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.
London and early links with the English East India companies
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.
Complicating the coloniser: Scottish, Irish and Welsh perspectives on British imperialism in Asia
rethinking of the original conception stresses the idea of ‘gentrycapitalism’. This reformulation shifts attention from London-based merchants to regional families and kin groups already possessing landed resources. The enterprise undertaken by these commercially minded gentry connected the English provinces with London in new ways. The profits, credit and leverage arising from Atlantic trades, particularly enslavement-based production, helped entrench and expand local status. Gentrycapitalism helpfully rebalances the dynamic intersections between province and metropole
‘Poor’ Europe’s pathways to empire and globalisation
global economic system. 8 Not the least of these is the need to rethink the place of London and the metropolitan provinces in the long eighteenth-century phase of British expansion and empire. How are concepts of gentlemanly and gentrycapitalism to be configured if migrants were a mode of investment which was more mobile in many ways than the monetary assets that defined the City’s economic dominance? Another benefit of connecting societies like Ireland and Scotland to London and to transnational institutions like the United English East India Company is that the
was what S. D. Smith terms ‘gentrycapitalism’, in
which ‘families who were already landed and respectable . . .
attempted to increase their wealth and influence through colonial
Smith cites the Lascelles family as his primary example. The Lascelles
were already landowners of well-established pedigree in Yorkshire when
they became involved in West Indian trade in the first half of the
The Pennants’ Jamaican plantations and industrialisation in North Wales, 1771–1812
trade: the gallon and the pound and their international
equivalents’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 30 (1973), 599–624, and
S. D. Smith, Slavery, Family and GentryCapitalism in the British Atlantic: The World
of the Lascelles, 1648–1834 (Cambridge, 2006), p. 249.
Source : Bangor University Archives, Penrhyn
If the profits were substantial, they were also variable. Table 5.1 shows the amount of production and profits gained at
been a recalibration of the metropole’s power to one of ‘relative’ rather than absolute hegemony, not least through the articulation of ideas of gentrycapitalism, this important revision has yet to be tested in detail against the distinctive conditions of the pre-1815 empire in Asia. 1 This lack of coverage is because debates over gentlemanly capitalism remain rooted in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What studies do exist of the long eighteenth century tend to accept the basic premise, viewing even major Company settlements like Madras and Calcutta
immediately engaged in contests against interests aligned with Sulivan. 16 This transfer of proprietary court factionalism into parliamentary seats occurred too in Scotland. The leverage exerted by the Johnstone of Westerhall faction at Leadenhall Street and in certain districts of Scotland corresponds closely to the gentrycapitalism identified in relation to Yorkshire families active in the slavery based trades of the British Caribbean. 17 In both cases the resultant networks combined local and regional kinship links with the use of imperial profits and transnational
1764–1851 ( Cambridge : Cambridge
University Press , 1971 ); Simon D.
Smith , Slavery, family and gentrycapitalism
in the British Atlantic ( Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2006 ); Albane
Forestier , ‘ Risk, kinship and personal relationships
in late eighteenth-century West Indian trade: The commercial
tenantry were a valuable source of low-value/high-volume human capital. The sense of themselves as ‘lords of men’ is yet another example of the blending of older traditions of landed power with new financial and proto-global dynamics. 51 This was a distinctively Scottish variant of gentrycapitalism. Shielding local populations for state rather than corporate service had little to do with empathy for the tenantry. It was an astute calculation of the variable value of manpower across the Empire’s different military structures and geographic theatres. The increasing