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In the nineteenth century, the Netherlands and its colonial holdings in Java were the sites of dramatically increased industrialization. Led by a group of "merchant kings" who exemplified gentlemanly capitalism, this ambitious trading project transformed the small, economically moribund Netherlands into a global power. Merchant Kings offers a fascinating interdisciplinary exploration of this episode and reveals not only the distinctive nature of the Dutch state, but the surprising extent to which its nascent corporate innovations were rooted in early welfare initiatives. By placing colony and metropole into a single analytical frame, this book offers a bracing new approach to understanding the development of modern corporations.