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“A State in Disguise of a Merchant?” The English East India Company as a Strategic Action Field, ca. 1763–1834

Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics

ISBN: 978-1-78560-093-7, eISBN: 978-1-78560-092-0

Publication date: 10 August 2015

Abstract

This paper considers the East India Company’s emergence as a territorial power from the 1760s until the revocation of most of its commercial functions in 1834. While this period has been a key episode for historians of the British Empire and of South Asia, social scientists have struggled with the Company’s ambiguous nature. In this paper, I propose that a profitable way to grasp the Company’s transformation is to consider it as a global strategic action field. This perspective clarifies two key processes in the Company’s transition: the enlargement of its territorial possessions; and the increased exposure of its patrimonial network to intervention from British metropolitan politics. To further suggest the utility of this analytic perspective, I synthesize evidence from various sources, including data concerning the East India Court of Directors and the career histories of Company servants in two of its key administrative regions, Bengal and Madras, during this period of transition.

Keywords

Citation

Wilson, N.H. (2015), "“A State in Disguise of a Merchant?” The English East India Company as a Strategic Action Field, ca. 1763–1834", Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 257-285. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0198-871920150000029011

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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