ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Different Reading of the Company

The East India Company: The World's Most Powerful Corporation by Tirthankar Roy (Allen Lane, published in India by Penguin Books: New Delhi), 2012; pp xxviii + 237, Rs 399, hardcover.

How do you write the history of a company that started life with the brand new concept of a joint stock company and at various other points in its life cycle inspired the Ameri­can War of Independence (yes, the tea dumped in the Boston harbor belonged to the company and the star and stripes is a near replica of the East India Company’s flag), experimented with slave trade in Africa, ruled over millions of people in Asia, destroyed several rivals in Europe while controlling 50% of world trade, owning the largest standing army and the biggest navy?

Possibly the only way to study this first global phenomenon is by wisely imposing strict geographical boundaries around this. This is exactly what ­Tirthankar Roy, one of the most widely read economic historians of south Asia in recent years, does in his lucidly written most recent monograph on the East ­India Company.

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