On this day:
1596 – The Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz discovers the Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen.
Svalbard (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈsʋɑ(ː)lbɑː]; formerly known by its Dutch name Spitsbergen) is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya.
Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area administered by a governor appointed by the Norwegian government. Since 2002, Svalbard’s main settlement, Longyearbyen, has had an elected local government, somewhat similar to mainland municipalities. Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers.
The islands were first taken into use as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway. They also established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol remain the only mining companies in place. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, with the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault playing critical roles. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve inter-community transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear serves as the main gateway.
The archipelago features an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude. The flora take advantage of the long period of midnight sun to compensate for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also features polar bears, reindeer, the Arctic fox, and certain marine mammals. Seven national parks and twenty-three nature reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched, yet fragile, natural environment. Approximately 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords.
Svalbard and Jan Mayen are collectively assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code “SJ”. Both areas are administered by Norway, though they are separated by a distance of over 950 kilometres (510 nautical miles) and have very different administrative structures.
Mumtaz Mahal ([mumˈt̪aːz mɛˈɦɛl]; meaning “the elect of the palace”; born Arjumand Banu) (27 April 1593 – 17 June 1631) was Empress consort of the Mughal Empire from 19 January 1628 to 17 June 1631 and was the chief consort of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Taj Mahal in Agra, often cited as one of the Wonders of the World, was commissioned by her husband to act as her final resting place.
Mumtaz Mahal was born Arjumand Banu Begum in Agra to a family of Persian nobility. She was the daughter of Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan, a wealthy Persian noble who held high office in the empire, and the niece of Nur Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir and the power behind the emperor. She was married at the age of 19 on 30 April 1612 to Prince Khurram, later known by his regnal name, Shah Jahan, who conferred upon her the title “Mumtaz Mahal”. Although betrothed to Shah Jahan since 1607, she ultimately became his second wife in 1612. Mumtaz bore her husband fourteen children, including Jahanara Begum (Shah Jahan’s favorite daughter), and the Crown prince Dara Shikoh, the heir-apparent, anointed by his father, who temporarily succeeded him, until deposed by Mumtaz Mahal’s sixth child, Aurangzeb, who ultimately succeeded his father as the sixth Mughal emperor.
Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 in Burhanpur, Deccan (present-day Madhya Pradesh), during the birth of her fourteenth child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum. Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built as a mausoleum for her, which is considered to be a monument of “undying love”.
Born on this day:
1571 – Thomas Mun, English writer on economics (d. 1641)
Sir Thomas Mun (17 June 1571 – 21 July 1641) was an English writer on economics and is often referred to as the last of the early mercantilists. Most notably, he is known for serving as the director of the East India Company. Due to his strong belief in the state and his prior experience as a merchant, Mun took on a prominent role during the economic depression which began in 1620. To defend the East India Company and to regain England’s economic stability, Mun published A Discourse of Trade from England unto the East-Indies.
Through mercantilist principles, Mun created a proposed set of “means to enrich a kingdom” which centred on ensuring that exports exceeded imports. In other words, Mun advocated for achieving a positive balance of trade which would cause England’s wealth to steadily increase. Thomas Mun is also widely considered to be a sophisticated thinker and has become a hugely important part of the history of economic theory.
Life and background
Thomas Mun was born in June 1571. He was the third child of a substantial London family based in the vicinity of St Andrew Hubbard, where he was baptised on 17 June 1571. His father, John Mun, and his stepfather both earned their livings as mercers. His grandfather, also named John Mun, was provost of moneyers in the Royal Mint of England. Through his family ties It can be assumed that Thomas gained insight into matters pertaining to currency and to the economy as a whole. At the age of forty-one, Thomas married Ursula Malcott and together they had three children: John, Ann and Mary. They chose the parish of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate as their home.
Nothing is known about his education, but Thomas’s own career as a merchant started around 1596 where he was a member of the Mercers’ company and engaged in Mediterranean trade, especially with Italy and the Middle East. He was successful as a practising merchant and was able to amass a large fortune. In 1615, due to his prosperity, Mun was elected as the director of the East India Company and in 1622 was appointed as a member of the standing commission on trade. The rest of his professional career was spent advocating for and promoting the East India Company’s interests.
Director of the East India Company
In conjunction with the British Crown, The East India Company was a trading business established to colonise new lands and to pursue trade with the East Indies. In 1615 Mun was elected as the director of the company and set out to ensure that it was operating at full capacity. To achieve this meant that wealth would be maximised and exports would be increased. In 1620, during the onset of the depression, Mun’s role within the economy was greatly enhanced. He was forced to not only defend the East India Company and its practices, but also aid the government in correcting the economy.
The trade crisis that eventually led to the depression stemmed from two separate events. First, through the East India Company, England was importing from India at a much higher rate than it was exporting. This negative balance of trade, or trade deficit, meant that England was sending out more money than it was bringing in, a clear detriment to the economy. Second, to pay for all of their imports, England sent precious metals to India. As the only real determinant of affluence in the 1600s, due to the fact that paper money was not yet in use in Northern Europe, exporting precious metals was generally unheard of. For the East India Company, however, the exportation restrictions on bullion were reduced. Due to this stipulation, the exchange of silver for luxuries brought a lot of negative attention to the East India Company; citizens believed that it was a large factor in the economic downturn. Mun was thus put forward as a representative of the enterprise. His task was to clear the name of his company while also convincing his clients, and the general public, that the actions taken were ultimately for the best. He conveyed his views through his first published book, A Discourse of Trade from England Unto the East Indies.
According to Mun, foreign trade was the best way to increase the wealth of a nation. More specifically, it was necessary for exports to exceed imports. All other corrective economic policies were secondary. As he says in England’s Treasure by Foreign Trade, we must “sell more to strangers yearly than we consume of theirs in value.” To achieve this positive balance of trade, Mun laid out a list of criterion which he urged England to follow
Imported goods that can be produced domestically should be banned.
Reduce luxurious imported goods by making Englishmen have a taste for English goods.
Reduce export duties on goods produced domestically from foreign markets.
If no alternatives are available to its neighbours, England should charge more money for its exports.
Cultivate wasteland for higher production and to reduce the amount of imports needed from abroad.
Shipping should be completed solely on English vessels.
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