“The Most Sure and Profitable Sort of Merchandice”

Philip J. Stern

in The Company-State

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780195393736
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896837 | DOI:
“The Most Sure and Profitable Sort of Merchandice”

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Confronting enduring historiographical assumptions that hold that the East India Company’s policies and attitudes were hostile or ambivalent towards religion, this chapter argues that religion was in fact central to the Company’s constitution and political thought in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. While emphasizing the importance of toleration as a key principle of political economy, essential for cultivating populous and commercially vibrant settlements, Company leaders exhibited a serious commitment to protecting and preserving Protestantism in Asia. Its leaders wrote in the languages of religion, apparently deeply invested in the notion of Providence and the role of God in shaping its establishment abroad. They also understood, like many in the early modern world, that supervision over religion was a critical aspect of sovereignty and a fundamental duty of government. Company policy established and governed standards for religious worship and moral behavior, in another attempt to cultivate virtuous and obedient settlers. It also sought to curb the influence of Catholicism and Islam in its settlements, and promoted the establishment of chaplaincies, churches, and even a form of proselytizing especially amongst those non-Protestant settlers in its colonies.

Keywords: religion; sovereignty; Protestantism; Catholicism; Islam; Toleration; proselytizing

Chapter.  9016 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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