The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India


This book rethinks the nature of the early English East India Company as a form of polity and corporate sovereign well before its supposed transformation into a state and empire in the mid-eighteenth century. It explores the Company's political and legal constitution as an overseas corporation and the political institutions and behaviors that followed from it, from tax collection and public health to war-making and colonial plantation. This book also traces the ideological foundations of those institutions and behaviors, revealing how Company leadership wrestled with typically early modern problems of governance, authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty. the book thus reframes some of the most fundamental narratives in the history of the British Empire, questioning traditional distinctions between public and private bodies, "commercial" and "imperial" eras in British India, a colonial Atlantic and a "trading world" of Asia, European and Asian political cultures, and the English and their European rivals in the East Indies. At its core, the book offers a view of early modern Europe and Asia, and especially the colonial world that connected them, as resting in composite, diffuse, hybrid, and overlapping notions of sovereignty that only later gave way to more modern singular, centralized, and territorially- and nationally-bounded definitions of political community. Given growing questions about the fate of the nation-state and of national borders in an age of globalization, this study offers a perspective on the vitality of non-state and corporate political power perhaps as relevant today as it was in the seventeenth century.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Stern, PJ

Published Date

  • September 22, 2011

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 320

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780195393736

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393736.001.0001

Citation Source

  • Scopus