East India Company Ships, c1685

In its heyday, the East India Company was a force to be reckoned with in its own right. These ships give a glimpse of the awesome power available to what was supposed to be a merchant company carrying products to and from Asia. Initially the 80 guns on these merchantmen were meant to defend the ships from unwanted competitors and pirates. However, it would not take long for the guns to be used in offensive manners as well - especially to intimidate non-European powers who could not summon up similary technology and firepower. You can clearly see the East India Company flags flying on both of these ships.

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by Stephen Luscombe