Merchant Adventurers

Merchant Adventurers

Merchant Adventurers, name given originally to all merchants in England who engaged in export trade, but later applied to loosely organized groups of merchants in the major ports concerned with exporting cloth to the Netherlands. They were incorporated as a trading company in 1407. Originally the company's activities centered in Bruges, but in 1446 it obtained trading privileges from the duke of Burgundy and established its staple (i.e., trading center) at Antwerp. Despite strong competition from the Hanseatic League, whose dominance in the Baltic caused the exclusion of the Merchant Adventurers from that area, the company flourished, established depots in several cities, and in 1560 was given the monopoly on exporting cloth to W Germany and the Netherlands. It continued to prosper throughout the 16th and 17th cent., although political rivalries forced it to move its staple to Hamburg (1567) and Dordrecht (1655). The company was dissolved in 1808.

See E. M. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers (2d ed. 1967).

The Company of Merchant Adventurers (in full: Mystery and Company of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places unknown) was founded in London in 1551 by Richard Chancellor, Sebastian Cabot and Sir Hugh Willoughby.

The first expedition of the Company was led by Willoughby seeking the Northeast Passage to China. It failed to find the supposed Northeast Passage, but did find a trade route to Russia. This led to it becoming the Muscovy Company in 1555, also called the Russia Company. The Company's privileges were confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1566 as the Fellowship of English Merchants for the discovery of New Trades.

Further English ventures of exploration led to the creation of the Levant Company in 1581, the Venice Company in 1583, East India Company in 1600, Virginia Company in 1609, and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670.

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