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The Origins of the British Empire in Asia, 1600–1750


  • Date Published: March 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108705646

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About the Authors
  • This is an important, revisionist account of the origins of the British Empire in Asia in the early modern period. David Veevers uncovers a hidden world of transcultural interactions between servants of the English East India Company and the Asian communities and states they came into contact with, revealing how it was this integration of Europeans into non-European economies, states and societies which was central to British imperial and commercial success rather than national or mercantilist enterprise. As their servants skilfully adapted to this rich and complex environment, the East India Company became enfranchised by the eighteenth century with a breadth of privileges and rights – from governing sprawling metropolises to trading customs-free. In emphasising the Asian genesis of the British Empire, this book sheds new light on the foreign frameworks of power which fuelled the expansion of Global Britain in the early modern world.

    • Provides a chronological and narrative-driven analysis of the British presence in Asia between 1600 and 1750
    • Brings together diverging historiographical strands in imperial history, integrating both European and Asian histories of empire and state formation
    • Uses a wealth of archival sources to challenge long-established, Eurocentric views on imperial expansion and colonialism in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'David Veevers' book settles several long-standing debates about whether the origins of the East India Company's empire lay in Europe or Asia. He also shows convincingly how the relationship between the two came to re-shape each.' David Washbrook, Trinity College, University of Cambridge

    'In this exceptionally detailed and extensively researched work, Veevers astutely traces the origins of the East India Company's empire through over a century of complex encounters with people and polities across Asia, amplifying the ever-loudening death knell for the notion that that empire somehow only emerged, suddenly and unexpectedly, at the Battle of Plassey.' Philip Stern, Duke University, North Carolina

    'David Veevers' book will appeal to students and scholars of the early modern British Empire by offering a sophisticated and compelling discussion of the circumstances in which European empire-building in Asia took place in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, fully alive to the nuances and complexities of those processes.' John McAleer, University of Southampton

    '… detailed narrative of these British men's perceptions enriches ongoing scholarly debates.' M. H. Fisher, Choice

    '… a well-researched study of the practice of the early British presence in Asia.' Jeremy Black, The Critic

    'Veevers provides richly detailed examples to reinforce his argument and convince the reader ... The Origins of the British Empire in Asia is a deeply researched and well-written monograph that makes an important contribution to the historiography of the British empire.' Michael D. Bennett, Journal of British Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108705646
    • length: 309 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 4 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. 'A hundred gates open for entrance'
    Part I. Weakness and Adaptation:
    1. 'A boddy without a head': the failure of an English enterprise
    2. 'Soe fayre an opportunitie': Madras and the reconstitution of the company
    3. 'Not as absolute lords and kings of the place': the success of an Anglo-Asian enterprise
    Part II. Subordination and Expansion:
    4. 'To be determined by the Moor's justice': searching for legitimacy in Mughal Bengal
    5. 'A firm settlement in this place': war, negotiation and imperial integration
    Part III. Limitations and Devastation:
    6. 'The Malays will not preserve ye countrey themselves': Sumatra and the failure of suzerainty
    7. 'The company as their lords and the deputy as a great Rajah': the making and unmaking of an imperial power
    Part IV. Empire:
    8. 'The end of these things will not be good': legacies of empire in mid-eighteenth century India
    Conclusion. Rethinking the origins of the British Empire in Asia.

  • Author

    David Veevers, Queen Mary University of London
    David Veevers is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. He has published articles in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History and the Journal of Global History, and won the Royal Historical Society's Alexander Prize in 2014. He is co-editor of The Corporation as a Protagonist in Global History, c.1550 to 1750 (2018).

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