When Muslim Turks conquered the land trade routes from Europe to Asia, Europeans attempted to find sea routes. These attempts were financed either by kings and wealthy private individuals, or through the new invention of “companies.”
In Medieval Europe, there were tradesmen, partnerships and guilds, but “companies” were virtually non-existent as the paying and receiving of interest was considered the sin of usury.
With the Protestant Reformation also came the rise of “joint stock” companies. Joint stock companies were granted trading monopolies by royal charters from monarchs. Common people, such as carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers, masons, etc., could invest in and receive profits from them.
In 1551, the “Company of Merchant Adventurers to New Lands” attempted to find a northeast sea route from England over the top of Russia to reach China, India and Indonesia’s Spice Islands. They got as far as northern Russia when they were trapped by ice.