India for a little under two hundred years, from 1620 to 1808. Although the total sums involved were never large, the way the Danes fitted into the trade with the East illuminates some of the less well-known elements in the workings of European mercantile practice. For much of the time their role in oriental trade was to occupy a specialised and useful niche within the system of larger national monopoly companies, but as minor players the Danes were never truly in charge of their own destiny and ultimately they were driven out of the trade by political and economic developments beyond their control in both Europe and India. Denmark as a country actually shrank dramatically over the two centuries in question, losing out to Sweden in several wars and suffering major naval defeats by the British in 1801 and 1807. The military distraction, lack of spare capital and general pessimism that accompanied this decline meant that the Danes never seriously undertook a territorial presence in the East when the other powers began to consider this as a strategy from the late seventeenth century. Their decision instead to move heavily into what amounted to the service sector of the trade brought dividends for a while but rendered them highly vulnerable and allowed them eventually to be eliminated from the trade entirely.
The Danish state maintained some form of official East Indian trading organisation from 1616, renewing and reorganising the structure three times, in 1670, 1732 and 1772. The records of the official Danish Company are extensive and well researched, but this is less true of the evidence for the private trade that began in 1772. Discussion of the illicit trade that persisted all through the eighteenth century is largely conjecture and relies heavily on inference from other statistics.
This eBook traces the story of Denmark’s involvement with the India trade and examines the way that the official Danish companies and others using the Danish flag became involved in the informal affairs of the great European trading nations.
Roderick Matthews, Historian, Obtained a First from Balliol College, Oxford in Modern History. Studied Medieval History under Maurice Keen. Studied Tudor and Stuart History under Christopher Hill, Master of Balliol College. Studied European History under Colin Lucas, later Master of Balliol College and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. Studied Imperial History under Professor Paul Longford, Rector of Lincoln College.