The author is Philip J. Stern, and the subtitle is The Corporations that Built British Colonialism. Too many history books run through various motions, whereas this one tries to explain “how things really were” for the interested reader.
Here is one representative bit:
As great as its ambitions were, at its origins the East India Company was, like its predecessors and contemporaries, essentially a tentative experiment fueled by a hesitant and hybrid institutional and financial structure. The “company” did not have a single permanent stock. Rather, it was organized as a series of consecutive quasi-independent stock subscriptions, at first opened on a per venture basis and later established for set terms in years. In its early days, the limited number of shareholders could “take in men under them,” in theory dividing any individual share into a subsidiary, shadow joint stock. As in many other ventures, the East India Company spent its early years chasing down under- and unpaid subscriptions.
The book has plenty of good coverage of Borneo and also Africa as well, the latter sections being especially relevant to some of the charter cities plans of our current day. And there is plenty of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who brought the ideas of agglomeration externalities into economics, and promoted a version of charter cities for southern Australia. How sadly neglected he is these days.
I had not known that the Falklands Island Company still controls so much in the Falklands. Recommended, due out in May.
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