The Presbyterian International and the Case of Robert Cowan
A Study in Robust Action, c. 1710 – 34
Keywords:Robust Action, Atlantic Wine Trade, Intra-Asian Trade, Ethnic Networks, Presbyterian International
This article examines the participation of Sir Robert Cowan, governor of Bombay (1729-34), in the Atlantic wine trade and the wider intra-Asian trade during the years c. 1710-34. This is undertaken as an exercise in the application of ethnically-driven commercial networks, as well as the study of robust action at work within these networks to overcome grand challenges such as barriers to the entry of regional trade. The prism of the Cowan archive has allowed this study to be grounded in terms of both the regional Atlantic wine trade, as well as the global commercial apparatus seen through East India Company trade in the intra-Asian sphere. This was in turn linked to East India Company gentlemanly capitalist networks orchestrated by patrons and familial links of Cowan, and other aspiring privately interested traders. It will be demonstrated how regional networks such as that of the Atlantic wine trade had the potential and means to access global markets and exert control along the lines of the notion of the familial proto-state. By conducting an interdisciplinary study incorporating aspects of organizational science and historical network research, it is argued that the engagement in highly networked archives, such as that of Cowan, will be allowed to flourish.
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