Trading companies monopolized overseas trade, made great fortunes, and played a part in the history of imperialism. The state supported their power and the companies made the state rich. The most important early English example was the Merchants of the Staple which ran the wool trade from the 12th to 14th cents. It was followed, at the end of the 15th cent., by the Merchant Venturers of London, monopolists of the expanding cloth industry's overseas trade. In the last quarter of the 16th cent. English overseas trade boomed. The French, Spanish, Russian, Barbary, Levant, and Eastland (Baltic) companies all date from this time. However the development of an effective navy at the end of the 17th cent. put an end to the need for monopoly trading in Europe; only those companies that went across the world, such as the East India Company (1600), still needed to protect themselves.
Subjects: British History.