The changing place of fraud in seventeenth-century public debates about international trading corporations

Pettigrew, William A. (2018) The changing place of fraud in seventeenth-century public debates about international trading corporations. Business History, 60 (3). pp. 305-320. ISSN 0007-6791

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This article surveys the changing role of fraud (dishonest and immoral commercial practices) in public justifications for corporate management of overseas trade in England across the seventeenth century. It argues that the perceived likelihood of fraud in international commercial settings played a critical role in public justifications for trading corporations at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The article suggests that these justifications were challenged from the 1690s. It explores three aspects of this challenge: first, the ways in which agents of the East India Company convinced the Company to liberate private trade (an activity previously defined as fraudulent by the Company and the Courts); second, the arguments from the 1680s that depicted the joint-stock corporation as an unaccountable, soulless entity whose claim to public trust looked less credible; third, how decades of accumulated experience of international trading contexts (and interactions with non-European merchants) prompted pamphleteers to promote the possibility (and reality) of unregulated trade in those settings. All three helped to erode the former association between private individual trade in international contexts as likely to encourage dishonesty, immorality, and fraud. This change therefore led to the corporate body itself becoming a possible vehicle for fraud rather than the individual international merchant (who the corporation was meant originally to regulate). The article analyses public deliberations about fraud and corporations to make interventions in the history of economic thought, the history of trading companies, and the history of economic crime (and especially its rhetorical role in debates about the regulation of trade).

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Business History
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Business History on 30/10/2017, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? corporationeast india companyfraudfree trademonopolyprivate tradepublic sphereregulationbusiness and international managementbusiness, management and accounting (miscellaneous)history ??
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Deposited On:
22 Jun 2019 09:12
Last Modified:
26 Mar 2024 00:47