Comparing Companies – Workshop at Warwick University October 2011
The aim of the workshop is to bring together scholars and curatorial staff who have done extensive research on the different European East India Companies, in order to connect their work on the individual enterprises. The workshop will focus in particular on questions of the organisation of trade and networks, on sales and markets, as well as on the wider impact of the East India trade on Europe’s political and moral economies. A more ‘connected’ history of the different East India Companies will serve to understand the wider European context in which these early modern trading enterprises operated. In order to raise new questions, we aim to build on the work of the leading experts in the field and, therefore, hope our speakers will share with us some of the insights derived from their recent and current research.
Our research project, ‘Europe’s Asian Centuries: Trading Eurasia 1600-1830’, tries to bring together the study of long-distance trade with the history of consumption and production. We wish to investigate, therefore, not only the trade flows of specific products from the East, but enquire into how these commodities were made, marketed and distributed in Asia, en route from Asia and in Europe. We believe that the European East India Companies played a significant role in the creation of wide consumer markets in Europe as well as in the development of sophisticated export ware sectors in Asia.
The workshop will be split into three sessions on the themes a) ‘Networks of trade in Europe and Asia’, b) ‘Markets and Sales’, and c) ‘Statistics and Wider Impact’, with a general round-table session as a conclusion. Speakers are not required to give formal papers. We would instead invite approximately ten-minute long contributions or short interventions ideally on all three themes – each of which we hope will stimulate lively discussion and exchange. The questions below reflect our project’s interest and are intended only as guidelines both for the presentations and the following discussions. They are, however, by no means exhaustive nor mandatory, and as the speakers will present their own research interests and findings, they are invited to pose – and perhaps even answer – their own questions should they wish.