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Going the DistanceEurasian Trade and the Rise of the Business Corporation, 1400-1700$
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Ron Harris

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691150772

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691150772.001.0001

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The Origins of the Business Corporation

The Origins of the Business Corporation

(p.251) 9 The Origins of the Business Corporation
Going the Distance

Ron Harris

Princeton University Press

This chapter explains why and how the corporation was transformed into a business corporation. It follows the early history of the corporation and examines how the corporation acquired attributes on separate legal personality and collective decision making, which were familiar to Edward Coke and his contemporaries. The chapter argues that the years around 1600 constitute an organizational revolution. It explains why European corporations were transformed around 1600 from public entities into joint-stock, for-profit entities and why this occurred in Northwest Europe and not elsewhere in Europe. The chapter also talks about why corporations were so suitable for long-distance trade that they rapidly took control of the Cape Route and rose to dominance in Eurasian trade as a whole, at the expense of family firms, merchant networks, and ruler-operated enterprises.

Keywords:   business corporation, Edward Coke, organizational revolution, joint-stock entities, for-profit entities, long-distance trade, ruler-operated enterprises, Eurasian trade, merchant networks

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