For a century, the EAST INDIA COMPANY conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant.


The East India Company was an anomaly without a parallel in the history of the world. Most people have never even heard of it or don't know that it came to be one of the pillars of early global capitalism – and the source of horrible suffering for many, many people.

For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarised East India Company. Yet if history shows anything, it is that in the intimate dance between the power of the state and that of the corporation, while the latter can be regulated, it will use all the resources in its power to resist.

The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. Walmart, which is the world’s largest corporation in revenue terms, does not number among its assets a fleet of nuclear submarines. Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations.


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TEDxVienna 2015, Volkstheater


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