University of Hawai'i Press

Spain, Portugal, the Dutch Republic, England, France, Sweden, and Denmark all sought and acquired empires in what is conventionally, in European history, called the early modern period. The study of these empires and other states and state-like entities in their orbits has exploded in recent decades. Some of the questions asked may not be new – they were first posed by observers in seventeenth - and eighteenth-century Europe and were later canvassed by twentieth-century scholars all over the globe. But they have been taken up anew and taken in exciting new directions by recent scholarship, as part of a larger trend that includes work on non-European early modern empires, including the Ottoman empire in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Mughal empire on the Indian subcontinent, and the Incan empire in Latin America.

Thus, it is an excellent time to examine the specificity of early modern European empire both comparatively and theoretically, and, as this collection of essays does impressively, to place companies and their agents squarely in the midst of that focus. As Felicia Gottmann and Phil Stern note in the introduction to this issue, “much of early modern transcontinental and global connections was forged not by states but by a range of agents that navigated between public and private, not least of which was the organized, chartered joint-stock company.” How to theorize these linkages among persons, states, and imperial projects in all their variety? In this coda, we take up the challenge of discerning in these remarkable papers a change in the interpretation of early modern European empires - and perhaps even in the very term ‘empire’ more broadly. In so doing, we take the archival foci of these papers on, for example, “interloping families” or Kaarle [End Page 477] Wirta’s early modern sci-fi-style “cross-imperial jump-shifters” as affording, not only these remarkable papers, but also, via translation into other languages in the human sciences, an emergent theoretical argument.

For, these studies of crossing companies herald and participate in a threefold conceptual shift that connects these articles, and the study of world history that is the focus of this journal, to global historical sociology.1 The latter subfield, variably overlapping with historical studies but also with highly abstract analytical schemes from sociological theory, economics, and political science, developed out of a different set of academic debates than did the historiography of early modern European empire. As it has done so, however, it has—in part due to the continuing influence of historians on (certain) sociologists—developed a theorization of empire that converges in an intellectually useful way with the work here and the wave of scholarship it represents. In what follows, we delve into these texts so as to articulate this important threefold nexus between sociology and history.

First, we note how the authors have moved from a dyadic understanding of empire to a many-handed view, and corollary to this, to a focus on the expansion and contraction of chains of intermediaries in the making and unmaking of empire.2 Second, we reveal and report upon a shift [End Page 478] in the theorization of agency problems (or principal-agent problems), from a specifically utilitarian approach to imperial ventures and colonial encounters to an understanding of agency problems that incorporates utility, signification, and goal-oriented action and performance into a single frame - thus bringing together economics with politics and ideology. Finally, we trace a third analytical move that builds on the first two, and consider, for these authors, how the interloper becomes a key feature of early modern European empires. This figure undermines standard understandings, inherited from nineteenth-century European philosophy and social theory and read back into earlier historical moments, of the relationship of individuals— understood as a socio-legal category - to state structures and national identifications in the early modern world. The historical reconstruction of the interloper defies several of nineteenth-century sociology’s frontstage commitments, though not its deeper, modern-imperial unconscious.3

From dyad to triad and beyond - the many hands of Empire

Conventional definitions of empire rest on a bipolar relationship between ruler and ruled, metropole and periphery, colonizer and colonized. Students of empire have tended to frame their arguments in terms of dyadic relationships, whether the aspect that comes to the fore is one state’s control of another’s sovereignty;4 the forging of a national or regional self in opposition to a significant colonial Other;5 or how the tie between colonizers and colonized is intimately reproduced within an individual’s split psyche.6 This framing was necessary and productive [End Page 479] particularly for studying colonialism as a rule of difference. But, working in relation to these dyads and through them, investigators developed more articulated or refined accounts of imperial formations. This refinement emphasizes distinctions within the categories of rulers and ruled, and invites us to consider the networked lineaments of power, trade, identity, and action - and the ways in which these four terms do not line up easily or neatly in the making and unmaking of empires. Can global historical sociology develop a theoretical language that incorporates this refinement, which has taken place over several academic generations and which is in full efflorescence in these papers?

In recognition of this move beyond the dyad in the study of imperial ventures and colonial encounters, Reed has developed a triadic theory of power relations as occurring between rector, actor, and other.7 Rector sends and binds actor, making actor into rector’s agent; to become an agent is to surrender one’s own projects (in part). The resultant struggle between rector and actor - for redistribution and recognition - is rendered complex and variable by three primary factors, each recognizable as a prominent feature of the papers in this volume.

  1. 1. The way in which rector-actor relations can replicate themselves across time and space. Actors can become agents to a rector “above” them, yet also rectors to those “below,” if they secure their services and obedience, and if they play effectively the [End Page 480] politics of representation and recognition. The elaboration of hierarchies in the maritime world, and the way in which different hierarchies intersect—for example, the intersection of family hierarchy and organizational hierarchy on a ship, as in Hanna Hodacs’s paper— clearly allow for this accordion-like expansion and contraction of long agency chains.

  2. 2. The effect of others on rector-actor struggles. The struggle for redistribution and recognition between rector and actor varies in how it engages with those others who are excluded from a given set of hierarchical relations. Social relations of hierarchy -embodied in chains of rectors and actors - fluctuate because of the presence of a “Simmelian third” or stranger. That is, the relation between two persons or groups is inflected by the presence of an observer or mediator that comes from outside the primary relation between rector and actor, and variably enters into, avoids, or is excluded from those relations.8 The companies under study here and their sovereign governments engage two of the central forms of alterity in the early modern world: enemies in war and enslaved persons.9

  3. 3. The molding or inflection of hierarchical and exclusive relations by signification. In rector-actor-other relations, goods are exchanged, labor is engaged in, know-how and experience are developed, and habits of hierarchy and deference (or obstinacy and [End Page 481] rebellion) become ingrained. But all of these are subject to signification: the symbolic and social intertwine in the making and unmaking of chains of power and their representation. As the authors in this symposium attend to carefully, the complexities of signification and identification were essential to the way in which East India and African companies staffed their ships, worked through and around the law, pursued profit, and justified coercion, destruction, and violence.


The actors-turned-agents in these papers pursue rectorship, or power over, and with it recognition and profit. This pursuit is complex and requires globe-spanning allegiances to be forged and activated. As persons and families take up positions in—and cross—companies, they become agents of metropolitan rectors. Yet, they also act as representatives of, or in the interests of, various alternative entities - they are agents to multiple rectors. They may be rulers’ representatives in the territory of the ruled (actors-turned-agents in the field), or company representatives crisscrossing all manner of territories. And they may, over their careers, leave a company like the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) to take up technically illegal occupations in other, rival companies. Then, they may even return to the “parent” company to become a wealthy merchant in Antwerp, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen, having established themselves as effective supercargoes in the meantime. To “climb the ladder” in the early modern maritime world involved strategic and emotionally freighted switches of allegiance in company, national [End Page 482] project, financiers, and colonial entrepôt; delicate performances of rectitude directed at different audiences at different times; and a relationship to the law both alienated and knowing.

These papers offer a site of analysis that is deliberately circumscribed, and, in its focus on these intermediaries, distinctively revealing of the multiple layers of the first wave of European empire. They also raise the intriguing question of the specificity of the early modern era (roughly, the fifteenth to late eighteenth centuries) for the theorization of patterns of agency and empire. Though each of the papers examines intermediaries and interlopers in a different way, and via different archives, nonetheless some common themes can be identified in this many-handed approach to empire.

The first theme is temporal. Repeatedly, the emergence of a new East India company, in a non-dominant European location (e.g., the Swedish East India Company, see papers by Hodacs and Muller) provides a set of opportunities for men who had, for one reason or another, failed to advance to full and wealthy rectorship - or failed to be “good agents” instead of “bad agents” - in their previous companies’ employment. And so, across the early modern era, an iterative process developed, wherein the search for profits and national glory via “adventures east” drew in men -for they were mostly men - and their know-how from earlier movers turned competitors. The Danes need Dutch in their company to compete with the Dutch companies (see paper by Wirta); the Swedes need Scots to compete with the Dutch and the Danes (see paper by Hodacs); and so [End Page 483] on. Inversely, the agents themselves engage these iterative temporalities for their own reasons— the Scots, excluded from the best positions in the first British Empire via the latter’s preference for Englishmen, find themselves smuggling tea through Gothenburg.

Crossing Companies, Crossing Allegiances

This brings us to a second theme of this move to the “many hands” conceptualization of states and empire, contextualized as part of a global historical sociology. There is a set of tensions among allegiances both named and unnamed in the making of chartered and joint-stock companies. These papers track shifting relationships between sovereigns and merchants (e.g. the States General and the VOC), between different companies (and their directors - e.g. change in the use of arbitration between the English East India Company (EIC) and the VOC, see paper by Ruoss), and between companies and their employees—especially since, via the archives examined in these papers, it becomes clear that these companies shipped out with a truly multinational set of mariners.

These tensions among different collective entities variously defined and construed (state organizations, joint-stock companies, national communities) were expressed via a third set of tensions between public and private - and within each of these categories, a wide set of variations. Something could be public in the sense of widely known among the rectors of the VOC, but not yet public for all of Europe in the sense of an international incident between England and the Netherlands. Something could be private in the sense of private trade, but not [End Page 484] secret, while other matters were kept strictly secret while being in effect public or state-sanctioned acts, like the EIC’s collecting of evidence against the VOC in advance of arbitration (see Andrew Ruoss’s paper).

Culture and utility in the theorization of agency in empire

To interpret these intermediaries and interlopers in fresh yet informed ways, it makes sense to broaden and merge separate streams of theory pertinent to grasping the patterns among those in power in imperial arrangements. One strand of work, culturalist studies of empire, typically flows from the work of anthropologists, historians and literary scholars. The other, agency theory, emerges predominantly from the work of social scientists - and especially economists and political scientists. These approaches have complementary strengths and weaknesses, and there is as yet no real interdisciplinary dialogue between them. Yet, such a conversation would reveal gaps in existing, highly-specialized disciplinary modes of studying imperial projects, and would bring us closer to answers to the perennial questions of why empires rise and fall, hold together or implode, and how the agents of empire, their collaborators, and their antagonists negotiate and set their imprint upon this shifting terrain.

Consider just one telling example. In her paper, Hanna Hodacs traces the Irvine family’s entry into the Swedish East India Company. In pursuit of profits to be had by smuggling Chinese tea from Gothenburg to Scotland, Irvine paid “8,000 dollars copper money to have his nephew Thomas Irvine naturalized” as a Swede. Swedish ships could sail under a neutral flag during the [End Page 485] Seven Years’ War, and there was money to be made. Hodacs goes on to trace the complex intertwining of familial trust relations with the pursuit of career and profit, placing “interloping” into the context of familial politics. The Irvines are an instance, then, of “how trust-based relationships between members of the same family, as well as those sharing religions and ethnicities, oiled the wheels of long-distance trade in the early modern world.”

This “oiling of the wheels” reveals the deep intertwining of interest and culture. It also reveals, perhaps, the anachronism, for studies of the early modern period, of the sharp dividing line between these two terms. This theoretical divide between norm and interest, or culture and economy, can seem almost unavoidable, since it is inscribed not only in disciplinary divides but also into our own everyday philosophies.10 But we might consider whether it is itself a product of certain intellectual developments of the European nineteenth century. The Irvine family worked and played in a world, we propose, in which the languages of high culture had not yet been overtaken by popular misinterpretations of Adam Smith; in which the discourses of life, language, and labor had not yet come to dominate the modern era.11

And yet abstraction is nonetheless necessary, and we should not exoticize the early modern as utterly different from our own time, as Felicia Gottmann’s paper shows. (“Frederick II [End Page 486] was perhaps the most determined of all royal micromanagers.”) What could better characterize the challenges of the Asian trade than the problems of selection detailed in the framework of principal-agent theory? “Companies like the Prussian ones,” Gottmann explains, “that were instituted from scratch were…faced with the typical problems of asymmetrical information when it came to recruitment, exacerbated by the fact that they recruited from abroad from where reliable information was even harder to obtain.” And so, we can see that the language of utility is both insufficient and essential to understanding the early modern period.

In typical social scientific approaches, agency theory is rationalist and utilitarian. It abstracts substantive relationships into skeletal ties between a principal (typically an employer or ruler) who delegates rights and capacities, and an agent who is bound by some kind of agreement to represent that principal. In the theory, agents are understood to have their own interests, and to be better informed about the task at hand and their own performance. When it comes to the study of empire, where the application of agency theory is still relatively rare,12 the task is to examine how representatives of the metropole in various entrepôts around the world took advantage of [End Page 487] certain instabilities and misunderstandings “on the ground,” how principals tried to minimize risk and manage their agents with a range of disciplinary mechanisms, and how their agents responded calculatedly and otherwise to the proffered carrots and sticks. Agency theory, in this utilitarian sense, provides a rigorous but limited backdrop for studying the unruly middlemen of early modern imperial projects.

In the humanities and more culturalist social science history approaches, on the other hand, intermediary groups are taken to pose another sort of problem for imperial arrangements. Imperial agents who deal directly with local populations traverse the topographical and behavioral boundaries that a system of rule is ostensibly wedded to upholding. When mestizo descendants of the representatives of empire make their appearance on the stage of history, they are an additional sign of the fluidity of those boundaries, an additional imperial filing problem and, potentially, a threat. Taxonomic claims to categorical distinctiveness are also emotionally-laden claims to positions in a social hierarchy.13 For, these claims are in part read off of ordered cultural markers that signal an individual’s fit with certain desirable ruling group identities implicated in the system of empire, such as ‘European’, ‘Dutch’, ‘French’, etc., ‘masculine’, ‘Protestant’, ‘Catholic’, ‘family head.’ Signs of belonging are defined against the backdrop of each setting, and when they are so defined, they structure the relationships that give the imperial encounter its shape, particularly when that encounter is the (partial) product of an obsessive [End Page 488] regulatory attention to the emergent distinctions of racial and national status that we find in early modern imperial projects in Europe and beyond.14

The interlocked categories of rector, actor, and other are designed to recognize that we need both the language of cultural identification and the language of utility to do analysis, even if at some deep level these languages are incompatible, and indeed encode the contradictions of the modern itself. For, R-A-O theory enables us to attend to the way in which relations between principal and agent are relations embroiled in struggle over precisely the taxonomic claims to categorical distinctiveness which have been the central occupation of cultural studies of empire. Thus, the struggles within the triad - struggles between rectors and actors-turned-partial-agents, and struggles between rector-actor “teams” and those others they encounter - are simultaneously about meaning and utility.

The ability to assert one’s status as worthy of respect by those one encounters, on the basis of being the agent of, and sharing certain categorizations with, metropolitan rectors, involves fitting comfortably into a privileged niche that arises in tandem with interactions with the colonized. Culturalist studies enable us to better understand variations in this patterned process,15 including those processes whereby European agents broke away from their [End Page 489] metropolitan overlords. More generally, theories of categorization and identity are useful tools of analysis as to how group boundaries were delimited and shifted over time. But ruling, as a group project, involves more than categorization. It also rests on the group’s capacity to stake out and defend a claim to a sphere of action, perhaps in defiance of contending local and European rivals. This capacity to mobilize in service of power depends, in part, on utilitarian aspects of collective action, the understanding of which is foreclosed by conventional forms of discourse analysis. This is why the language of rector, actor, and other is designed to incorporate agency theory, including its utilitarian aspects.

In such a synthesis of the culturalist and rationalist approaches, we can begin to deal, at a theoretical level, with the insights offered and questions raised by historical research on early modern joint-stock and chartered companies.16 When and why do agents who originally refer their authority to another, higher power act “on their own” account? What are the conditions under which those lower down in hierarchies - or even those excluded from the game of hierarchy all together - can grasp at some modicum of power, acceding to the role of rector whose allies do his bidding and whose enemies avoid contradicting his interests or raising his ire? These questions are of abiding interest to humanists and social scientists alike, as the contemporary meanings of the term ‘agency’ indicate, and they allow us to approach the core questions of modernity and empire.

In previous work, Adams has analyzed the constitutive impact of the first wave of European empire on elite politics and political economy in Europe (and especially in the [End Page 490] Netherlands, France and England).17 Coalitions of early modern statist elites there and elsewhere shaped family genealogies of mercantile and political privilege and left indelible traces on national styles of state-building and elite community; their cultural and utilitarian solutions to agency problems created lasting templates that would carry though transitions to modernity.18 Beyond the making of singular nation-states or the nation-state system, we may also examine the metropoles of empire so as to broaden “our understanding of company colonialism not as ‘English’, ‘French’, or ‘Dutch’ but as a European-wide phenomenon,” as Gottmann and Stern state in their introduction, one that participates in the process by which “Europe” itself was made.

The further questions raised here evoke the details of the colonial enterprises themselves, situating theoretical concerns in the varied patterns of relationships among the European empire-builders ‘back home’ and in the colonies and other imperial extensions. They depart from the systematic blurring of merchant capitalist and sovereign, and its global imperial consequences;19 the entanglement between system and malfeasance; and monopoly, free trade, and evasion.20 How did the European rulers try to guarantee their agents’ commitments and attachments to their [End Page 491] European homelands? When did their tactics succeed, when did they fail, and why? What kind of selves and subjectivities - of agencies in the broadest sense - did these tactics envision, recruit, and run aground on? When did colonial styles of political control circulate globally, as templates, among the wider community of colonizers? Just how pervasive and influential were distinctive images and assumptions about, for example, what a ruler should be? How did these symbolic processes and organizational forms contribute to colonial elites’ understandings of themselves as a group, of national belonging, subjection and (ultimately) citizenship?

These general questions refer us back to the concerns of classical canonical social theorists and historians, such as Max Weber21 and Edward Gibbon,22 who pondered the large-scale contradictory movements of structuring and splintering of power in imperial orders. In today’s world, so deeply marked by the aftermath of more than one empire,23 the time is ripe for theoretical and historical reconsideration of this set of issues. The evolving body of work on colonialism and empire should, then, insist on a thoroughgoing rapprochement between humanities and social science approaches to studying early modern imperial agents. There are obstacles to this rapprochement, not least in the increasing complexity and dissociation of the theoretical languages within each family of disciplines. Yet this growing gulf is accompanied by subterranean moves toward the examination of similar processes. Indeed, at times, different theoretical languages are used to interpret the biographies of the same historical individuals, their families, and connections. Thus, we may say that in the archives so closely examined by the [End Page 492] writers of these papers lie the materials to construct a truly interdisciplinary human science of empire.

The figure of the interloper

All of this brings us, finally, to the renewed attention given in these papers to individuals, groups, and projects that crosscut more orderly forms of company and imperial rule, and more orderly categorizations and identifications. This theme exemplifies how the early modern era retains its fertile fascination. How to think about this period? Can it be limned via the figure of the interloper; the “free agent”; the buccaneer both metaphorical and literal?

In Europe, the early modern historical period was the moment of merchant capitalism, that centuries-long “transition” that endlessly vexes marxisant historians and historical sociologists. It retains, in our reconstructions of it from the vantage point of 2020, an analytically inconvenient solidity, in which the mercantile was built atop and glamorized by the concatenated urban riches of feudal and patrimonial power. The “early modern” partakes of the late feudal moment of the great Italian city-states and their relationship to their hinterlands; the maritime Hanseatic League;24 and the rise and global extension of European mercantile and patrimonial power.25 It is a moment in which people flock to cities and city-states, as Max Weber wrote, to breathe their “free air,” and are able to do so without fully forsaking the countryside. In Europe, this ‘moment’ lasted for centuries. Elsewhere, for example in the New England imperial [End Page 493] hinterland of the walled “city-state of Boston,”26 it could be a briefer and ruder affair. The immense distances between the rare urban mercantile outposts in northern America—and the equally immense natural and social risks of traveling among them - created a genuinely different situation, partaking more of Norbert Elias’ extended metaphor, in The Civilizing Process,27 of lonely travelers on a dangerous rural road than of people who traversed the relatively dense network of European mercantile cities or city-states. Yet, in both cases - and elsewhere in the global system - the “civilizing process” must be understood in the Janus-faced use of the term, including as it does the wielding of military power. A salient episode in Boston’s rise to power was the destruction of the Pequots.

And whether we are talking about the Dutch invention of the triangular trade, the congeries of French Atlantic cities, or elsewhere in the early modern European maritime nexus, the invention or enhancement of enriching civilizational links and “free cities” meant increasingly intense engagements with the global slave system. The era, and the sovereign mercantile company form that was one of its signal features, was one of boundless contradiction, the emergence of real freedoms and civilizational innovations, shadowed as they were by fundamental exclusions enforced by violence.28 [End Page 494]

In these papers, we see one especially important aspect of this early modern moment: the interlopers who cross companies. They are quite aware of - or perhaps we should say, help perform into existence - what would be later understood as the new realities of Westphalia, and yet manage to make their way toward profit and status by circumventing and smuggling, adjusting plans and habits across generations, and articulating for themselves and their families a vision of autonomous action. For the interlopers, though national identifications, company requirements, and mercantile policies are real and consequential, they are nonetheless far short of the hardening boundaries of state and nation that increasingly characterize the European nineteenth century. Instead, interlopers avoid, play for profit, or play off against each other nationalism, sovereignty, and company plans. They sail under deceptive flags. They quietly take on non-nationals out of the view of the sovereign (and even in the only partial view of the company director). They smuggle for better margins.

But let us parse this a bit more carefully. First, the individuals and families who make such a go of things in these papers were, even in their very actions as free agents, part of a risk-calculation machine emanating from the metropoles. Those who crossed companies were part of said companies’ diversified portfolios, as it were, in the sense that they were one way in which company directors and their sovereign affiliates sought to turn risk into profit. Reciprocally, they were themselves variably investing in, or disinvesting from, company and national projects. Second, what of the changing relationship between company directors and their putative sovereign rectors over the long arc of the early modern - that is, what about variation in the degree to which sovereigns actually managed to make company directors into their agents? This was always a terrain of messy agency relations. But if, in the seventeenth century, the directors [End Page 495] of East India companies wielded great power and acted with tremendous autonomy, then in the eighteenth century we can trace a process wherein various East India companies are brought increasingly under the political power and social direction of national governments—even if the legal codification of this shift in power did not occur until later (famously, in the British case, in 1857). This process is surely within the “early modern” - the economic interpretations of action emerging from the metropole are mercantilist, after all - but it nonetheless provides one way in which agency relations are subject to codification, and thereby made more rigid.

On a different timeline, historians have traced a similar process in the Atlantic world, wherein, to quote Steven Saunders Webb, 1676 was the “end of American independence.”29 Also in the Atlantic World, the interpolation of Puritan Massachusetts into British imperial networks30 and the suppression of piracy in the British maritime system31 reveal the immense structuring capacity of nation and state in the world of the eighteenth century. Was there not such an effect in eastern imperial projects emanating from Europe? Viewed from this perspective, the image of the early modern implied by the evocative phrase ‘crossing companies’ and the narratives of individuals contained in these papers is necessarily historically one-sided. For the autonomy implied by the act of traversal was mediated by a contrasting vision of power in its far-flung deployment across oceans, between persons and groups, and via the prison-house of enforced signification through national and racial classification. [End Page 496]

In Conclusion

What is particularly clear from this set of excellent papers, beyond the extraordinary archival work done to produce them, is the refinement in the study of empire by both historians and social scientists that has occurred in recent decades of scholarship. Though there will always be difficulties of language, and debates about the practicality of abstraction for the economy of effort in research, it appears safe to say that both the overarching divide between so-called “nomothetic” social science and “idiographic” historical narrative, and the “turn” from social to cultural history, are being superseded, incorporated and synthesized into a new approach which is less like a frame for a picture and more like a prism for the projection of light. In the study of European empires, we appear to be entering an emergent era of reconstruction in the human sciences.

If this reconstructive impulse has indeed arrived, it is not a moment too soon. What could be more important, in 2020, than to grasp the long arc of imperial expansion in the pursuit of profit, and its interaction with the human tendency to categorize, stereotype, and forge social order out of symbolic constructs? To participate in a multipronged conversation examining what European empires had in common with, and how they differed from, the non-European empires with which they came to be systematically linked? To do so is to grasp the modern, and with it the imperial, in the making of the global maritime world. These papers are eerily compelling, bordering on the charismatic, because they capture in such magnificent detail a world that is foreign to us late moderns, and yet somehow deeply familiar as well. [End Page 497]


1. For a recent intervention, see Julian Go and George Lawson, eds., Global Historical Sociology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

2. Kimberly J. Morgan and Ann Shola Orloff, eds. The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing Political Authority and Social Control (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press: 2017); Julia Adams and Steve Pincus, “Imperial States in the Age of Discovery,” in The Many Hands of the State, 333–48.

3. George Steinmetz, ed. Sociology and Empire: The Imperial Entanglements of a Discipline (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).

4. Michael W Doyle, Empires (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986).

5. Edward W. Said, Orientalism. (New York: Pantheon, 1978).

6. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 1967).

7. Isaac Ariail Reed, “Chains of Power and Their Representation,” Sociological Theory vol. 35 no. 2 (2017): 87–117; Reed, Power in Modernity: Agency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King’s Two Bodies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020).

8. Georg Simmel, “The Stranger” in On Individuality and Social Forms (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971).

9. For a discussion see Reed, Power in Modernity, 21–26.

10. See discussion in Isaac Ariail Reed, “On the very idea of cultural sociology,” in Social Theory Now, eds. Claudio Benzecry, Monika Krause and Isaac Ariail Reed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), p.18–41.

11. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Routledge, 2005).

12. Jeffrey A. Frieden, “International Investment and Colonial Control: A New Interpretation,” International Organization vol. 48 no. 4 (1994): 559–93; Avner Greif, “Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies,” Journal of Political Economy vol. 102 no. 5 (1994): 912–50; Julia Adams, “Principals and Agents, Colonialists and Company Men: The Decay of Colonial Control in the Dutch East Indies,” American Sociological Review vol. 61 no. 1 (1996): 12–28; Matthew Norton, “Principal-Agent Relations and the Decline of the Royal African Company,” Political Power and Social Theory vol. 29 (2015),“Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States and Publics” ed. Emily Erikson: 45–76; Reed, Power in Modernity; Ann M. Carlos, “Principal-agent problems in early trading companies: a tale of two firms,” The American Economic Review vol. 82 no. 2 (1992): 140–145; Andrew Phillips and J.C. Sharman, Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020).

13. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Gerald Sider, “When Parrots Learn to Talk, and Why They Can’t: Domination, Deception, and Self-Deception in Indian-White Relations,” Comparative Studies in Society and History vol. 29 no. 1 (1987): 3–23.

14. Linda Gregerson, “Colonials Write the Nation: Spenser, Milton, and England on the Margins,” in Milton and the Imperial Vision, eds.Balachandra Rajan and Elizabeth Sauer (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1999), 169–90; Ernst Van den Boogaart, “Colour Prejudice and the Yardstick of Civility: The Initial Dutch Confrontation with Black Africans, 1590–1635,” in Racism and Colonialism, ed. Robert Ross. (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), 33–54.

15. Julian Go, American Empire and the Politics of Meaning: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico during US Colonialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); George Steinmetz, The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Quingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

16. Julia Adams, “Principals and Agents, Colonialists and Company Men: The Decay of Colonial Control in the Dutch East Indies,” American Sociological Review vol. 61 no. 1 (1996), 12–28.

17. Julia Adams, The Familial State: Ruling Families and Merchant Capitalism in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005).

18. Isaac Ariail Reed and Julia Adams. "Culture in the Transitions to Modernity: Seven Pillars of a New Research Agenda." Theory and Society 40 no. 3 (2011), 247–272.

19. Philip J. Stern, The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Nicholas Wilson, “A State in Disguise of a Merchant? The English East India Company as a Strategic Action Field, ca. 1763–1834,” Political Power and Social Theory vol. 29 (2015) “Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States and Publics,” ed. Erikson, 257–85.

20. Julia Adams, “Principals and Agents, Colonialists and Company Men: The Decay of Colonial Control in the Dutch East Indies,” American Sociological Review vol. 61 no. 1 (1996):12–28; Emily Erikson, Between Monopoly and Free Trade: The English East India Company, 1600–1757 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014); Felicia Gottmann, Global Trade, Smuggling, and the Making of Economic Liberalism: Asian Textiles in France 1680–1760 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

21. Max Weber, Economy and Society, 2 vols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978).

22. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: Chatto and Windus, 1960).

23. Karen Barkey and Mark von Hagen, eds., After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-building: The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997).

24. Hendrik Spruyt, The Sovereign State and its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994).

25. Catia Antunes, Globalisation in the Early Modern Period: The Economic Relationship between Amsterdam and Lisbon, 1640–1705 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004).

26. Mark Peterson, The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630–1865 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).

27. Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2000 [1939]).

28. Orlando Patterson. Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries. (Washington, DC: Civitas/Counterpoint, 1998); Adams and Pincus. “Imperial States in the Age of Discovery.”

29. Stephen Saunders Webb, 1676: The End of American Independence (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995).

30. Reed, Power in Modernity, 121–125.

31. Norton, “Principal-Agent Relations.”

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