London's Lost Global Giant
Imagine if Google had a standing army of 200,000 troops; if it could muster battleships to match the Royal Navy; if it governed large swathes of India; and if it controlled more than half the world's shipping. Then Google might be something like the East India Company.
The EIC was the biggest company in the world, but fizzled out of existence in the 1830s. It would be unfair to say that its memory has slipped into obscurity, but nor does it figure as prominently in the popular imagination as would befit its once mighty stature.
This new book by Roger Williams offers a potted history of the East India Company, with a specific focus on its London links. The capital contains plenty of leftovers from the EIC, from Tipu's Tiger in the V&A to East India DLR station. If you've ever spent a lunch hour in the oppressive Devonshire Square complex, then you're dining in the Company's former warehouses.
There are plenty of histories of the East India Company. This book sets itself apart by blending the past and the present in a satisfying and intelligent way. For every historical nugget, the author provides a tasty dipping sauce in the form of a painting, exhibit or building we might still view in London.
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Last Updated 19 August 2015