The English East India Company, chartered in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I, was the seed from which the British Empire in South Asia would later grow. Margaret Hunt, professor of history and women’s and gender studies, uses the short but eventful life of one English East India Company ship, the Modena (1685-1694), as a window into the world of global trade in the Indian Ocean and Atlantic in the 17th century. In her day the Modena was one of the largest and most heavily-armed merchant ships afloat, and her crew encountered mutinies and slave revolts, pirates, a typhus epidemic and an (alleged) shipboard murder. The story of the Modena illuminates the risks and rewards of early long-distance travel, as well as the complex linkages between violence and profit in the Age of Sail.

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