On Monday 17th July the Society hosted the book launch of The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge by Dr Joshua Ehrlich.
Joshua is a historian of knowledge, political thought, the East India Company, the British Empire, and South and Southeast Asia. Currently Assistant Professor of History at the University of Macau, he received a PhD and MA from Harvard University and a BA from the University of Chicago.
In his first book, The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023), Ehrlich shows how a commitment to knowledge was integral to the Company’s ideology. He reveals how, from the 1770s to 1850s, the Company cited this commitment in defense of its increasingly fraught union of commercial and political power. He moves beyond studies of orientalism, colonial knowledge, and information with a new approach: the history of ideas of knowledge. He recovers a world of debate among the Company’s officials and interlocutors, Indian and European, on the political uses of knowledge. Not only were these historical actors highly articulate on the subject but their ideas continue to resonate in the present. Knowledge was a fixture in the politics of the Company – just as it seems to be becoming a fixture in today’s politics.
The book is available to purchase from Cambridge: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/east-india-company-and-the-politics-of-knowledge/6D8F922659B94B693C6E3F20E7EC580E
Members of the Society can use the discount code EICPK2023 at checkout to receive 30% off.
‘This is an important book. Compellingly written, it offers valuable insights into the connections between politics, knowledge, and corporate interests – connections that sit at the core of pressing contemporary debates.’
Kapil Raj – École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
‘For its fresh approach, blending the histories of knowledge and political thought; for its persuasive argument, based on deep research in Persian and European-language sources; and for its lucid and elegant style, Ehrlich’s wonderful book will be required reading for historians of the East India Company, South Asia, and the British Empire.’
Rosane Rocher – University of Pennsylvania
‘In a work as ambitious as it is meticulous, Joshua Ehrlich reveals the British conquest of India to have been the work not only of the ‘merchant’ and the ‘sovereign’ but also of the scholar – as much the product of advancing armies and revenue officials as of the translators, historians, surveyors, libraries, learned societies, colleges, gardens, and many more that made the case for how and why to rule that expanding empire. This book offers a compelling account of how debates over scholarship and education shaped the East India Company state, as well as a thought-provoking reflection on the ways in which the power to create and command knowledge has been central to ideologies of global corporate power, from the eighteenth century to today’s ‘information economy.’’
Philip J. Stern – Duke University