- Copertina rigida: 218 pagine
- Editore: Pluto Pr (11 luglio 2006)
- Lingua: Inglese
- ISBN-10: 0745325246
- ISBN-13: 978-0745325248
- Peso di spedizione: 422 g
- Visualizza indice completo
The Corporation That Changed the World: The East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational (Inglese)
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A magnificent book about the father and mother of all companies. ... Everyone who studies corporate power and structure must read this well-written account. (Gordon Roddick, Chairman Emeritus of The Body Shop, co-founder of the Big Issue and Human Rights activist)
[This] will become a classic. (Simon Zadek, Chief Executive, AccountAbility)
A powerful analysis of the rise and fall of the British East India Company, a private company that conquered a subcontinent and subjugated an entire people. (Huw Bowen, Professor of Imperial and Maritime History at the University of Leicester)
Elegantly written and sharply argued, Nick Robins’ gripping account of the rise and fall of the English East India Company brings to life a crucial episode in the history of globalization. (Sankar Muthu, Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton University)
The book has been widely reviewed and the scholarship behind it has never been questioned. And - something that is not always the case with history books - it is certainly well written. (Lloyd's List)
Nick Robins has more than 20 years experience in the policy and practical realities of corporate accountability. A historian by training, he currently works on sustainable and responsible investment in London, and has written on the East India Company for the Financial Times, New Statesman and Resurgence.
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British colonial history has been whitewashed by the Brits to present colonialism as a benign, positive thing. This book blows that propaganda sky-high and explains how the British East India company combined an overweening profit motive with a mandate to rule, and effectively killed the goose that laid the golden egg. While I was aware of the gist of this story, I was startled to realize it took less than two decade to ruin Bengal complete and turn the scale of trade balance upside down.
That said, the author does not present as much data as I would have wished. He does throw around numbers but there is no coherent presentation of numbers (i.e. trends) to make a convincing case. There is just enough numbers to induce outrage, but not enough numbers to satisfy reason. In other words, though a case has clearly been made for the malign effect of colonial rule, it is not as strong as it can be and should be.
The most effective portion of the book is around the actions of Robert Clive. Indian school texts present Clive as a neutral figure, nay as a conqueror of Bengal. This book portrays him in an entirely different light and also points out that back in England his "reputation" was ruined and he was considered little more than "a sheep stealer". This was a refreshing new insight for me. This book also repeatedly highlights British hypocrisy, which repeatedly condemned the Company's actions in India but kept asking for "more money" from the India trade.
The least effective part of the book, is the entire second half. It is repetitive, jumps around in time and is quite boring.
My biggest complains it the lack of rigor and data. For example, while I understand Gandhi's salt satyagraha better now (salt production was a company monopoly. They kept production costs low by paying subsistence wages to the labor, added a hefty profit margin (since they are a "company") and also a hefty tax (since they are the govt. too!), I wish the author presented numbers about what the profit margins were and what the tax rate was. Same way, while I understand now why there were devastating famines during British Raj (preceding Monarchies reduced tax demands during bad years, and also distributed food grains free to the poor; the company did no such thing and instead even increased land tax rates), I wish the author had presented numbers to show how high the land tax was (was it 25%? was it 50%?).
Good effort, full of indignation but low of data.
Nick Robins make the subject exciting, weaving together many threads, in what might be the most complete and reasoned package on an otherwise complex subject, since Jared Diamonds wrote Guns, Germs and Steel.
It's concise, clear and evocative. There's not a boring or wasted page in the book, and that's an almost unbelievable accomplishment with subjects of this nature.
As the East India companies were set up in the 1600s or earlier, East India trade also quite possibly was the reason for (to create a repository of wealth within Europe), and funded the Industrial Revolution. And funded the American exploration of many of these nations - Britain, France, Netherlands.
East India trade created many Yankee millionaires - a detailed description is given in the book Yankee India.
The Dutch East India Company paid out a 20% dividend to its shareholders, every year for 196 years.
Using the rule of 72 for calculation with compound interest, hypothetically, if a person invested $1 in the Dutch East India Company in 1602, it would be worth, $24,900 trillion (2 raised to the power of 54), in 1798.
The title may seem like hyperbole, but when you consider the impact that the Company Bahadur had on much of the world, including India and China, mostly for the worse, and mostly with tragic consequences, hyperbole does not seem like an exaggeration.
A must read.
In 1700, the GDP of Britain was $10.7 billion, representing 2.88% of world GDP. The respective figures for China were 82.8b, 22.3%, and for India 90.7b, 24.4%. By 1870, these had changed to $100b (9.1%) for Britain, $189b (17.2%) for China, and $134b (12.2%) for India. [page 7]
Disconnect and denial abounds in some quarters of the British aristocracy even today. The chief executive of the Standard Chartered Bank remarked that the challenge is now (in 2002) to "build upon the courageous, creative, and truly international legacy of the East India Company." [page 14]. "Rod Eddington, one time chief executive of British Airways" in a similar vein saw it "as a case study in how corporations succeed 'by dint of hard work, shrewdness and charm.' " [page 14, 15]
The author points out, correctly, that these "romantic interpretations ... fail to confront the costs associated with th Company's business practices." [page 15]
What contributed in no small part of the venality and the machinations of the Company employees in India was the fact that "... the Company's overseas staff received a minimal salary and the right to conduct private trade on their own account within Asia." [page 33]
The need for spices ("... so essential was pepper as a way of making preserved meat edible... " [page 41]) that "In the two centuries after 1600, about one-third of the silver produce in American found its way to Asia to pay for Europe's imports." [page 41]
One of the earliest and principal architects of the Company's vision was Sir Josiah Child. "Throughout the 1680s. he was either governor (chairman) or deputy-governor." of the Company. [page 47]. "... he fervently believed profit and power must go together." [page 48] "On 9 June 1686, Child underlined the imperative for the Company to transform itself from 'a parcel of mere trading merchants' into a 'formidable martial government in India'." [page 49]
It is often remarked by modern 'experts' that India cannot become a manufacturing power. It is therefore with some amusement that one reads that "The Indian subcontinent was then the workshop of the world, accounting for almost a quarter of global manufacturing output in 1750." and even more so that "Even in the first century AD, the Roman historian Pliny was complaining that the extensive importing of cotton fabrics from India was draining Rome of gold." [page 61]
So it should come as no surprise that "Indeed, trading houses, such as those headed by Jagat Seth and Amir Chand, were often far richer and better connected than the Company." [page 65]
The battles of Plassey and Buxar marked the beginning of the end of the supremacy of Indian trade, and the rise of the English loot of the subcontinent. "Plassey allowed the Company 'to carry on the whole trade of India (China excepted) for three years, without sending out one ounce of bullion'. The reversal of global economic eminence had begun." [page 74]
At the time, "there is compelling evidence that India'a weavers had 'higher earnings than their British counterparts and lived lives of greater financial security.'" [page 77]. When one reads about the abject poverty that Indian artisans live and die in today, one can only weep.
Exploitation is time invariant, as the author documents. "One practice that was particularly resented was the classification of perfectly good cloth as sub-standard (ferreted). ... According to William Bolt's celebrated account, 'various and innumerable' were the 'methods of oppressing the poor weavers, such as fines, imprisonments, floggings, forcing bonds on them, etc.' ... the Company's practices led to a shocking form of self-mutilation, stating that 'instances have been known of their cutting off their thumbs to prevent their being forced to wind silk.' " [pages 77, 78]
The corrupt and decadent lifestyles of the Company's leaders was such that "A new catchphrase entered the language - 'a lass and a lakh a day'." [page 83]
Expectedly, food shortages and famines were virtually unknown in India, prior to the Company's rule. "... Cornelius Wallard calculated that in the 120 years of British rule there had been 34 famines in India, compared with only 17 recorded famines in the entire previous two millennia." [page 90]
However, famine led to riches for Company officers. "One junior executive accumulated over 60,000 pounds, as rice prices soared from 120 seers per rupee at the beginning of the famine to just three seers a rupee in June 1770." [page 91]
"Not only did the Company continue to collect its land revenue throughout the famine - instead of introducing some form of relief in the Mughal fashion - it actually increased the rate." [page 92]
"In 1772, Warren Hastings estimated that perhaps 10 million Bengalis had starved to death, equating to perhaps a third of the population." [page 92]
"... in December 1770, when the Gentleman's Magazine reported that 'provisions were so scarce in the Company's new acquisitions that parents brought their children to sell them for a loaf of bread.' " [page 95]
However, it's not as if life for the Company employees was a bed of roses. "... for the Company a round trip from London to India and back could take up to two years. ... Over half its employees posted to Asia died while in service." [page 27]