The book is a comparative analysis of Scotland, Ireland and Wales’s participation in the English East India Company between c.1690 and c.1820. It explains the increasing involvement of individuals and networks from these societies in the London-based corporation which controlled contact between the early modern British and Irish Isles and one hemisphere of world trade. Scottish, Irish, and Welsh evidence is used to consider wider questions on the origins, nature and consequences of the early modern phase of globalisation, sometimes referred to as ‘proto-globalisation’. The book contributes to such debates by analysing how these supposedly ‘poorer’ regions of Europe relied on migration as an investment strategy to profit from empire in Asia. Using social network theory and concepts of human capital it examines why the Scots, Irish and Welsh developed markedly different profiles in the Company’s service. Chapters on the administrative elite, army officers and soldiers, the medical corps and private traders demonstrate consistent Scottish over-representation, uneven Irish involvement and consistent Welsh under-representation. Taken together they explore a previously underappreciated cycle of human capital that involved departure to Asia, the creation of colonial profits, and the return back of people and their fortunes to Britain and Ireland. By reconceptualising the origins and the consequences of involvement in the Company, the study will be of interest to historians of early modern Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Britain, the East India Company and the early phases of British imperialism in Asia.
‘Poor’ Europe’s pathways to empire and globalisation
that Scotland and Ireland can be understood as exemplars of ‘poor’ Europe. Through this framing their sojourning economies become a case study of the historically crucial role of human capital in European colonialism and global expansion. One of the most significant lessons to be drawn from the cycles of departure to and return from Asia outlined here is that people provided ‘poor’ Europe with highly effective pathways into proto-globalisation.
There are major implications in this reconfiguration and its emphasis on the plurality of routes into empire and the
Scottish and Irish military migration to the Americas and South Asia occurred rapidly after 1740 and formed a defining feature of both countries’ experience of empire and of proto-globalisation. 2
New global geographies of opportunity aligned with older cultures of service-led mobility. The extent of this overlap resonates with assessments of historic globalisation which stress the interaction of pre-existing conditions with the new dynamics driving wider developments. 3 Proto-globalisation involved the reuse in new ways of older socio-economic structures of power and
Complicating the coloniser: Scottish, Irish and Welsh perspectives on British imperialism in Asia
between c. 1690 and c. 1820 provides a case study of the mutually constitutive interaction of global, imperial, national, corporate, regional, local and familial dynamics during the age of ‘proto-globalisation’. 2
Increasing participation in one hemisphere of England and later Britain’s worldwide empire is here conceptualised as a cycle of human mobility and human capital. The focus is not on the formal corporate, financial and economic structures of English and British colonial power in Asia. 3 The emphasis is on people moving across oceanic distances and
Studies of these organisations also offer insights into
the connections between present-day globalisation and the
‘proto-globalisation’ of the past. There are, of course,
clear problems with using the very contemporary concept of globalisation
as an analytical tool to understand the age of imperialism. Not least,
the globalisation paradigm, with its focus on interconnectedness and
venture capital were bypassed by deploying human, social and cultural forms of wealth as alternative modes of investment. 90 This exchange mechanism explains the apparent paradox by which very few metropolitan-provincial shareholders and directors could produce a substantially greater number of post-holders overseas, especially in the case of Scots.
General assessments of Britain’s imperial economy and the character of its proto-globalisation have not sufficiently recognised the existence and importance of this provincial form of political economy. London
Connecting economies of human and monetary capital
economy and private commerce aligns with debates over the significance of the Asia trades in the final phases of proto-globalisation between about 1760 and 1820. 7
Much like the medical sector, the incidence of Scottish personnel appearing as free merchants and mariners after c. 1760 has attracted some historical commentary. 8 Yet explanations have not moved much beyond the matter of numbers and observing the reliance on kin-based business practices in the larger agency houses controlled by Scottish partners. 9 The use of familial and kin mechanisms as ‘trust
London and early links with the English East India companies
the start and end points of a transformative phase of growing interaction between the Company and a host of individuals and networks from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. They represent neglected chronological watersheds in the trajectories of these provincial societies within the wider phenomenon of proto-globalisation.
Viewed from the metropolitan provinces of the British and Irish Isles, the EIC presented a mixture of monopoly corporatism and a complex tangle of informal London-based social and financial networks. 15 Its structure and activities in the metropolis
imagination in important ways. Through a case study of Customs’
personnel it sheds light upon China’s connections with the West
and East Asia’s integration into the migratory pathways that
criss-crossed the globe during the age of empire.
A steadily growing segment of this literature has attempted
to recast modern empire-building as a form of proto-globalisation. In
the 1990s the term ‘globalisation’ entered
economies underscore how the metropolitan provinces accessed proto-globalisation using human and social as well as monetary resources.
Creating human and cultural capital: training and professional mobility
In 1813 the Madras government sponsored the publication of Materia Medica of Hindoostan , a major new compendium of medical knowledge produced by the presidency’s superintending surgeon, Whitelaw Ainslie. 16 The work exemplified the imposing of European taxonomies upon South Asian botanical and pharmaceutical materials and the appropriation of local knowledge and