The Holder of the World

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What are some similarities and differences in the people and culture of the British colony in Salem in New England and that of the British colony in Fort Sebastian on the Coromandel Coast of India?

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English settlements on the Coromandel coast and in Massachusetts were similar in their maritime orientation, but the Puritanism that was so fundamental to Salem life was a very significant difference.

One similarity between the English colonial community at Salem and the one on the Coromandel coast (the eastern coast) of the Indian subcontinent is that both depended (flourished, even) on sea trade. Salem was an important port town throughout the colonial era, and, in fact, its merchants traded with British settlements in India in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The Coromandel colonies were also set up for mercantile purposes, by the English East India Company (EIC) that held a royal monopoly on trade with the "Indies" for centuries. The Coromandel coast was a depot for spices, fabrics, timber, and many other materials in high demand back in England. It served as an entrepĂ´t for English manufactured goods. Likewise, Salem's merchants shipped such commodities as whale oil and timber to the mother country and received imports from English manufacturers.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that Salem, as part of the Massachusetts colony, was founded as a Puritan haven. Its society was fundamentally based on Puritan beliefs, and it had many of the features of Puritan towns throughout New England, including town meetings and publicly-appointed ministers. England's colonies in the Indian subcontinent lacked this religious orientation. As important, the Coromandel colonies were not, at least initially, home to large populations of English settlers. Rather, they were occupied by merchants, bureaucrats, and employees, including military officials, of the EIC.

Still, there was perhaps a more fundamental similarity between the two settlements: they were both established by taking land, or at least resources, from the indigenous inhabitants of New England and the Coromandel coast.

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