Ben Gilding
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‘A new tide of corruption’
Economical reform and the regulation of the East India Company, 1765–84
in The many lives of corruption
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The early development of the British Empire in India was decisively shaped by concerns for the domestic constitution, and, conversely, the East India Company was an important feature in debates on ‘economical reform’ in Britain. Studies of corruption in the East India Company have frequently focused on the allegations levelled against their overseas employees, dubbed ‘nabobs’, culminating in the spectacle of Warren Hastings’s impeachment trial. This chapter, however, uncovers the intersections between various forms of Old Corruption in the British state and those in the East India Company at a time when the Company was undergoing a metamorphosis from a private mercantile corporation into a quasi-independent imperial agency. Whereas Hastings’s impeachment took place after the passage of Pitt’s India Act of 1784, which settled the major contours of the relationship between the state and the Company until well into the nineteenth century, the corruption analysed in this chapter was intimately connected with the process of reform, and thereby had a far more significant impact on the development of the British Empire in India. In particular, the chapter argues that the legislative reforms imposed on the Company during the 1760s and 1770s, which aimed to curtail certain forms of corruption, inadvertently opened the door to many others, as the domestic and imperial became structurally entangled.

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The many lives of corruption

The reform of public life in modern Britain, 1750–1950

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