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Gresham College: The Great Days of Sail – John McAleer – #2/4 – Britain’s Global Trade in the Great Days of Sail


About this lecture

Britain’s history has been shaped by its relationship with the sea. The possibilities and profits offered by maritime trade were particularly important in defining the country’s development as a global power in the Age of Sail. Richly illustrated with images and objects from the collection of the National Maritime Museum and beyond, this lecture explores how British overseas trade went hand in hand with Britain’s global empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Britain’s commercial success was built on complex and multifaceted foundations. Trade with colonies in the Atlantic Ocean, initially conducted through chartered companies, was increasingly financed, organised and operated by private merchants. Meanwhile, the East India Company, based in the City of London, jealously protected its monopoly on British trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. And all of this commercial activity relied on the protection offered by the Royal Navy. The systems of global connections and international trade created by these circumstances laid the basis for Britain’s global empire and continue to affect our world today.

All images featured in this lecture are courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

This is part of the Great Days of Sail Mondays at One series. 

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