The East India Company: A History

Synopsis

"This is the first short history of the East India Company - the trading company that became an imperial power - to be designed for student and academic use. It covers the Company's entire history from its foundation through to its demise after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, paying particular attention to the Company's important but often neglected early years. An important contribution to both Anglo-Indian and imperial historiography, it also reflects the very lively state of scholarship in both fields today. The East India Company received its charter from parliament in 1600 for the monopoly of trade in the eastern hemisphere. Unable to compete with the Dutch in the East Indies themselves, the Company soon came to concentrate its energies on trade with India. Its growing regional influence - mercantile, political and military - led to clashes with the French, who had expansionist ambitions of their own. The campaigns of 1745-61, culminating in Clive's spectacular victories, made the Company the dominant power in India. It remained in essential control of the subcontinent until the upheaval of the Mutiny, in the aftermath of which the Crown assumed direct government of India in 1858. The crucial role that the East India Company played in the development of British overseas expansion is fully surveyed here by Philip Lawson; but he breaks new ground in also analysing the impact that the Company's developing role had on Britain itself. He throws new light on the global imperatives affecting policy decisions in London, as well as the diplomatic complexities under which the Company operated in India. He also shows that the dynamic by which the Company acquired its imperial role was not always in the interests of the state, the Company, India or the East Indies: the progress, profitability and even the viability of the Company were frequently compromised by destructive internal forces, like political corruption and militarism, long before its formal demise. Philip Lawson argues that the East India Company's history can no longer be seen as somehow detached from the mainstream history of Britain itself, which was open to, and influenced by, imperial as well as domestic considerations throughout these years. Contemporaries did not view the Company's world at home and abroad as separate spheres: indeed, the Company's history is inextricably bound up with Britain's own rise from a backward European state to a global imperial power. The story of the Company can thus be understood only within the context of the broader themes in Britain's past - and that is how Philip Lawson presents it in this vigorous and impressive study." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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