The Company's Expanding Universe: 1709-48
Over the forty years or so after the union of the two East India Companies in 1709, growth, development and consolidation became the watchwords of the eastern enterprise. In modern terms, the performance of the united Company in the first half of the eighteenth century represented a shareholders' bonanza of constant dividends, unshakeable investor confidence and stocks of gilt-edged security. In the previous century the Company had triumphed over formidable critics in securing its monopoly privileges in the eastern trade, and the lessons learned during these struggles enabled its administrators to plot an ambitious course of trade expansion and increased wealth. Thanks to the splendid work of Lucy Sutherland ( 1952) that part of the story relating to the Company's experience in British history during this period is well known and has been assimilated by scholars presenting surveys of the age. Yet it would be wrong to say that the picture of the Company's history is by any means complete. A great deal of work has been done since the 1950s on other aspects of the East India Company's activities, both at home and abroad, that had previously been overlooked. And it is this output that needs to be incorporated not only into the retelling of the Company's particular story but also to the broader dynamic of British trade and territorial expansion overseas in the eighteenth century.
A primary focus of this chapter will therefore be on what might be termed the Asian end of the East India Company's operations. In taking this route it is intended to reveal those events and causations in the Anglo-Indian past that have given rise to some very lively historiographical debates about the Company over the last generation.