A Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company

A Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company

by Rupali Mishra


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At the height of its power around 1800, the English East India Company controlled half of the world’s trade and deployed a vast network of political influencers at home and abroad. Yet the story of the Company’s beginnings in the early seventeenth century has remained largely untold. Rupali Mishra’s account of the East India Company’s formative years sheds new light on one of the most powerful corporations in the history of the world.

From its birth in 1600, the East India Company lay at the heart of English political and economic life. The Company’s fortunes were determined by the leading figures of the Stuart era, from the monarch and his privy counselors to an extended cast of eminent courtiers and powerful merchants. Drawing on a host of overlooked and underutilized sources, Mishra reconstructs the inner life of the Company, laying bare the era’s fierce struggles to define the difference between public and private interests and the use and abuse of power. Unlike traditional accounts, which portray the Company as a private entity that came to assume the powers of a state, Mishra’s history makes clear that, from its inception, the East India Company was embedded within—and inseparable from—the state.

A Business of State illuminates how the East India Company quickly came to inhabit such a unique role in England’s commercial and political ambitions. It also offers critical insights into the rise of the early modern English state and the expansion and development of its nascent empire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674984561
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/07/2018
Series: Harvard Historical Studies , #188
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Rupali Mishra is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Auburn University.

Table of Contents

Note on Spelling, Dates, and Sources vii

Introduction 1

Part 1 Governing The Company

1 The Patent and the Formation of the Company 17

2 Constituting Authority: The Court of Committees and the Generality 35

3 Wooing Adventurers: Membership and Useful Men 61

4 Division within the Company: The Problem of Faction and Representation 84

5 Merchants, Trading Companies, and Public Appeal 117

Part 2 The Company and the State

6 The Changing Patent: Negotiating Privileges between Company and Regime 149

7 "What His Men Have Done Abroad": Martial Engagements and the Company 178

8 The Dutch East India Company and Amboyna; Crisis and Response in the Company 209

9 Taking Stock and Looking Forward: The Difficulties of the Late 1620s 242

10 Crown Manipulations of the East Indies Trade: Dismantling the Company in the 1630s 272

Conclusion 302

Abbreviations 317

Notes 319

Manuscript and Archival Sources 395

Acknowledgments 399

Index 403

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