Companies, Private International Law, and Diplomacy in the Atlantic World: Early Modern Imperialism and Foreign Corporate Activity in European Legal and Political Thought

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Title: Companies, Private International Law, and Diplomacy in the Atlantic World: Early Modern Imperialism and Foreign Corporate Activity in European Legal and Political Thought
Authors: Cavanagh, Edward
Date: 2016
Abstract: This thesis is concerned with jurisdictionally evasive European corporations in the Atlantic region. In the wake of renewed interest in trading companies in the historical literature on empires and colonies, this study explores the claims of corporations to foreign lands, the dispossession of pre-existing populations, and the emergence of legal conflicts out of these events and other related extra-European processes. To that end, this thesis engages with medieval legal and economic history, to explain the origin of the modern corporate form, the changing patterns of landholding and commerce across Europe, and the response of canonistic and civilian legal traditions to these developments. After emphasising the importance of the coastal region stretching from Lisboa to St. Petersburg, where trading companies thrived, each of the individual corporations involved in the colonisation of America is introduced. An intellectual history is then presented, covering relevant legal thought; here, the focus moves from patents and jurisdiction to the Roman law of property and in particular the idea of prescription, to contracts, and finally to war. These, I argue, are the ideological contexts most relevant in a legal history of corporations and early modern imperialism. The narrative which then follows is based upon primary research conducted in archives from across the globe. Here, special attention is given to English, French, Dutch, and Swedish corporate activity in the early modern ‘Atlantic World’ (1603-1673). Regionally, the main focus is drawn towards Ireland, North America, and South Africa, where corporations established their claims against other Europeans and against indigenous communities through a combination of separate means. Private law was more practical on the ground, while public law justifications tended to be more spurious and ambivalent, even if there was never a clean formula adoptable when it came to the acquisition of territory by European corporations away from Europe, and might was invariably right. This argument is presented before returning, finally, to the European context. The legal history of colonialism in the seventeenth-century Atlantic has never been presented so stringently from the corporate perspective for the purpose of contrast to the European diplomatic context; the result of such an approach is a new way to consider the origins of private international law in world history.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/34589
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-5722
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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