The honourable company : a history of the English East India Company

by John Keay

Paper Book, 1991




New York : Toronto : Macmillan Publishing Co ; Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1994, c1991.


A history of the company from its beginnings as an association of Elizabethan tradesmen to its becoming one of the most powerful forces in the world.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jcvogan1
A history of the East India Company and how it was at the forefront of Britain's conquest of India and was then taken over by the government.
LibraryThing member RajivC
This is a marvellous book, detailing the history of a company that can be said to have changed world history. As John Keay has remarked, without the Honourable Company, there probably would have been no British Raj.

It is indeed a complex history, and he does a remarkable job in deftly pulling all
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the strings together to create a coherent story.

It is indeed amazing that a group of traders made their way into Asia, set up trading stations, and slowly started to create strong bases for themselves. From these stations, they went on to create armies to protect their bases, and then used these armies to gain power.

There is a lot of glory here, a lot of intrigue, a lot of power play. While we can criticise the East India Company, in retrospect, there can be no doubt that they were a bunch of pioneering men who came to Asia to create bastions of trade and power.

The breakup was inevitable, and John Keay clealy writes about how the mandate that the company received was slowly reduced and eventually taken away, and that the territories soon became a part of the Raj.

A brilliant story, well written.
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LibraryThing member Dilip-Kumar
A magnificent account of the company everybody loves to hate. The story is told mostly from the British protagonists' point of view, but a fresh appraisal is attempted of such icons as Robert Clive or Hastings. This account gives the lie to the oft-repeated saw that the British fell into Empire in
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a fit of absent-mindedness: on the contrary, it involved much effort and sacrifice, although there is also a large element of individual adventurers taking risks and initiatives not necessarily planned in board-rooms or approved in advance. The author starts with the thesis that the East India Company was as much about the Far East as South Asia, but the developments in East and Southeast Asia are relegated to the final chapters, giving a somewhat breathless and busy ending to this chronicle of some 200 years that changed India and the world.
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