2023-24 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow



Reconstituting Empire: Corporation Politics and the Rise of the English State, 1640-1720



This project seeks to explain the decline in autonomy of self-governing chartered corporations and the simultaneous rise in the power of the English central government from 1640-1720. It looks at three kinds of corporation which were each essential to the functioning of the early modern English imperial state: (1) chartered municipalities, which administered England’s towns; (2) corporate colonies which undertook much of the first phase of English imperial expansion; (3) joint stock trading companies, which managed much of England’s overseas trade. I argue that the decline of corporate autonomy and the rise of the English state was the result of ideological projects carried on from the center, as well as conflicts between corporations and their subjects carried out on the periphery. Over the period 1640-1720, generations of English state builders envisioned new projects for the government, which frequently required increasing the center’s capacity to act in corporate peripheries. Many “corporate subjects,” far from opposing central intervention, actively sought such intervention to vindicate their interests and protect their liberties from corporate usurpations. These combined forces from the center and periphery conspired to erode the peripheral autonomy of all three kinds of corporation and to extend the power of the central government, transforming the constitution of the English imperial state. 


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Boone J. Ayala is a PhD student in the department of History at the University of Chicago. Born and raised in the shadow of the Charter Oak in Norwalk, Connecticut, he has long been interested in early modern England and its empire. His dissertation focuses on the relationship between political conflict and state formation in England’s empire. He previously received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Chicago. He lives in Chicago with his partner, Shanna, and their many plants. 


Read more at their department profile: https://history.uchicago.edu/directory/boone-ayala