Jason Charming the Dragon (1665 - 1670) - Salvator Rosa
Posts tagged 17th century.
March 20, 1602: The Dutch East India Company is founded.
The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-indische Compagnie) was founded through the sponsorship of the Dutch government, who granted it a monopoly over trade in the East Indies through a charter that was set to expire after twenty-one years. The company could, through this charter, build forts and conduct military and diplomatic activities in the area, which would help to protect and direct Dutch trade in the East Indies (the Dutch Republic was, at the time, engaged in the Eighty Years’ War against Spain).
During its nearly two centuries in existence, the Dutch East India Company became the first company to issue stock, and also the first (or second) multinational company; in addition, it is, according to some estimates, the most valuable company in history - adjusted for inflation, it is valued at $7.4 trillion. The VOC also came into direct competition with the British East India Company, especially after the Dutch took over many Asian settlements and holdings previously held by the Portuguese over the course of the Dutch-Portuguese War. One of its most famous leaders was Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who served as its Governor-General twice, helped to expand and strengthen its reach, and also founded the capital of the Dutch East Indies - Batavia, today called Jakarta.
The company reached the height of its power in the late 17th century but soon went into decline thanks to corruption and poor management, and its hegemony over trade in the East Indies disintegrated until its dissolution in 1800. The territories that had been colonized by the VOC became the Dutch East Indies, to be administrated by the Dutch government, who finally granted the colony independence in 1949 after over three centuries of Dutch rule.
17th-18th century Kabuto helmets.
December 31, 1600: The British East India Company is chartered.
Originally named Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, the British East India Company was a flourishing British join-stock company that aimed to trade with the East Indies. Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, the original intention of the company was not to solely promote trade with Asia, but to obviate a Dutch monopoly on Eurasian trade routes. However, after a massacre on Ambon Island in 1623, the British focused their efforts on claiming the route to India. A problem rose in the 17th century when independent “interlopers” challenged the monopoly of the British East India Company. While a deregulating act quickly solved the problem of the “interlopers,” another gargantuan company (named the English Company Trading to the East Indies) began to challenge the British East India Company, resulting in a merger in 1708. From then on out, the British East India retained its power as the chief trading company from Britain to India. (The united company became United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies)
India quickly became caught up in the foreign trading companies as the cities of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta (now all renamed) became prominent and important trading centers that wielded much political power, intervening the political affairs of India. Britain also faced its bitter rival: the French East India Company. However, from onset of the 1750s, the Seven Years’ War showed unfavorable results for the French, which slowly but surely led to the financial instability of the French East India Company. This led Britain to grow with much power (due to the Industrial Revolution), burgeoning into a powerful empire that would soon assume complete dominance of the Indian peninsula during the period known as Raj starting in the mid 19th century.
A few events leading up to Raj included the 1784 East India Act, showing the Mughal Empire’s rapid decline and more British intervention. Parliament’s Charter act of 1813 prolonged the Company’s rule in India and expanded to tea trade with China. It must be noted, however, This was shortly followed by the Government of India act in 1833, which created the Governor-General of India. As the epoch known as Raj slowly took over India in Britain’s imperialistic conquests, the British East India Company was no longer needed and, consequently, dissolved.
(Thanks to my bro Leon for writing today’s post for me!)
November 5, 1605: The Gunpowder Plot fails.
On November 5, 1605, a man named Guy Fawkes was arrested after he was found beneath the House of Lords near dozens of barrels of gunpowder, ready to be lit. Fawkes was one of a small group of conspirators plotting to assassinate James I, England’s first Stuart king, whose attitude toward Catholics had turned from moderate to hostile as time passed. In 1604, the king reintroduced fines against non-Anglicans (and his hostility was exacerbated by the foiling of this conspiracy, of course).
Although Fawkes was the would-be assassin who was immortalized and remembered by history, the leader of the group and principal organizer was one Robert Catesby, a charismatic and zealous “crusader” who, after the plot was foiled, was eventually found dead holding a picture of the Virgin Mary.
The “Gunpowder Plot” had come extremely close to succeeding and had failed almost by chance. On October 26, an anonymous letter was sent informing the lords of a possible attack on Parliament, but the conspirators, aware of the letter, thought little of it. Their plan seemed to have been going smoothly until the King ordered a last-minute search of the cellars beneath Parliament, where Guy Fawkes was discovered and arrested. When interrogated and asked what he intended to do with the gunpowder that he had been found guarding, Fawkes replied that his intention had been to “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.” He, along with his co-conspirators, was hanged, drawn, and quartered in January of 1606, and, that same year, Parliament passed an act establishing what would later be known as “Guy Fawkes Night”. The holiday was meant to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, and (in its early years) it was as much a condemnation of Catholicism as it was a celebration of the King’s survival. A rhyme often accompanied these festivities; one went this way:
Guy Fawkes, Guy
Stick him up on high,
Hang him on a lamp post
And there let him die.
Poke Him in the eye,
Put him on the fire
And there let him die
Burn his body from his head
Then you’ll say
Guy Fawkes is dead
Hip, Hip, Hooray!
The most famous begins with these lines:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.