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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

Age of Discovery 2.0, Part 6: Will SpaceX Control Mars Like the British East India Company Controlled the Indian Subcontinent?

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The British East India Company is perhaps the most powerful corporation in history. It was larger than several nations and acted as emperor of the Indian subcontinent, commanding a private army of 260,000 soldiers (twice the size of the British Army at the time). The East India Company controlled trade between Britian and India, China, and Persia, reaping enormous profits, flooding Europe with tea, cotton, and spices. Investors earned returns of 30 percent or more.

With SpaceX building reusable rockets and drawing up plans to colonize Mars, could we be seeing a new British East India Company for the 21st century? The idea isn't that far-fetched. In the terms of service for its Starlink satellite internet, one clause reads the following: "For Services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement."

To answer the question of whether or not space tycoons will be able to control the Moon or Mars is today's guest is Ram Jakhu, an associate professor at McGill University and a researcher on international space law.

In this episode we discuss:

-- How the East India Company’s control over India foreshadows SpaceX’s control over Mars and what happens when a corporation effectively controls a nation (or in this case, a planet)
-- Laws that apply to seasteading and their relevance to space colonies
-- Why some military strategists think space will inevitably be the new warfighting domain, and whether or not this is true
-- The past and future of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, an international treaty that prevents any country from claiming sovereignty over outer space or any celestial body
November 18, 2021
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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