I've never mined the subject deeply, but there are some examples which come to mind -
> The ships of the great Portguese and Dutch trading expeditions that rounded the Cape of Good Hope and ventured up to East Africa, India and Asia were heavily armed. My suspicion is that any such expedition which involved well-connected investors or support from the crown/government would be granted permission to arm as a matter ofcourse.
> Many merchant ships in the 17th century were subject to call-up for service with the navy in time of war (Dutch and English come to mind) in the line-of-battle. So there was clearly an agreed arrangement for them to be armed in time of war.
> Ships of the Honorable East India Company were armed as a general rule for protection against pirates and marauders in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal where they plied their trade. These ships were very large for merchantmen - about the size of a 64-gun ship (1400t BM) and armed on the level of a 12-lbr (or sometimes 18-lbr frigate.
> Spanish galleons trading between Spain and the New World (especially in connection with the vast quantities of precious metals and jewel stones coming out of the New World destined for Spain) were always heavily armed for self-protection against piratical attacks in the waters of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
Hope this helps ...
From the battle of Lepanto to the mid-19th century.
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