Posted on: 27 November 2016

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders
By William Dalrymple
Guardian - 2015

For a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant.

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.

There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi. The riches include hookahs of burnished gold inlaid with empurpled ebony; superbly inscribed spinels and jewelled daggers; gleaming rubies the colour of pigeon’s blood and scatterings of lizard-green emeralds. There are talwars set with yellow topaz, ornaments of jade and ivory; silken hangings, statues of Hindu gods and coats of elephant armour.

The latest in our audio long reads examines how, for a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant.
Such is the dazzle of these treasures that, as a visitor last summer, I nearly missed the huge framed canvas that explains how they came to be here. The picture hangs in the shadows at the top of a dark, oak-panelled staircase. It is not a masterpiece, but it does repay close study. An effete Indian prince, wearing cloth of gold, sits high on his throne under a silken canopy. On his left stand scimitar and spear carrying officers from his own army; to his right, a group of powdered and periwigged Georgian gentlemen. The prince is eagerly thrusting a scroll into the hands of a statesmanlike, slightly overweight Englishman in a red frock coat.

The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.

It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.

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The Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, the governor of Bengal, which transferred tax collecting rights in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company.
Illustration: Benjamin West (1738–1820) / British Library

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So rare is this book it is yet to be finished

The loot was brought by Clive and stored there when his son married the heiress to the castle

Corporate Looter

Shah Alam giving the 'Firman' granting Subahdari. of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa to Clive

more news on William's new book on this page - his next book is out in time for Christmas and is a collaboration with Anita Anand - about the Koh-i-noor

Good work of art!

We went to the Powys Castle and saw various collectiond that Clive had plundered from India.

You know what, this is a topic after my heart, but dare not get into semantics with you

How does one try and get some of the art back!

The story starts with these looters who were plunderers , coming over the mountains, near the kyber not cyber pass, and entering a region then known as Hindu Stan. If this is true then we can move to the next part of the book. The year could very well be before the birth of Jesus Christ ! Maybe even 6 centuries BC.

Job charnock an English individual was the first Englishman to arrive on the shores of the city , and start a conversation with the Muslims about the north west frontier province, that the Mughals were still trying to take over. The English were clever and entered India from the east coast rather than from where they discovered it. The Mughal rulers were still fighting the natives in the north, the English could not see what the war was about? Gazni was 600 miles south of Kabul?

From Egypt to Babylon to Alexander to Rome to ottomans to the age of European colonists - greed / power are key drivers Yet with these initiatives came bridges and roads and trade routes globalisation and. God had the final laugh. Gospel reached our lands the good news that saved me So logically I am glad the raiders were in my land Man proposes God disposes Multinationals and bankers Are still raiding poor African countries. What is the EU A consortium of bankers in bed with the multinationals and IMF enslaving countries like Greece /Spain / Italy. History repeats