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Type of corporation that evolved in the 16th century in Europe. Under a charter granted by the state's sovereign authority, the company had certain rights and obligations which usually gave it a trading monopoly in a specific geographic area or for a specific type of trade item. In the 17th century, chartered companies were encouraged by the English, French, and Dutch governments to assist trade and encourage overseas exploration. Those companies that formed for trade with the Indies (see English East India Company; Dutch East India Company; French East India Company) and the New World (seeHudson's Bay Company) had the most wide-reaching influence. Some chartered companies were also involved in the settlement of colonists (seeLondon Company; Plymouth Company). Eventually the development of the modern limited-liability company or corporation led to a decline in the importance of chartered companies.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on chartered company, visit Britannica.com.