The Empire of Enterprise: British business networks, trade and remittance in Asia, 1793-1810
B.R. Tomlinson
This paper represents the first conclusions of a new research project that is still in its
preliminary stages. Current accounts of global history have argued that the late
eighteenth century was a crucial period in economic integration [Bayly (1989); Frank
(1998); Hopkins (2001)]. From the 1770s to the 1800s Europe’s trade relations with
Asia changed from the supply of Indian cloth and Chinese tea managed by European
chartered companies into a much more complex pattern of trade in cloth, silk, indigo,
sugar and opium from India, and tea, sugar, bullion and silk from China, that
dominated the regional trade of Asia, and represented a large part of the international
trade of Europe and North America. This was accompanied by British territorial
imperialism in India, and the institutionalisation of imperial power within the British
state. In the early nineteenth century the increased export of manufactured cotton
yarn and cloth from Britain to India disrupted the established patterns once again, and
led to a further re-orientation of trade and finance between Europe, Asia and North
The purpose of this research is to re-examine the growth and dynamics of
European ‘private trade’ - the trading and financial networks that developed in late
eighteenth- and early nineteenth- century Asia outside the control of the English East
India Company (EICo.).

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