Book of the Day: The Worlds of the East India Company

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I am not sure why I have not featured The Worlds of the East India Company sooner. It is a book I have used for reference often whist writing Thomas Bowrey’s biography. Edited jointly by H V Bowen, Margarette Lincoln and Nigel Rigby the book is a series of fourteen interdisciplinary essays published to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the East India Company in 2002. This list of contributors is impressive and the book does not disappoint.

The various essays consider a wide range of subjects from the beginnings of the Company to its lasting legacy with detailed focus on some of its consequences such as Lascars in London and it influence on art. I have found five of the essays particularly useful.

Om Prakash started off with The East India Company and Indian while Femme Gaastra wrote about War, Competition and Collaboration: Relations Between the English and Dutch East India Companies in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The rivalry between the English, and later British, and the Dutch in the East Indies was an important element of shaping European involvement in the East Indies in which the independence of traders such as Thomas was an important factor.

Shompa Lahiri’s contribution was Contested Relations: The East-India Company and Lascars in London. The country ships, such as Thomas’, relied on lascars for their crews. For example, when he was attacked by Malabar pirates in 1680, there were four Europeans on board (including a Portuguese boy) but the remaining crew were lascars.

Bruce P Lenman considered The East India Company and the Trade in Non-Metallic Precious Materials from Sir Thomas Roe to Diamond Pitt. It was these non-metallic precious materials such diamonds and musk that Thomas used to transfer much of his wealth home at the end of his nineteen years in the East.

Finally, P J Marshall wrote the Afterword: The Legacies of Two Hundred Years of Contact. There is something for everyone interesting in the East Indies in this book.

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