Name of East India Company continues to evoke instant recall in India: Nick Robins

While the East India Company has more or less faded from public memory on its British home soil, it is one of the names that continue to evoke instant recall in India, historian-author Nick Robins said on Monday.

Participating in a discussion of his book, ‘The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational,' hosted by the Association of British Scholars (ABS), Mr. Robins said this “gulf in memory” between Britain and India was one of the prompts for writing the book.

Powerful outpost

Mr. Robin's book traces the rise and fall of one of the world's most famous companies; from the time it established trading presence on Indian shores in 1600 to the period when it virtually became the Empire's powerful outpost that virtually ruled the country and the phase when it fell on bad days leading to eventual dissolution.

For the author, the company's legacy also provides compelling lessons on how to ensure the accountability of today's global business.

Three periods

According to Mr. Robin, the company's long engagement with India could be sectioned into three periods — 1600-1750 when it had purely trading interest, 1750-1800 when it had a hybrid mercantile-military mandate and 1800-1858 when the company was reduced to an administrative role and eventually went into terminal decline due to a variety of factors.

Mr. Robins demonstrated how the fortunes of the joint stock company could be precisely mapped by linking historical events with the share prices — from the surge that followed Robert Clive's victorious Battle of Plassey (1757) to price crash after the Sepoy Mutiny (1857).

Pradipta K. Mohapatra, Chairman, Executive and Business Coaching Foundation, moderated the discussion.

P.M. Belliappa, member, ABS executive committee, participated.

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