It’s been a little over three years in the making, but now my book New World, Inc. The Making of America by England’s Merchant Adventurers, is soon to be published by Little, Brown & Co: 20 March 2018. Co-written with John Butman, it tells the untold story of the venture capitalists who founded what would become the United States before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock.
From the 1550s onwards, a constellation of business people went in search of new markets for cloth, England’s primary export. At first, they headed East and dreamed of Cathay—China, with its silks and other luxuries. Eventually, they turned West, and so began a whole new chapter in world history. Over the course of 70-plus years, they organised, promoted and financed hundreds of ventures, until multiple strands of failure stitched into a fabric of success.
Thomas Gresham, George Barne, William Garrard, Humphrey Gilbert, Michael Lok, Thomas Smythe: these, among many others, are the “forgotten founders”. It is their story—the prequel to the Pilgrims—that we tell in New World, Inc. And, in so far as their actions ushered in the modern world, it is our story too.