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The East India Company was formed in 1600. The tea and opium trades were company choices, not British government. It was the company that created the opium monopoly, the first opium war being nearly 50 years later. It was around the time of the second opium war, and the Indian rebellion, that the company was judged so out of control it was disestablished and all company assets to the state. Which led to the Indian Raj.

Which is not to excuse any of this, but please get the timeline right. :)




Seperating the East India company from the British government seems specious at best. The company was responsible for more GDP than the actual island of Britain, and was given explicit military support in their actions.


They had an ridiculous degree of autonomy for much of their existence, their own large armies and their fleet included warships. At one point loaning a huge sum of money to the state in exchange for even more autonomy.

It was only going into the 19th century that anything resembling control or oversight started to come into being. Which in no small part led to their disestablishment.


That autonomy was a choice made by the British government. The British government does not get to absolve itself of actions taken by its citizens for hundreds of years that had governmental support.

Edit: if I built a fleet of warships, flying the US flag, escorted by full US Navy warships began starting shooting wars with other countries, can the US government just go "not us, private citizens, we don't have anything to do with that"?


For the first hundred years of their existence there was an autocratic monarchy, a civil war and a dictatorial republic. Then restoration of the monarchy and the Glorious Revolution at the end of the 17th century that actually established the principle of parliamentary government and sovereignty. Not so much absolving as didn't yet exist...

The company was far more a relic of the earlier age - when the sovereign gave favour, handed letters of marque and established privateers. The East India Company and the Dutch East India Company similarly were more corporate states than companies as we might recognise them.


So even accepting your argument at face value (for the purposes of this argument), the British government has no blame for a company consisting of its citizens and based in it's capital starting wars for two centuries with military support from said government?


I might blame the monarch (Elizabeth I) for handing them the monopoly of some then unknown far flung region or spice trade at their inception in 1600. The first attempt at regulation was 1773, which would turn out to be the first of many prior to their enforced dissolution. As that Act recognised the already existing political aspects of the company, that's where I do indeed start to blame the government. They weren't conducting wars for 2 centuries with support of government, but quite independently of government until those first attempts at restriction. It still gets to be part of British history, so we can't disown it, if you follow me.

The history is incredibly complex, worthy of many books, but for the period of roughly 1600-1800 the EIC was closer to the independent Nassau privateers turned pirate than to a regulated, and at least somewhat controlled, London plc. At some point early in their existence they remodelled themselves on the VOC (Dutch EIC) model to become more state-like as the VOC was so successful. The VOC was more independent nation state until the very late 18th century too.

They both fielded armies and navies independently and distinct from Britain or the Netherlands, made and enforced treaties in their own, not national, interests, had their own systems of justice etc. Being amongst the very first stock based institutions there were no systems of oversight and control. Stocks were still traded in coffee and tea shops, despite the recently established Royal Exchange - where stockbrokers weren't allowed. It was one of those coffee shops that would eventually became the London Stock Exchange. Any regulation came much later, and slowly, and ultimately led to the disestablishment of the EIC, and the wide range of corporate and stock law.

I might also blame government for not seeking to constrain the company earlier than they did... I can't really blame them for not regulating something that was new and unknown, just as in the current era bitcoin has seen regulation start to come long after its success. Or the talk of regulating Facebook, or no end of others...




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