The East India Company: From Pirates to Rulers of India

TLDR The East India Company started as pirates raiding Portuguese and Spanish ships, but eventually shifted its focus to India, seizing power through military conquest and becoming the supreme act of corporate violence in history. Despite its rapacious behavior, the company was able to establish its rule in India by providing stability and opportunities for the merchant class.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The East India Company was a dangerously unregulated private company that seized India through military conquest, subjugation, and plunder, making it the supreme act of corporate violence in world history.
06:08 The East India Company started as a completely different entity from what it became in its heyday, initially operating as a pirate ship raiding Portuguese and Spanish shipping.
11:29 The East India Company initially aimed to trade spices in Indonesia, not India, and started as pirates, plundering a Portuguese ship and making a huge profit.
16:37 The East India Company shifted its focus from Indonesia to India, specifically textiles, and found success in Kolkata, which was producing the best textiles in the world at the time.
21:59 The Mughal Empire in India is thriving, but the English Parliament is unhappy with the drain of gold and silver for luxury goods, and Adam Smith criticizes the East India Company's monopoly as an abuse of economic power; meanwhile, the Mughals face internal struggles and are eventually overthrown by the Marathas and other groups, but still hold onto Bengal, which provides the majority of their revenue, until a military coup in Persia led by Nadir Shah results in the looting of the Mughal treasury.
27:26 The Mughal Empire in India collapses, leading to the emergence of fragmented city-states, and the East India Company takes advantage of the situation to expand its power and control over Bengal, the richest area in the world at the time.
32:57 The East India Company recruits young men in their 20s, most of whom die within a few years, resulting in a high death rate and a scarcity of British people in India, and Robert Clive, a talented but suicidal accountant, is paid by an Indian banker to conquer Bengal in association with Indian backers.
38:07 Robert Clive, paid by Indian bankers, takes advantage of the chaos in Bengal and kills Siraj Adhaula, seizing the Mosheedabad treasury and becoming incredibly wealthy in the process, highlighting the emergence of a hybrid Anglo-Indian form of capitalism.
43:04 Indian bankers continue to support the East India Company because they understand the concept of interest and repayment, unlike lending to Maratha warlords who are more likely to kill you if you ask for your money back.
48:05 The East India Company is able to establish its rule in India because many Indians are willing to accept it as the guarantor of security, despite its rapacious behavior, and because it provides stability and opportunities for the merchant class.
53:52 The East India Company goes bankrupt in 1772 and becomes a public-private partnership with the British state, gradually shifting from a merchant organization to a governing corporation, until it is nationalized in 1858 and becomes the Raj.
59:09 The episode ends with a brief discussion about upcoming episodes on the history of Iran and its influence on the Middle East.
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