The East India Company, 1600-1857 - HI6066

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The English East India Company (founded 1600) is the most famous corporation in world history. Its remarkable geographical expanse as a business connecting the British Isles with the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans makes it a protagonist in histories of globalisation. But the company's impressive longevity from the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I to the reign of Queen Victoria make the Company a common institutional thread whose changing character in each period can illuminate the broader story of English history as well as the separate histories of the territories the Company engaged with. Historians have debated what the Company represented. The Company did so much to stimulate global trade, but was it a private business in the modern sense? It ruled British territory on behalf of the British state, but was it a state in its own right? This course encourages participants to engage with these (and other) large and important questions and will digest the high quality literature that the company has rightly attracted. But the core of this class will be the challenge and joy of digesting the remarkable corpus of documents and writings that the Company issued or provoked including all of the most important political economists from the early seventeenth century to the late nineteenth: from Thomas Mun through Edmund Burke to James and John Stuart Mill. Participants will read and reflect upon a wide variety of materials from translated Persian documents trying to make sense of the Company's operations, from the correspondence of Company factors in Japan, to the company's charters, board room minutes, pamphlets, and histories as well as its art and architecture in the cities it did so much to develop. Participants will therefore receive a broad understanding of seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century British, Indian, and global history; they will also develop expertise in the following sub-fields: cultural, art, political, parliamentary, global, economic, constitutional, and business history.


Contact hours

The module will be taught by three hour-long weekly seminars.

Method of assessment

This 60-credit module will be assessed with a 60:40 exam:coursework balance.

The coursework assessments will consist of the following:

• 1,500 word commentary on one of the primary documents (15% of the coursework component) stipulated in the course bibliography
• 5,000 word critical historiographical review engaging with one of the identified historiographical disputes structured into the course (40% of the coursework component)
• 4,000 word research essay (20% of the coursework component) focusing on a group of documents and their utility for the broader historiographical debates about the best ways to interpret the Company's history.

There will be two 2-hour written exams (each representing 50% of the exam component). One will compel students to answer two historiographical questions and the other will ask students to extrapolate from three primary sources.

Indicative reading

BALACHANDRAN, A. (2008) Of Corporations and Caste Heads: Urban Rule in Company Madras, 1640-1720. Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History [Online] Project Muse (9, no. 2). DOI: 10.1353/cch0.0014 Available from: [Accessed 16th December 2015].
FERRIER, R. W. (1973) The Armenians and the East India Company in Persia in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries. The Economic History Review (26, no. 1). p. 38-62.

HASAN, F. (1992) Indigenous Cooperation and the Birth of a Colonial City: Calcutta, c. 1698-1750. Modern Asian Studies (26, no. 1). p. 65-82.

MITTER, P. (1986) The Early British Port Cities of India: Their Planning and Architecture Circa 1640-1757. The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (45, no. 2). p. 96-114.

SHERMAN, A. (1976) Pressure from Leadenhall: The East India Company Lobby, 1660-1678. Business History Review (50, no. 3). p. 329-355.

STERN, P. J. (2008) A Politie of Civill & Military Power': Political Thought and the late Seventeenth-Century Foundations of the East India Company-State. Journal of British Studies (47, no. 2). p. 253-283.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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