The unlikely beginnings of the East India Company—from Tudor origins and rivalry with the superior Dutch—to laying the groundwork for future British expansion
The East India Company was the largest commercial enterprise in British history, yet its roots in Tudor England are often overlooked. The Tudor revolution in commerce led ambitious merchants to search for new forms of investment, not least in risky overseas enterprises—and for these “adventurers” the most profitable bet of all would be on the Company.
Through a host of stories and fascinating details, David Howarth brings to life the Company’s way of doing business—from the leaky ships and petty seafarers of its embattled early days to later sweeping commercial success. While the Company’s efforts met with disappointment in Japan, they sowed the seeds of success in India, setting the outline for what would later become the Raj. Drawing on an abundance of sources, Howarth shows how competition from European powers was vital to success—and considers whether the Company was truly “English” at all, or rather part of a Europe-wide movement.
About the Author
David Howarth is emeritus professor at Edinburgh University. He is the author of Lord Arundel and His Circle, Images of Rule, and The Invention of Spain, and editor of Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts.
“The history of the East India Company is so often read backwards. This wonderfully well-written book restores its early development to its true context – it is, like cold water in a desert, the picture for which we’ve gasped.”—James Evans, author of Merchant Adventurers
“Fascinating and authoritative. David Howarth weaves a rich and rewarding tapestry of the uncertain, often chaotic development of the company, moving with style from London to Southeast Asia, and amassing a colourful cast list of princes, merchants and politicians. Adventurers will become the standard book on the subject, and deservedly so.”—Jerry Brotton, author of This Orient Isle
“Howarth’s keen eye for intrigue weaves together a tale of commercial competition and imperial ambition that carries us from the Tudor court to the coasts of Japan. Adventurers is a quick-paced romp through the chaotic early history of Britain’s most infamous corporation.”—Edmond Smith, author of Merchants