Navigation, Commercial Exchange and the Problem of Long-Distance Control in England and the English East India Company, 1673-1755
Grier, Jason Peter
MetadataShow full item record
In this dissertation I address the related problems of expertise and long-distance control in the context of British navigation and the bureaucratic practices of the English East India Company. Expertise, in particular, is used as a framework from which I build outward to establish a stronger understanding of commercial trade, the circulation of knowledge and, most crucially, the place of the metropole. The first half of this dissertation introduces expertise and long-distances control and puts the concepts into historical context through the example of navigation between 1673 and 1755. Navigation is illustrative of the problem of expertise because it was a contentious subject at the time and, therefore, the contemporary debates can be followed. Expertise is a crucial problem because it directly addresses power and who controls knowledge. Thus, the question of navigational expertise ties directly to the problem of long-distance control. Therefore, my dissertation begins by moving outward from navigational instruction at the Royal Mathematical School to the practice of navigation on Edmond Halleys first Paramore voyage. In the context of global commercial exchange, long-distance control became an increasing priority for those who sought to assert such control from a presumed centre onto agents around the globe. As such, the second half of the dissertation continues to follow actors further away from London with the setting moving to India and China where I contrast the idea of long-distance control with the reality. In practice the East India Company had little ability to impose itself on either its own employees or on the peoples with whom the Company wished to trade. Instead, the Companys efforts often drew attention to its ignorance of Asian trade and served to underline its weakness in the first part of the eighteenth century. The dissertation concludes by questioning the notion of the metropole and the periphery in the history of science and suggests an inversion of the traditional locations, with London now a periphery rather than centre, a state of affairs more in line with the situation at the time.