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Beyond its obvious influence in areas like trade and commerce, the East India Company also served as a point of cultural contact between Western Europeans, South Asians, and East Asians. Quintessentially British practices such as tea drinking were made possible by East India Company trade. The products and cultural practices traveling back and forth on East India Company ships from one continent to another also reconfigured the way societies around the globe viewed sexuality, gender, class, and labor. On a much darker level, the East India Company fueled white supremacy and European concepts of Orientalism (See Said, Orientalism).
In the same vein, as a joint stock company, the East India Company left behind meticulous documentation of its economic exchanges and policies. Descriptions of military endeavors, encounters with indigenous peoples, and codes of conduct for employees also give contemporary researchers insight into the cultural perspectives of those who governed the company. Moreover, the East India Company’s policies and personnel were the subject of frequent commentaries in newspapers, parliamentary debates, and other publicly available sources. Historians have used these detailed records to reconstruct both the day-to-day operations and the larger historical arc of the company. In addition, the sources created by the East India Company provide insight into the far less well-documented histories of the people the East India Company encountered, traded with, and ultimately conquered.
One of the major reasons that the East India Company remains the subject of intense interest is that the consequences of its influence remain visible in India, Britain, and other parts of the world to this day. While the British Crown eventually replaced the East India Company as the governing authority of India, the systems of production they had established remained intact. More than half a century after India declared independence from the British Empire, the economic and cultural effects of this colonial system of production remained apparent. The disparities in wealth and power between the global North and the global South may not stem from the East India Company alone, but the company played an indisputable role in imperial process.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By J. C. Ryan on 04-08-17
I was seeking a basic understanding of the history of the East India Company. Unfortunately the narration sounded like it was computer generated. On the plus side, the book is short and I got the base information I was looking for without the narrator putting me to sleep.