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Maritime Enterprise and Empire: Sir William Mackinnon and His Business Network, 1823-1893

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Maritime Enterprise and Empire: Sir William Mackinnon and His Business Network, 1823-1893

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This book explores the nineteenth century roots of globalisation through the activities of the enterprise network created by the Scottish merchant, William Mackinnon. It follows the rise of the family-led business group from its modest origins in Scotland to its transformation into the world’s largest maritime and mercantile conglomerate, tracing the history of the various shipping firms within the group – including the British India, Netherlands India and Australasian United companies – and identifies the key factors behind its domination of coastal steamshipping around the Indian Ocean and into the western Pacific. It provides an analysis of the anatomy and dynamics of the enterprise network over time. The book also examines Mackinnon’s relationship with the imperial statesman, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, which drew the network into the operations of British ‘informal imperialism’ in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and East-Central Africa regions, and eventually to its sponsorship of the ill-fated Imperial British East Africa Company. It breaks new ground in identifying the interplay of personal and business considerations behind Mackinnon’s participation in the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in its combination of maritime history with business history and imperial history to contribute to the current debate over ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ and British overseas expansion. Winner of the 2004 Wadsworth Prize and joint winner of the 2004 Saltire Society Research Book of the Year Award, J. Forbes Munro is Emeritus Professor of International Economic History, University of Glasgow.

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