Beginnings
London and early links with the English East India companies
in Human capital and empire
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The chapter analyses the ways in which individuals and networks of Scots, Irish and Welsh became increasingly involved in the English East India Company after the 1690s. While Scotland and Ireland faced restrictions in contact with the Atlantic colonies until 1707 and 1780 respectively, this hemisphere of the British Empire was always more open than its equivalent in Asia. The monopoly of the various iterations of the English East India Company restricted access to Asia, a situation compounded in the case of Scots by the failure of the Company of Scotland by 1700. The realities of this regulatory framework meant that London ultimately became much more central to Scottish, Welsh, and Irish participation in Asia than was the case in the Atlantic empire. Understanding how the East India Company was accessed involves appreciating how expatriates from provincial backgrounds located in London started to connect networks in their place of origin with the corporation’s directors. This process evolved slowly. Welsh and Irish networks held an initial advantage over those from Scotland as the city played a more significant role in these societies for the purposes of professional training. However, by the 1740s an increasing number of Scots merchant, financiers, professionals and artisans based in London were sponsoring the Asia careers of associates from Scotland. This was not just conventional patronage but can be understood as the brokering of ‘human capital’. This mode of investment constituted a form of provincial ‘gentry capitalism’, which complemented the City of London ‘gentlemanly capitalist’ economy.

Human capital and empire

Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British imperialism in Asia, c.1690–c.1820

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