Human capital and empire

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

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.

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