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The Honourable Company
John Keay
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The Honourable Company

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  22 reviews
A history of the English East India company.During 200 years the East India Company grew from a loose association of Elizabethan tradesmen into "the grandest society of merchants in the universe". As a commercial enterprise it came to control half the world's trade and as a political entity it administered an embryonic empire. Without it there would have been no British In ...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published July 8th 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1991)
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Mansoor Azam
The book is about East India Company it's origins and the story of it's transaction into one of the most powerful business empires of it's times.
The initial history is lucidly explained in detail and is made interesting. The author has researched well and takes us step by step logically, historically explaining the rational behind every step and quoting historical documents n memoirs.
There were many things which I found new. Which are not part of our folklore and history here in the subcontine
I would disagree with some of the other reviewers on the matter of dryness, I have read much drier history books. I found it mostly a very good read thanks to the use of entertaining anecdotes but because it does try to encompass so much into a tiny space there are a lot of facts and background information introduced to cover a each chapter.

The author tries to mitigate this by breaking the chapters into different different time periods and regions. This can confuse as the times will necessarily
I am so proud I finished this book. It was much longer and smarter and more detailed than what I normally read. Started it a loooong time ago.
Anyway, although there are a lot of names and dates in it, there are also many intriguing tales of personalities and powers and intrigue.
Basically, I was amazed at how bungling the company was and how it lasted so long and is credited with conquering India. Seems like all of the events very much could have gone the other way.
Fascinating subject!
Lauren Albert
How did a profit-making company become in essence a huge government bureaucracy? That's the story that Keay tells, and tells engagingly with a sense of humor. The one flaw, for me, was his chronological jumps when he moved to a new place of trade or settlement. It could get confusing--he would start the chapter and then later talk about something that showed he was narrating something earlier in time than events he'd already covered in other chapters. Then I wasn't sure what time period he was d ...more
What starts off as an exciting early history of British trade in Asia quickly peters into an overdrawn blow-by-blow account of the history of the company's many struggles. Every small character is given pages of description while major characters like Clive, Hastings and Tipu are given short shrift. Finally, the author seems to have just run out of patience. What else could explain the opium wars of china being consigned to the epilogue. There is somewhere a wonderful book to be written and read ...more
Rajiv Chopra
This is a marvellous book, detailing the history of a company that can be said to have changed world history. As John Keay has remarked, without the Honourable Company, there probably would have been no British Raj.

It is indeed a complex history, and he does a remarkable job in deftly pulling all the strings together to create a coherent story.

It is indeed amazing that a group of traders made their way into Asia, set up trading stations, and slowly started to create strong bases for themselves.
Jason Hough
Fascinating history of the British East India Company. Almost every page is a novel waiting to be written!
I guess I only have myself to blame for feeling disappointed at the end of it. While this was a thoroughly researched and well written book, it was not the book I thought it would be.
This is basically an account of what the East India Company did in order to gain a foothold in India and a few more places. What this account sadly lacks is the other side of the story: what the Company's trade meant to the Western world, and England in particular. Cotton, spices, tea, coffee, opium, there are all t
There cannot be many people unaware of the size and power of the British Empire at its peak, but how many know of the origins of the empire? Military conquest came well after the commercial monolith that was the East India Company had opened up trade routes all the way to Indonesia for the nation. The Company made many fabulously wealthy, ruined many more, and left glory and misery in its wake. It left behind the legends of Robert Clive and the Black Hole of Calcutta, and was so prosperous and i ...more
A well structured book, my starting step for History of British India, and to my own foreboding an extremely tough one. I would be understating if I say that I was struggling through the book. I literally felt flooded by names of people and places. I had a basic assumption that being Indian I would be able to grasp geography and naming conventions much better than those European books. But to my surprise, book is not about India, its about east India, which in today's terms would be termed South ...more
A dense, well-researched history of the world's first multi-national corporation. Though often overly concerned with the details, Keay manages to paint an epic portrait of a company set on making its mark in the annals of history.
This book was great for the various tidbits of trivia and historical facts related to the evolution of the English East India Company. Covering a period of close to 200 years, tales related to the company seeking profits from the spice trade, the negotiations with the Mughal emperors, establishment of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, the Carnatic wars against the French, the export of opium to China from Bengal,how China and not India was its most lucrative trading partner, the menace of Tipu and mu ...more
A decent history of the English East India Company. Learned many fascinating things from this book - that the monopoly of the company was tenuous at many times, that there were two companies at one point in time, etc.

Unfortunately, the pace picks up quite a bit - to the books detriment - in the latter half of the book. After Clive the book zooms through decades of important history and does not do it justice.
The sun never set on the British Empire, the Royal Navy sails the seven seas and ubiquitous Union Jack fluttered on all corners of the globe. This is the story of East India Company from its early formation in a basement guild of British capitalists bending on the monopoly to spices trading in the Far East from the Dutch and the creation of India as the Imperial Dominion.
This is a history of the East India Company. I found that the book's pace went from slow to fast depending on the topic being covered. It was interesting and a learning experience. I found particularly interesting the connection of the Company's trade to the Boston Tea Party. It is details like that which make me enjoy reading history books.
Very rich in detail but ultimately too dry for me.

I found myself skimming more and more the further I got into it, and I will note that the three-star rating is more about my enjoyment of the book rather than the book's quality, as I'm sure those who want a deep understanding of the East India Company will find this book invaluable.

Interesting, but not sure how much of it I absorbed.
I've really enjoyed this book. It's a fascinating subject and Keay is fun to read. I would definitely recommend it.
Robin Jacob
Well written narrative with some pretty interesting anecdotes
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John Keay (born 1941) is an English journalist and author specialising in writing popular histories about India and the Far East, often with a particular focus on their colonisation and exploration by Europeans.

John Keay is the author of about 20 books, all factual, mostly historical, and largely to do with Asia, exploration or Scotland. His first book stayed in print for thirty years; many others
More about John Keay...
India: A History China: A History The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and Everest Was Named India Discovered The Spice Route: A History

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