The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British
Empire in India
Almost since the event itself in 1757, the English East India Company's victory over the
forces of the nawab of Bengal and the territorial acquisitions that followed has been perceived as
the moment when the British Empire in India was born. Examining the Company's political and
intellectual history in the century prior to this supposed transformation, The Company-State
rethinks this narrative and the nature of the early East India Company itself.
In this book, Philip J. Stern reveals the history of a corporation concerned not simply with the
bottom line but also with the science of colonial governance. Stern demonstrates how Company
leadership wrestled with typical early modern problems of political authority, such as the mutual
obligations of subjects and rulers; the relationships among law, economy, and sound civil and
colonial society; the constitution of civic institutions ranging from tax collection and religious
practice to diplomacy and warmaking; and the nature of jurisdiction and sovereignty over people,
territory, and the sea. Their ideas emerged from abstract ideological, historical, and
philosophical principles and from the real-world entanglements of East India Company employees and
governors with a host of allies, rivals, and polyglot populations in their overseas plantations.
As the Company shaped this colonial polity, it also confronted shifting definitions of state and
sovereignty across Eurasia that ultimately laid the groundwork for the Company's incorporation into
the British empire and state through the eighteenth century.
Challenging traditional distinctions between the commercial and imperial eras in British India, as
well as a colonial Atlantic world and a "trading world" of Asia, The Company-State offers a unique
perspective on the fragmented nature of state, sovereignty, and empire in the early modern world.
Available in OSO:
International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)