THREE LETTERS THAT RULED HALF A WORLD

統治半個世界的大企業A new TV series has brought the once-mighty East India Company back from the dead. Author NICK ROBINS chooses nine things to tell the story of an institution that remains controversial to this day

Discovery - - CONTENTS - 曾稱經 霸一時的東印度公司近日因為一套全新劇集而再度成為大眾的話題。這家公司至今仍極富爭議性,作家Nick Robins藉九件精選事物,娓娓道出它的故事

NICK ROBINS picks nine icons that tell the story of the East India Company

統治半個世界的大企業

Nick Robins以九樣具象徵意義的事物來述說東印度公司的故事

For an institution that’s been dead almost 160 years, Britain’s East India Company is staging quite a comeback. An Indian entrepreneur has relaunched the company as a 21st century symbol of sophisticated consumption (more on that later), while actor Tom Hardy has put the company at the centre of his Georgian noir drama, Taboo.

Founded in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I, the company had one mission: to break into the luxury markets of Asia. Over the next 250 years, it changed the course of economic history, creating a business empire stretching from London and Kolkata, then onto Singapore and Guangzhou. Like corporations today, it revolutionised lifestyles – in its case, with exotic spices, textiles and tea. But it also became infamous for its corruption, using its vast private army to conquer India, and for masterminding the illegal opium trade with China.

So what explains the renewed fascination? In my book The Corporation that Changed the World, I describe an organisation that rose to dominate world trade. All the questions we ask of today’s corporate giants – about the wealth of their executives, their stock market bubbles, their tax schemes to maximise profits and the way they treat both employees and communities – are presaged in the story of the East India Company.

Taboo is a work of fiction. But it has important echoes in the real story of the East India Company. Here are nine snapshots taken from the company’s almost three-century-long history that give an insight into the character of this world-shaping corporation. 1

THE OPULENT HQ

From its headquarters on London’s Leadenhall Street, the company came to manage a global empire. It was here in the grandiose East India House that its directors met each week and where its famous auctions were held each quarter to sell its prized commodities. Constructed in 1729 and rebuilt in 1800, the building was torn down in 1861, a mere three years after the company had come to an end. To get a sense of the scale of East India Company architecture that still exists, look no further than the Writers’ Building in Kolkata, now the seat of West Bengal’s government, built in 1777 to handle its Indian operations.

BENGAL MUSLIN

The company was in the importexport business, shipping out silver and gold in return for Asian goods. Like its peer in the Netherlands, the Dutch East India Company, the British company first concentrated on the spice trade before diversifying into Indian textiles. New products – and words – poured into Britain: bandana, calico, chintz, dungaree, gingham, seersucker, taffeta. British weavers rioted to prevent this flood of cheap Asian imports and trade barriers were introduced, but Bengal’s muslin remained prized above all. It’s hard to imagine Jane Austen’s heroines without the handiwork of India’s weavers. In Bangladesh today, garment workers still remember the company. But the memory is one of cruelty: ‘ They were the people who cut off our weavers’ thumbs,’ one told me.

壽終正寢近160年的英國東印度公司,近日似乎有「東山再起」的。跡象 一位印度企業家重新開設東印度公司,並將之裝成21世紀級高 消費的象徵(這一點容後再談) ,而影星Tom Hardy主演的治喬 王時代古裝黑色劇集《Taboo》,亦以東印度公司為題材。

英女王伊利沙伯一世於1600年創立的東印度公司,肩負的任務只有一個,打就是進亞洲的奢侈品市。場 其後的250年間,這家公司改變了經濟史的發展方向,創立的商業王國從倫敦發展至加爾各答,並進一步伸延至新加坡及廣州。東印度公司就跟今時今日的大企業一樣,將當年的生活方式徹底改變;分別在於前者使用的是來自異域的香料、紡織品及茶葉而已。司但公 亦因貪污腐敗、利用龐大的僱傭兵團侵佔印度,以及在幕後操縱非法向中國輸入鴉片的勾當而臭名昭著。

那為何東印度公司再度令人著迷呢?我在拙作《The Corporation that Changed the World》(改變世界的那家企業)中指出,這間公司的崛起,旨在操控國際。貿易我們對現今企業巨擘的種種詰難, 括管理層囤積財富、股市泡沫、利用避稅手段增加利潤、對待員工和社的會 方式等,早於東印度公司的故事中出現。

雖然《Taboo》是一套虛構的劇集,但亦與東印度公司某些真的實 重大事件互相呼應。以下擷取東印度公司近300年歷史中的九個重要片段,讓你深入了解這間對世界有重大影響的。企業

豪華總部

東印度公司的總部名為東印度大樓,位於倫敦的利德賀街,司公 就在此處掌控一個跨越全球的帝國。司公 董事每周在這座氣派堂皇的建築內舉行會議,每季亦在此舉行拍賣會,將珍貴的貨品出售。大

THE BATTLE OF PLASSEY

The company’s domination was achieved by a mix of intrigue and force of arms. The pivotal moment took place on 23 June 1757, when the company’s army defeated the ruler of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey. In this painting, the company’s leader, Robert Clive, meets with Mir Jafar, the general who defected to the East India Company in return for the throne of Bengal. (Even today, to be called a Mir Jafar in Bengal is to be accused of the worst sort of treachery.)

Often seen as the battle that established the British Empire in India, Plassey is actually the company’s finest business deal. For his dealings, Clive netted the equivalent of £25 million (HK$249 million) for himself in today’s money, with a windfall of £250 million (HK$2.49 billion) for the company. This was sensational stuff: a private company now controlled a major empire’s richest province. Clive wrote to the company’s directors after Plassey: ‘ This great revolution, so happily brought about, seems complete in every respect.’

IMITATION TEAPOTS

Tea became the company’s main source of profit. The British craze for tea grew steadily from the 1660s, with consumption doubling every 18 years in the 1700s. The problem was that these fragrant leaves could only be sourced from China, and the company was only allowed to send its merchants to a single city – Guangzhou (known then as Canton) – for a few months each year.

Of course, the prized bohea, congou, souchong and pekoe teas had to be drunk in the right sort of (pricey) china cups. Their cost drove British entrepreneurs to imitation, like this bizarre teapot from the 1760s, made at the New Canton factory in London’s East End. The company’s tea generated a new meal in the English day – teatime – but across the Atlantic it sparked another revolution. On 16 December 1773, 40 tonnes of Chinese tea bought with Indian silver and owned by a British corporation were dumped into Boston Harbour by protestors dressed as Native Americans.

OPIUM

The challenge for the company’s executives in Leadenhall Street was how to staunch the ever-increasing flow of silver into China to pay for its tea. China was too big to conquer by force. Instead, it was contraband that turned the tide: opium. Here we see two labourers carrying an opium chest, with the company’s logo stamped on the side.

It was Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of Bengal, who first tried smuggling in the early 1780s. His attempts to sell surplus opium in Canton were a complete failure, however. The narcotic flood truly took off in the early 19th century. Grown under company monopoly in India, the opium was auctioned to private traders and then smuggled into China. When China clamped down on the trade in 1839, war broke out, with Britain intervening to protect the ‘free trade’ in opium. Two Opium Wars later, Hong Kong was established as a British colony and all controls on opium were removed, resulting in millions of addicts in China.

THE NABOB

The wealth the company generated and the lifestyles it fashioned were soon the targets of Augustan satire. Opening at London’s Haymarket Theatre in the summer of 1772, The Nabob was a lighthearted jest at the expense of the new generation of company executives returning from India. A corruption of the Hindi word for prince, nawab, these ‘nabobs’ were the yuppies of their day – young, rich and throwing their money around, marrying into the aristocracy and buying their way into parliament. 樓建於1729年,於1800年重建,最於終 1861年卸遭拆 ,距離公司倒閉後只有三年。若想感受一下當年東印度公司的建築規模有多宏大,不妨加到 爾各答參觀建於1777年的Writers’Building大廈,這座大樓當年是公司處理印度業務的大本營,現在是西孟加拉邦政府大樓。

孟加拉平紋薄布

東印度公司從出事 入口貿易黃,將金和白銀運出國,用來換取亞洲出產的商品。英國東印度公司與它的同業荷蘭東印度公司,一樣 早期集於中 香料貿易,其後業務趨向多元化,才涉足印度的紡織品業。的新奇 商品和它的們 名稱從此湧入英國,例如印花大手帕bandana、未經漂染的粗白棉布calico、印花棉布chintz、粗棉布dungaree、格子棉布gingham、泡泡紗seersucker、塔夫綢taffeta等,不一而足。英國國內的布織 工人爆發示威工潮,抵制從洲亞 湧入的低廉商品,英國亦因此實施貿易壁壘,但英國人仍然對孟加拉平紋薄布趨之若鶩。沒如果 有印度織工織出來的布,很難想像珍.奧斯汀筆下的女主角會變成什麼。的樣子 現時 孟加拉成衣工人仍然記得東印度公司,但回憶中盡是殘酷,暴行其中一名製衣工人說道︰「他們就是那些將我織們的布工人的拇割指 斷的。人 」

普拉西之役

公司以詭武陰謀 計和 力來侵佔印度。關鍵一戰於1757年6月23日發生,東印度公軍司的 隊於這一天在普拉西打敗了孟加拉王公這。油幅 畫是公司的指揮官Robert Clive與孟加拉軍隊主將Mir Jafar於戰事結束後會面的。情形 後者臨陣叛變,轉東投印度公司換以 取孟加王拉 公的。寶座 時至今日,在孟加拉若稱某人為Mir Jafar,即是指責他令是個 人不齒的賣賊國 ,意思有如中國「漢奸」一詞。

普拉西戰役被視為英屬印度時代的起點,亦是公司最了不起的一筆生意交易。本Clive 人中從得於獲相當 今天2,500萬英(鎊 2.49億港元)的金錢,司公 亦發了一筆約億2.5 英(鎊 24.9億港元)的。橫財 這是個震動天下的大新聞︰一個古老帝國最富裕的省份已被一間私營司公 全面控制。Clive在普拉西戰役後給公司的董事 信函中寫道︰「很高興能帶場來這 偉大的,革命 從方各 面看來都十分圓。滿 」

仿製茶壺

茶葉成為公司的利潤 主要來源。英國人對茶葉的,熱愛 始於1660年代,到了1700年代,的茶葉 消量耗 每18年增加一倍。問題是,英國當時只能從進中國 口茶葉,司公 商隊每只年亦 可在中國的市廣州 (當時英國稱之「為 Canton」)停留月數 採購。

珍武貴的 夷紅、茶 工夫茶、正山小種和白毫紅茶自然要配上昂貴的骨瓷茶杯飲來用。瓷器價格不便宜,吸引英國商人仿

POLITICAL FOOTBALL

The company’s fate was ultimately decided in parliament, as the British state wanted to tame this rogue corporation and get its share of the wealth. This 1784 cartoon is perhaps one of the earliest depictions of political football in the public consciousness. In the centre is East India House, being kicked to and fro by the Conservative prime minister William Pitt (on the left) and the Whig Charles James Fox (on the right). Fox had proposed a new law to decapitate the company, replacing its directors with parliamentary commissioners. Pitt united with the Crown and the City to block the bill. In the resulting election that year, rumours swirled that East India Company money was deployed to elect sympathetic MPs. Pitt was returned to power and passed a much milder set of measures to tame this wayward corporation.

THE TIGER OF RESISTANCE

One of the most sustained attempts to hold back the company’s expansion came in southwest India in the form of Tipu the Tiger, Sultan of Mysore. Tipu was known as ‘the Terror of Leadenhall Street’, defeating the company’s army, modernising his state and negotiating alliances with revolutionary France to combat their shared enemy. His hatred of the British is expressed in this gory mechanical organ the sultan had made, which would even growl as it chewed the body of a company soldier. But even Tipu proved no match for the company’s cunning and military muscle: he died fighting in Srirangapatna in 1799. The organ headed back to Britain and was put on display in the company HQ’s museum; it’s now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

AN INGLORIOUS END

The beginning of the end came in 1857 with the uprising of the company’s soldiers against its growing arrogance and scorn for Indian culture. This contest was horrifically bloody, with prisoners often blown from the ends of cannons. Back in London, there was a backlash against the company for its incompetence, depicted here by Punch magazine. In the background, you can see the classical facade of the headquarters being blown up, along with its crimes and misdemeanours. The company’s leading executive, John Stuart Mill, pleaded for a stay of execution. But on 2 August 1858, parliament effectively nationalised the company, marking the start of the British Raj. Mill would go on to use his generous company pension to write his classic works on liberty and women’s rights.

RISEN FROM THE ASHES?

The company might be long gone but its legacy remains. A few years ago, Indian pan masala brand Rajnigandha ran a TV advert in which an Indian tycoon drives through a port city and passes a building emblazoned with the name East India Company. He asks his chauffeur to stop and declares, ‘I want to buy this company. They ruled us for 200 years and now it’s our turn.’ In many ways, businessman Sanjiv Mehta actually did this in 2010, opening up a shop in London’s West End, selling luxury food and tea under the revived East India Company brand. To turn a firm that once owned his nation to one owned by an Indian national was, for Mehta, ‘a dream come true’ and a sign that there’s life yet in the ‘Honourable Company’.

造。例如這個產於1760年的代 古怪 壺就是出自東倫敦的New Canton(新廣東 工廠。東印度公司的紅英茶為 國帶來下午 習慣,但是茶葉大在 西洋的彼岸卻引發了另一場革命。1773年12月16日,扮美打成國住原民的抗議者,英將 國一家公司以印度白銀購買的40噸中國茶葉拋入波士頓港海 。

鴉片

利德賀街辦公室內的公司管理層面臨一個難題︰為了購買中國茶葉,要日 支付數量益日 增加的白銀,如何制止白銀源源不絕的流向中國?中國幅員闊遼 ,難以武用力征服,於是他們想出一個對策︰私以走 鴉片來扭轉貿逆易 差。圖中可見苦兩名 力抬著一箱鴉片,箱側印有東印度公司的商標。

首任孟加拉總督Warren Hastings於1780年代首初 度嘗試走私,企圖在廣州售賣產量過剩的鴉片,卻以失敗。告終 直至19世紀,初 毒品浪潮才真正席捲中國。東印度公司壟斷印度的鴉片種植業並, 將鴉片以拍賣方式售出 予個別的商人走,私再 至中國售出 。中於國 1839年禁煙,英國是保於以護鴉片的「自由貿易」為名出面干預過。經兩次「鴉片戰爭」之香後, 港成為英國殖民地,所有對鴉片制的管 撤銷,中國出現數以百萬計癮的君子。

年輕新貴Nabob族

公司累積的財富和掀起的生活風氣,很快日成為當時文藝界諷刺的對象。倫敦Haymarket Theatre劇院於1772年夏季首演的輕劇喜 《The Nabob》,日是對那些從印度回到英國的東印度公司年輕主管大加 調侃。「Nabob」這個帶貶義的名稱來自印地「語 nawab」一字,意思是王公,泛指這班當年的優皮族:他們年輕而富有,揮金如土,族與貴 聯婚而晉身上流社會,再以賄賂方式進入會國 。

政治皮球

英國政府眼見東印度公司富可敵國然,想當 分一杯羹,公司的命運最終落在英國國會手上。這幅1784年的政治漫畫,或許是最早將公共意識中的政治皮球描繪出來的作品。中東間的 印度大樓被左邊的保守黨首相William Pitt和右邊輝格黨的Charles James Fox踢來踢去。Fox動議新法案罷免公司董事,並由議會派遣的委員

接管, Pitt卻同治聯 喬 三世及倫敦市議會否決。草案當年大選傳聞東印度公司利用金

錢疏通,以便選出站在他們一方的國會議員。Pitt重掌政權,後 通過多項懷柔政策,試圖馴服東印度公司這家難以駕馭的巨型機構。

抗爭之虎

不少人奮力抵抗東印度公司的擴張,印度西南部邁索爾的提普蘇丹可說是其中的表表者。提普有「利德賀街的恐之懼」茶 ,稱,不但曾擊退東印度公司的軍,隊 革新邁) 索爾邦,更與國法 革命軍,結盟以對共付茶 同敵人。這件提普蘇丹製作的機械管風琴名為「老虎提普」,意念血腥暴力,充分反映他對英國的痛恨;這件裝置會在咬撕 東印度公司士兵發時 出咆哮聲。,然而 即使強悍如提普蘇丹,仍敵不過東印度公司的狡猾手段和軍事力量,他最後於1799年在Srirangapatna一中亡役 陣 。英軍將機這台械管琴回國風運 英,並於公司總部的物博館展出;現在收藏於維多利亞與艾伯特博物館內。

齷齪結局

公司的兵士 於1857年起義反, 抗認自高人一等並藐視印度文化的英,國人東印度公司自此走向沒。落這是一段血腥可怕的歷史經, 常有戰俘被放進大炮口內當炮彈般發射。至於倫在 敦,開始有對人 公司管理不善表示不滿。正如《Punch》雜誌這幅漫畫所描繪,背景中可見總部的古典外牆被炸毀,公司的罪惡和暴行隨之被揭發。公司首腦John Stuart Mill要求暫緩將公司解散,但英國議會在1858年82月 日通過法案,宣佈將公司收歸國有,從此展開英屬印度的時代。Mill則拿著公司給他的豐厚退休金,告老歸田,著書立說,暢論自由與女權,成為思一代 想。家

捲土重來?

東印度公司雖早已煙消雲散,其餘緒卻縈繞不去。幾年前,印度pan masala(一種供人飯後嚼食以清口氣的合混 香料)品牌

Rajnigandha拍的電視廣告中一, 名印度

大亨乘車穿過一座港口城市時,途經一幢刻有「東印度公司」之名的大樓;他吩咐司機停車並宣佈︰要「我 買下這間公司。他們統治了們我 近200年,現在輪到我們了。」實現中人,商 Sanjiv Mehta可說真的做到了。他於2010年在倫敦西區開設了一家以東印度公司為名的商店,售賣奢侈美食及高級茶葉。對Mehta而將言, 一間曾統其治 祖國的公司,變成由一家由印度國民擁有的商店,簡直是「夢想成真」,也說明這家「尊貴的公司仍」然深入民心並, 未完全消失。

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