The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660

The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660

The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660

The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660

Synopsis

How did England go from a position of inferiority to the powerful Spanish empire to achieve global pre-eminence? In this important second book, Alison Games, a colonial American historian, explores the period from 1560 to 1660, when England challenged dominion over the American continents, established new long-distance trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean and the East Indies, and emerged in the 17th century as an empire to reckon with. Games discusses such topics as the men and women who built the colonial enterprise, the political and fiscal factors that made such growth possible, and domestic politics that fueled commercial expansion. Her cast of characters includes soldiers and diplomats, merchants and mariners, ministers and colonists, governors and tourists, revealing the surprising breath of foreign experiences ordinary English people had in this period. This book is also unusual in stretching outside Europe to include Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. A comparative imperial study and expansive world history, this book makes a lasting argument about the formative years of the English empire.

Excerpt

The voyage from England to Asia was never an easy one, and Patrick Copland’s trip was about as bad as one could be. A chaplain on his second East India Company tour, Copland knew well the rigors of long-distance ocean travel. It took several months to reach Japan from London, at least ten if one sailed directly, which no one ever did. Departures were dictated and delayed by winds, currents, and tempests, and by the ability of merchants to fill a ship’s holds with commodities. More than a year might lapse before the fleet reached the English trading post in Japan, and a roundtrip could take as long as two or three years. English ships stopped regularly along the way to replenish their stores so that men too weak and malnourished from the ordeal of the passage even to walk ashore could recuperate with fresh provisions. Once in the Indian Ocean, the fleet visited the Company’s scattered trading posts in Surat and Masulipatam in India, Acheh (on Sumatra), Bantam (on Java), and elsewhere before making the final leg to the small English post at Hirado. On this last jaunt from Bantam to Japan, Copland’s fleet encountered a terrible storm, which Copland described later as “five or sixe dayes of perpetuall horror,” and one of the ships sank off Macao. Copland and the other shaken survivors limped ashore, delivered by God “safely to Firando,” in December of 1620.

There was much that was memorable about this trip. The storm so impressed Copland that he invoked it in a subsequent sermon once safely home in London. But it was during this voyage, Copland later recalled, that he spoke with Sir Thomas Dale, an English soldier hired to protect East India Company trade from Dutch rivals. This conversation transformed Copland’s life.

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