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Overseas management in the English East India Company: a study of the Tonkin factory (1672-1697)

Ngoc Dung Tran (Department of History, Hanoi National University of Education, Hanoi, Vietnam and Institute of International Relations, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Hanoi, Vietnam)
Phuong Hoa Dinh (School of Business Administration, University of Economics and Business, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam)
Dinh Hoang Uyen Nguyen (School of Accounting, University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Van Vinh Nguyen (National Foundation for Science and Technology Development, Ministry of Science and Technology, Hanoi, Vietnam)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 12 July 2022

Issue publication date: 6 April 2023

112

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate “corporate governance” of the English East India Company (EIC) in the late 17th century through a case study of the Tonkin factory (1672–1697).

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws upon British primary materials relating to the Tonkin factory to examine and analyze the EIC’s style of management in Tonkin (Vietnam) and Bantam (Java). Qualitative and comparative methods are applied to the analysis of reports, records and letters written by EIC staff.

Findings

The paper finds that the EIC faced principal-agent problems as it had difficulties administering its distant agents and subsidiaries in the 17th century. London was strategically weakened, both by the limiting power of regional headquarters and by its use of experienced factors. Before 1682, London failed to temper the Bantam Council’s influence, and there were serious internal conflicts and power struggles between English Tonkin employees seeking to improve their positions. After 1686, London successfully forced Madras to adopt a noninterventionist stance in Tonkin’s business, but it faced the problem of “adverse selection.”

Originality/value

This paper provides evidence from the Tonkin factory (1672–1697) to show the EIC’s governance in the perspective of the agency theory.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Erratum: It has come to the attention of the publisher that the article, Tran, N.D., Dinh, P.H., Nguyen, D.H.U. and Nguyen, V.V. (2023), “Overseas management in the English East India Company: a study of the Tonkin factory (1672-1697)”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 305-324. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-04-2022-0010, omitted the Reference data including the Additional Resources section in the HTML display. This error was introduced in the typesetting process and has now been corrected in the online version. The publisher sincerely apologises for this error and for any inconvenience caused.

This research is funded by the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees for their criticism and valuable suggestions; and Editorial Team of Journal of Management History, especially Professor Bradley Bowden, for their encouragement and kind support during the process to submit this paper. The authors also wish to thank Dr James McNally for his thoughtful support in editing this article.

Citation

Tran, N.D., Dinh, P.H., Nguyen, D.H.U. and Nguyen, V.V. (2023), "Overseas management in the English East India Company: a study of the Tonkin factory (1672-1697)", Journal of Management History, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 305-324. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-04-2022-0010

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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