Company, state, and empire: Governance and regulatory frameworks in Asia

Book Section

From the beginnings of organised English contact with Asia at the dawn of the venteenth century until the rapid expansion of British territorial power in India in the later eighteenth century, the responsibility for governing British interests, people, commerce, places, and resources in the east was almost exclusively the work neither of the state nor its agencies, but of a corporation: the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading to the East Indies. As a result, early Company ‘governance’, unlike its European, Atlantic, and Asian contemporaries, has tended to be approached most frequently as a problem of business not political history, concerned largely with the Company’s techniques of regulating its employees and articulated as the universal quandary of multinationals to regulate an ‘employment relationship’ between ‘principals’ (Company leadership in London) and ‘agents’ (its employees, or ‘servants’, in Asia) rather than the institutions and ideologies that condition political authority, obedience, coercion, and negotiation. According to this logic, only after the battle of Plassey (1757) and the assumption of the office of diwan, revenue collector and administrator, in Bengal (1765) did the Company’s ‘main executive and administrative duties’ shift to ‘political matters’: that is, from administering over its own servants to governing over South Asians.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Stern, PJ

Published Date

  • January 1, 2012

Book Title

  • Britain's Oceanic Empire: Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds, c. 1550-1850

Start / End Page

  • 130 - 150

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107020146

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/CBO9781139096744.010

Citation Source

  • Scopus