Why the East India Company Matters

What does China have to do with the rise of the United States? More than you might imagine.

Remember the Boston Tea Party? (In today’s political climate how can you forget about it.) All of the tea dumped into Boston Harbor came the southeast coast of China and was shipped to North America by the British East India Company. Much of the economic development of the Atlantic world was shaped by what was going on in the Pacific world (and the Indian Ocean). Much of American wealth in the 1790s and into the 19th century came from trade with this part of the world. When Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Territory he wanted them to find a waterway to the Pacific in order to enhance American trade with the East . When James K. Polk got the United States into a war with Mexico in 1846, his main goal was to acquire to California.

If you are intrigued by this kind of global perspective on U.S. history, you may want to read James R. Fichter’s new book, So Great a Proffit: How the East Indies Trade Transformed Anglo-American Capitalism. In the meantime, check out Steven Hahn’s review at The New Republic.

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