Although Thomas Bowrey was never employed by the East India Company, he lived his live in the Company’s shadow and it was essential that I understood it before I started writing his biography. So many of the histories of the Company were written years ago and are extremely dry reading. Breaking this mould Anthony Farrington, an expert in the India Office Records at the British Library, has written a readable and beautifully illustrated book.
Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia 1600-1834 was written as a companion to an exhibition with the same name at the British Library in 2002. It is an exhibition that I wish I had seen. The book explores all aspects of the East India Company from its founding in 1600 to the influence on Britain of the Asian trade. Despite being a slim volume. the range of the book is demonstrated by chapters on Bantam, spices, textiles, the Company factories and the expansion into China before Farrington explores how the East Indies trade morphed into the British Empire long after Thomas’ time.
The Company may have almost disappeared from the public consciousness but it was the foundation of modern global economy. This book helps explain how we got to where we are today and deserves a wider audience than it probably has.