A Wikipedia list suggests that the earliest deemed English chartered trade monopoly organization was The Company of Merchant Adventurers of London in 1407 and presumably most, if not nearly all, became defunct by the 20th century. Between that period, there were hundreds if not thousands of various monopoly charters granted by the English and Scottish crowns.

Because it's easy to profit with legal monopoly over a product with heavy demand, these companies should have financially thrived. Save for theft and other corruption, which were not uncommon, what were the primary causes of the monopoly charters to fail or otherwise lose their chartered monopolies?

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    Not all certainly: The Governor and Company of Adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay continues to thrive in Canada as The Hudson's Bay Company; or to its most loyal clientele just "The Bay", more than 435 years after being chartered: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson%27s_Bay_Company Jul 12, 2016 at 22:17
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    @PieterGeerkens Yes, The Hudson Bay Company continues in restructured form as does the Bank of England, which was publicly traded at its start and I believe still has a single share of ordinary stock outstanding. I'm looking for root causes of failure for those enterprises less lucky.
    – Catalyx
    Jul 12, 2016 at 23:51
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    – T.E.D.
    Oct 12, 2016 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


The question here is how did those chartered companies become defunct.

While there were some spectacular failures like the South Sea Bubble - most companies would have evolved, split, consolidated, and so on as markets and legislation shifted (nationalisation, anti-monopoly, etc)...

Meaning, there are probably many companies that are descendant of those originals.

You mention Company of Merchant Adventurers of London - which had it's monopoly taken away after the Glorious Revolution, but continued successfully for at least 200 years after that.

  • Was there a specific common thread(s) as a source of their demise? I listed corruption since many of the associates and officers of these companies sought their personal riches using their employers' resources. Also, what was the cause of many of these companies losing their monopolies? If loss of political favor, then how was that loss justified by the crown or politicians?
    – Catalyx
    Jul 13, 2016 at 18:12
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    there were probably as many causes of demise and evolution as there were companies - as for loss of favour - the crown or government probably worried about the power held be these monopolies - other times, like the Glorious Revolution, it was because of a significant shift in who was in charge (and they probably wanted to help out friends). But, you're not going to find a single common cause, because you're talking about hundreds of companies over hundreds of years.
    – user13123
    Jul 13, 2016 at 23:25

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