Our research is about the trade in material goods from Asia to Europe over this period, and its impact on Europe’s consumer and industrial cultures. It entails a…
Our research is about the trade in material goods from Asia to Europe over this period, and its impact on Europe’s consumer and industrial cultures. It entails a comparative study of Europe’s East India Companies and the private trade from Asia over the period. The commodities trade was heavily dependent on private trade. The historiography to date has left a blind spot in this area, concentrating instead on corruption and malfeasance. Taking a global history approach we investigate the trade in specific consumer goods in many qualities and varieties that linked merchant communities and stimulated information flows. We set out how private trade functioned alongside and in connection with the various European East India companies; we investigate how this changed over time, how it drew on the Company infrastructure, and how it took the risks and developed new and niche markets for specific Asian commodities that the Companies could not sustain.
The East India Company can lay claim to being the world’s first company whose operations involved systematic organization of multiple countries. It was a pioneer and…
The East India Company can lay claim to being the world’s first company whose operations involved systematic organization of multiple countries. It was a pioneer and innovator: it was one of the first companies to offer limited liability to its shareholders; it laid the foundations of the British empire; it spawned Company Man; it developed its own ‘university’. It was a trader, merchant, mercenary, military force and civil administrator; a pioneer bureaucracy as well as being a lean operation. Using an analytic lens drawn from contemporary discussion on MNCs the article reviews the role of the East India Company over its life and draws parallels with contemporary MNCs.
As the Dutch East India Company expanded its presence in Asia during the seventeenth century, discovery of new products and medical materials was central to its continued…
As the Dutch East India Company expanded its presence in Asia during the seventeenth century, discovery of new products and medical materials was central to its continued success and survival. This new product innovation was difficult to manage directly however because the routine-driven, efficiency-focused organization was ill-suited to research and discovery required for bioprospecting and innovation. Instead, the Company tacitly allowed its employees in Asia to conduct this research on their own. Scientists became free riders, exploiting their administrative authority and corporate resources to further their private research projects. This symbiotic public–private partnership enabled employees to use Company resources to undertake large-scale economic and scientific surveys of its Asian domains. These decentralized, entrepreneurial projects cut across the boundaries of caste, language, religion, and theoretical orientation to assemble new, systematic views of Asian knowledge. While not centrally planned (nor always officially condoned), these surveying efforts had all of the hallmarks of a systematic colonial project to map out the sources of value in foreign colonies.
This chapter explores the implications of patrimonial politics in the Dutch East India Company empire in the context of establishing a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope…
This chapter explores the implications of patrimonial politics in the Dutch East India Company empire in the context of establishing a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa in the mid-seventeenth century. The Cape extended the reach of Company patrimonial networks with elite Company officials circulating throughout the Indian Ocean empire and consolidating their familial ties through marriage both within the colonies and in the United Provinces. These patrimonial networks extended to the Cape as elite Company officials created families locally or married Cape-born women. As the colony grew, the Company created a class of free-burghers some the wealthiest of whom were tied directly into elite Company patrimonial networks. But from the early eighteenth century onwards these elite Company networks came into conflict with the evolving free-burgher patrimonial networks with which they were in direct competition. This paper argues that local patrimonial networks can evolve in a settler colony that challenge the elite patrimonial networks of the imperial elite.
This paper uses the case of the English East India Company to consider the impact of colonialization on patterns of trade. The East India Company went through a commercial and a colonial period in Asia and therefore provides a rare case in which fixed national effects are held constant while the degree of colonialism varies. We use this variation to consider the impact of colonial institutions on the degree of concentration in overseas trade. We find that the onset of colonialism is linked to increasing inequality in the distribution of traffic across ports. This finding is significant because of the relationship between overseas trade and the potential for long-term economic development: the development trajectories of the individual ports were likely to have been affected by these different rates of trade. Our findings also highlight how the negotiation between political and commercial goals in early modern trade and imperialism produced different macro-structural outcomes for global trade patterns.
The present paper aims to focus on the Indian influence in the transfer of, the business of and consumer markets for Indian products, specifically, textiles from producers…
The present paper aims to focus on the Indian influence in the transfer of, the business of and consumer markets for Indian products, specifically, textiles from producers in the South Asian subcontinent to the lands to the east of Bali. This aspect of the influence of Indian products has received some attention in a general but not been sufficiently elucidated with regard to eastern Indonesia.
This paper is based on archival research, as well as secondary data, derived from the published sources on early trade in South Asia and the Indian Ocean world. The study includes data about the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, a Dutch-owned company, and its textile trade history with India and the Indonesian islands with a special focus on Patola textiles. Narratives and accounts provide an understanding of the Patola, including business development and related elite and non-elite consumption.
The paper shows how imported Indian textiles became indigenised in important respects, as shown in legends and myths. A search in the colonial sources demonstrates the role of cloth in gift exchange, alliance brokering and economic network-building in eastern Indonesia, often with important political implications.
The study combines previous research on material culture and textile traditions with archival data from the early colonial period, thus pointing at new ways to understand the socio-economic agency of local societies.
Only mapping the purchase and ownership of trading goods to understand consumption is not enough. One must also regard consumption, both as an expression of taste and desire and as a way to reify a community of people.
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…
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.
This paper focuses on the challenges facing global corporations which operate in a variety of environments with increasing multicultural managements and sophisticated…
This paper focuses on the challenges facing global corporations which operate in a variety of environments with increasing multicultural managements and sophisticated understanding of how information technologies and organizational astuteness promote success. Compares this environment with that of the British East India Company. Suggests that corporations operating in the unpredictable environments at the start of the 21st century, in the absence of predictable government and military assistance, of necessity, will be compelled to rethink their transition strategies. Concludes that corporations will assume greater responsibility for functions – including intelligence acquisition, law enforcement, and military projection – normally provided by traditional nation‐states, following the pattern of the British East India Company.
Ever since its introduction into the vernacular of imperial historiography over a half century ago, the concept of “informal empire” has had a profound influence on how…
Ever since its introduction into the vernacular of imperial historiography over a half century ago, the concept of “informal empire” has had a profound influence on how historians have understood the size and nature of British expansion in the modern world. While offering a crucial corrective to definitions of empire that had focused exclusively on “formal” colonial holdings, such a division has also obscured other frameworks through which we might understand the contours of imperial power, while also underscoring traditional bifurcations between early modern and modern forms of empire. This paper suggests instead an approach that privileges schema that take into account the different institutional and constitutional forms that shaped imperial expansion, and specifically argues that the corporation was one such form, in competition with others including the monarchical and national state. Looking specifically at the early modern East India Company and its modern legacies, particularly George Goldie’s Royal Niger Company, it also suggests that institutional approaches that de-emphasize distinctions between behavioral categories, such as commerce and politics, allow the possibility of excavating deep ideological connections across the history of empire, from its seventeenth-century origins through the era of decolonization.