Corruption and Malfeasance as a Catalyst for East India Company State-building, 1784-1858 Open Access

Choi, Ronny (2016)

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Corruption generally describes abuse of power by officials in the public sphere, while financial crimes pertain to abuse of power by managers in the private sphere. As a quasi-sovereign commercial body during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the East India Company provided an environment where the lines between the two types of malfeasance blurred. Historical scholarship on corruption and malfeasance by Company servants and officials has been extensive, discussing issues from unsanctioned private trade to more patently illegal fraud, embezzlement, and bribery. A major point of disagreement has been on the extent to which the East India Company (and, indirectly, the English Crown government) responded to and successfully enforced sanctions for such violations of policy and contract. Through an analysis of general correspondence and legal documents concerning these violations, I argue that the Company took these crimes seriously and took action against violators, in some cases even when the cost of doing so exceeded the value of recoverable monetary losses. I will also argue that, despite prejudices against natives in general and in the justice system, Company directors were open to the use of native testimony against English officials when it strengthened their case. These conclusions suggest that motives existed beyond just commercial interests, and that political interests and broader imperial ambitions were more significant factors.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Methodology and Sources 8

Economic and Historical scholarship 11

Regulatory Trends 26

Prosecution Efforts and Defense Strategies 30

Liability in different Departments 39

The Native Question 47

Conclusion 55

Bibliography 59

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