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The Corporation That Changed the World

How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational
Narrated by: Simon Barber
Length: 11 hrs and 49 mins
Categories: History, European
4 out of 5 stars (58 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The English East India Company was the mother of the modern multinational. Its trading empire encircled the globe, importing Asian luxuries such as spices, textiles, and teas. But it also conquered much of India with its private army and broke open China's markets with opium. The Company's practices shocked its contemporaries and still reverberate today.

The Corporation That Changed the World is the first book to reveal the Company's enduring legacy as a corporation. This expanded edition explores how the four forces of scale, technology, finance, and regulation drove its spectacular rise and fall. For decades, the Company was simply too big to fail, and stock market bubbles, famines, drug-running, and even duels between rival executives are to be found in this new account.

For Robins, the Company's story provides vital lessons on both the role of corporations in world history and the steps required to make global business accountable today.

©2012 Nick Robins (P)2017 Nick Robins

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Not what I expect from a history book

I found the tone and approach of this book to be out of sync with what it promised. It is more journalistic than historical in its approach. It suffers from anachronisms at every turn. The company is compared to Enron, but only in the vaguest of moral equivalencies. The narrative is constantly disrupted by asides on the contemporary opinion of the EIC in Indian politics. The author's goal is to expose the EIC, and to make the British public take more responsibility and feel a greater sense of shame. That is not the same goal as "Tell the story of the East India Company", the book I thought I was buying.

I would have preferred if the author had delivered coherent narrative up front, perhaps adding a conclusion that connected the company with modern Indian politics, contemporary British misperceptions of the company or whatever other contemporary social issues the author felt were important.

Alternatively, the author could have saved me a credit and just titled it: "Why I hate the East India Company and why you should, too!"

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Seems a bit unbalanced and not fully informed

I'm no expert on the subject matter, but this seems unbalanced to me - when the author quotes Adam Smith, I listen carefully - much of the rest of the book seems to be entirely negative on the company and colonialism - I suspect that although there were plenty of evils associated with each, based on what I've heard from economists, there may be more to the story, none of which is presented in this book.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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a great review

a very good take of corporate and imperial practices over the almost 300 year life of "John Company". Something that any student of business or ethics should read. the authors claim to remember the actions of those centuries and showcase them to the world rings true.

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an axe to grind

the author has an axe to grind and is violently anti capitalist. a socialist diatribe

8 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • 06-06-17

Fascinating

I didn't know much about the East India Company before making this purchase and it was a pleasant surprise to discover that it delivers on two levels; firstly as a gripping piece of history and secondly as an analysis of how global corporations can turn rotten. The story of "John Company" is a swashbuckling roller-coaster ride which starts in 1600 with Elizabeth the first's blessing for a company of trader/pirates. And despite the highly respectable facade which the company maintained in England Robins makes a compelling case that for the next 350 years or so they remained in the drug trafficking and extortion business with trade in exotic commodities like tea and precious gems maintained as a respectable if not particularly profitable sideline. The author gives us an exciting narrative in which rakish ne'er do wells go to exotic locations, do dreadful deeds and return with a mountain of cash overcoming, along the way, every obstacle put in their path. Just as a story it's great stuff although what the company actually got up to in India and China left me feeling that they were basically a gang of brutal narco-terrorists.

Robins is also interested in the way the company was run, how these governance arrangements effectively created a doomsday effect which meant that irrespective of the founders' ambitions to make money through mutually beneficial trade the EIC would ultimately turn corrupt in the search for larger and larger profits. Finally he extrapolates those insights into some thought provoking conclusions about our current world of globalization and multi-national corporations.

It's clear that an enormous amount of research went into it but the writing is so good that this was a very easy listen and the narrator helped with a clear, characterful performance. It'll be a shock if I listen to a better history book this year.



9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Suzy O'Shea
  • 06-12-18

A gripping and powerful tale

An sharply written, beautifully read tale of greed, pride, and violence that has transformed the history of the world.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-10-18

Outstanding

Outstanding documentation of the East India Company and its legacy and social and political effects with a fantastic narrator. I'd fully recommend this for anyone, expert or not.