David Veevers on Transcultural Interactions and the English East India Company in Early Modern Asia


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Welcome to the twelfth episode of the Global History Podcast. Today, we’d like to welcome Dr. David Veevers, a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. In his own words, Dr. Veevers is ‘interested in all aspects of early modern imperial and global history, with a particular focus on the European presence in Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.’ His current Leverhulme project is titled ‘Transnational Constitutions: Asian Governance in a Global World’. 

He is the author of academic articles and book chapters including: ‘”Inhabitants of the Universe”: Global Families, Kinship Networks and the Formation of the Early Modern Colonial State in Asia‘, Journal of Global History, 10/1 ( 2015), 99 – 121, ‘”The Company as their Lords and the Deputy as a Great Rajah”: Imperial Expansion and the English East India Company on the West Coast of Sumatra, 1685 – 1730‘, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 41/5 (2013), 687 – 709, and ‘The Contested State: Political Authority and the Decentred Foundations of the Early Modern Colonial State in Asia‘, in Mahesh Gopalan and William A. Pettigrew (eds), The East India Company: Essays on Anglo-Indian Connection (Routledge, 2016), 175 – 192. He is also the co-editor of The Corporation as a Protagonist in Global History, c.1550 to 1750 (Brill, 2018). His first monograph, titled The Origins of the British Empire in Asia, 1600 – 1750, was published by Cambridge University Press this year.

About three weeks ago, Chase spoke with Dr. Veevers over skype about his new book on the history of the early modern English East India Company in Asia, discussing subjects including the relationships between the Company and Asian ‘elites’, Company servants and the formation of ethnically mixed families, and the importance of studying the British Empire today.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments about this episode, or would like to pitch us an idea for a new episode, feel free to email us at theglobalhistorypodcast@gmail.com, or send us a message on our website’s contact formfacebooktwitter, or instagram. If you would like to consult further resources on global history, feel free to visit our ‘Further Resources‘ page.

IMAGE 1: An English cartographer’s vision of Asia in the seventeenth century. John Speed (1542-1629), ‘Asia’ [1626], in John Speed, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine … As also A Prospect of the most famous Parts of the World (London: Printed for Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, 1676). Engraver or Printer: R. White. Dimensions: Object Height: 41 cm; Object Width: 53 cm. Scale: 1 : 23,500,000. List Number: 12058.171. Pub List Number: 12058.000. Image Number: 12058171.jp2. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. © 2000 by Cartography Associates. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).

IMAGE 2: Early diplomatic encounters. ‘Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615-18, and others’, ca. 1616. Description: “On paper. Colophon on verso gives calligrapher’s name, As’af ‘Ibadallah al-Rahim and date 23 Ramadan 985/4 December 1577.” Object Type: Painting. School/Style: Mughal Style. Production Place: Asia: South Asia: India. Dimensions: Image Height: 23.10 cm; Image Width: 14.50 cm; Sheet Height: 27.80 cm; Sheet Width: 16.10 cm. Donated by: Art Fund (as NACF). Acquisition Date: 1933. Department: Middle East. Registration and Museum Number: 1933,0610,0.1. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

IMAGE 3: Indo-Portuguese communities were important groups with which East India Company servants engaged. Unknown Artist, ‘Figure group, [carved] ivory, ‘The Mount of the Good Shepherd’, Indo-Portuguese (Goa), ca. 1650′. Description: “This object was created in the Portuguese colony of Goa in about 1650. … ‘The Mount of Christ as the Good Shepherd’ is a common subject in Indo-Portuguese ivories, and seems to be unique to Goa. The figure of God the Father, carved in relief above the Christ Child, represents the Holy Spirit. Although the precise parallels and/or sources in Indian [art] are uncertain, this distinctive composition recurs again and again in Goan ivories, and the combination of the Christ Child in the guise of the shepherd with saints, a fountain, vegetation and animals suggest the richness of the natural world, in conjunction with Christian imagery. His seated pose, asleep, recalls images of the Buddha in Indian art. Ivory carving had a long tradition on the Indian subcontinent, and elaborate works of art were made, particularly as diplomatic gifts, often presented to Western rulers. Most of the ivory would have been exported from Mozambique in East Africa….Goa (on the West Coast of India) was a Portuguese colony at this time, and the style of carving combines Indian with European traditions. This subject is particular to Goan Indo-Portuguese ivories.” Dimensions: Height: Height: 24.6 cm. Museum number: A.38-1921. Gallery location: South Asia, Room 41, case 14. Sculpture Collection, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

IMAGE 4: An example of an Asian ruler granting trading privileges to the East India Company. ‘Shuinjō’, 1613. Description: “Manuscript document, ink calligraphy on paper. Japanese, 17th century, dated 1613. Shuinjo. The original vermillion-seal document of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, granting trade privileges in Japan to the English East India Company in 1613. Extent: 1 leaf”. ID: 70d882bc-a8d6-4741-adbb-8621ed0a73d6. Shelfmark: Bodleian Library MS. Jap. b.2. Collections: Japanese Manuscripts, Masterpieces of the Non-Western Book, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Photograph: © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

IMAGE 5: Ceramics, Cultural Encounter, and the Dutch East India Company in Japan. ‘Plate with Monogram of the Dutch East India Company’, ca. 1660. Description: “This porcelain dish is emblazoned with the monogram VOC, which stands for the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, the Dutch East India Company. During most of the Edo period (1615–1868), the Dutch were the only Europeans allowed to trade with Japan. They were confined to the small man-made island of Deshima, off the coast of Nagasaki, from which point they acquired Japanese porcelain. Although the Dutch brought many wares back to Europe, the dishes inscribed VOC were intended only for officers of the company. This dish has a white background decorated ornately in underglaze blue, with a paneled border around the rim. This is typical of the type of export ware known as kraak, which originated in China and was imitated by potters in Japan at the request of the Dutch.” Medium: Underglaze blue (Arita ware). Dimensions: Height: 2 3/8 in. (6 cm); Diameter 12 3/8 in. (31.4 cm); Diameter of foot (6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm). Credit Line: Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry Collection, Bequest of Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry, 2000. Accession Number: 2002.447.40. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

IMAGE 6 AND 7: A Dutch East India Company servant in South Asia, depicted in a South Asian art form. ‘Two miniatures. “The Darbar of Cornelis van den Bogaerde” and “The procession of Cornelis van den Bogaerde”, India, Deccan, Golconda; c. 1687. 20.2 × 26.2 cm and 16.8 × 22.8 cm’. Description: “The Dutch had had trading posts on India’s southeastern Coromandel Coast from the 16th century, but in the 17th were given competition from other European countries, including France, Britain, and Denmark. The main figure in European dress has been identified as Cornelis van den Bogaerde. Bogaerde was in charge of the Dutch trading post in Hyderabad in the Islamic state of Golconda, and it was a local painter who made the two miniatures. On one of the miniatures, Cornelis van den Bogaerde is depicted in a darbar similar to the princely audiences that are known from Mughal art, though they most often have a larger number of figures. Bogaerde is more elegant in this miniature than in the procession scene. He is dressed in the newest European fashion as it emerged from the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Nonetheless, the scene is rendered in the relaxed style that is characteristic of court art in Golconda. Bogaerde reclines comfortably while his Indonesian servant, in suitable European garb, stands behind him with a gigantic fan of peacock feathers and a branch from a fruit tree – an allusion to the origins of his surname (Dutch for an orchard). He is conversing with three merchants, two of whom with marks on their foreheads are Hindus. The man in the middle seems to be leading the discussions and is also the largest (the most important). The rendition is colorful, and the portraits of the characters are vividly yet precisely conceived. On the other miniature we see Bogaerde with his Indian entourage, whose different garments, headgear, beards, and skin color show that they are Muslims, Hindus, and the famed Rajput warriors. Some carry his weapons, others his fan, pipe, etc. Two of the Dutch East India Company’s banners head the procession.” Inv. no. 43/2008 & 42/2008. Photograph: Pernille Klemp. © The David Collection

IMAGE 8: Creating relationships with local South Asian rulers was an important strategy for East India Company servants. ‘Miniature. “A Mounted Prince Hunting with a Falcon”, India, Deccan, Golconda [?]; 1680-1700, Leaf: 29.9 × 19.8 cm’. Description: “Although it was painted in the period just around the time when Golconda – the last of the independent Deccan states – was forced to surrender to the Great Mughal Aurangzeb in 1687, this miniature still features the splendor and intense colors that characterized earlier painting from this region. … The splendidly rendered prince reflects the formal portraiture of Mughal Delhi that at this point had also made its mark in the Deccan, but the radiant colors of the textiles against the stallion’s refined, light-blue tone reveals the painter’s southern origins. … In the distance, behind a diminutive city, the army is marching with horses, elephants, and camels, fluttering banners, ensigns, kettledrums, and trumpets. … the men are also accompanied by two angels, one holding a sword, the other a trumpet. There is no information at present about the identity of the artist and the elegant prince, but the painting’s fascinating richness of detail and high quality are indisputable.” Inv. no. 13/2015. © The David Collection

IMAGE 9 AND 10: Glassware, Cultural Encounter, and the Dutch East India Company in South Asia. Two views of a ‘Bottle with European and Indian Figures’, 18th century. Description: “Square bottles of this type derive from Dutch and German molded vessels, which would have been imported after the Dutch East India Company established a trade factory in Gujarat in 1618. In the mid-18th century, a [successful] glass factory was opened in Bhuj by Ram Singh Malam, a Gujarati craftsman who returned to India after spending time in the Netherlands. This bottle was probably produced for the Indian market and included scenes of elaborately dressed Indian and European figures in landscape.” Geography: Attributed to India, Kota, Rajasthan. Medium: Glass, colorless with green tinge; mold blown, painted. Dimensions: Height: 10 5/8 in. (27.0 cm); Width: 4 3/16 in. (10.6 cm). Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1971. Accession Number: 1971.234. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

IMAGE 11-13: Textiles, Cultural Encounter, and the Dutch East India Company in South Asia. ‘Petticoat panel’, third quarter of the 18th century. Description: “The primary goal of the Dutch East India Trade Company and its English equivalent (established in 1597 and 1600, respectively) was the acquisition of pepper and spices in Malaysia, but the Indian painted and dyed cottons used for subsequent foreign barter also generated excitement at home. Introduced perhaps by accident during the seventeenth century, the fabrics fascinated European [consumers], who had no local equivalent that could compete for brightness, variety, and fastness of color at relatively low cost. The designs were achieved by repeatedly painting with mordants and resist dyeing the cloth for each color and shade. Experts at customizing exports, Indian chintz makers had manufactured specific designs for their earlier trading partners in the Near East, Africa, and Asia. Similarly, designs were developed to meet the needs of individual European markets and to appeal to regional tastes. This type of pattern, with lively and anecdotal figural compositions—from a [semi-military] parade to couples visiting and dining—was intended for the Dutch market. It found particular favor in the northern Netherlands province of Friesland and especially in the town of Hindelopen, where it would most likely have been everyday wear for a wealthy farmer’s wife.” Culture: Indian, Coromandel Coast, for Dutch market. Medium: Cotton, painted resist and mordant, dyed. Dimensions: 33 5/8 x 67 1/2 in. (85.4 x 171.5 cm). Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Gifts, 1992. Accession Number: 1992.82. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

IMAGE 14-26: A South Asian visual depiction of East India Company alliances with South Asian states and rulers. ‘Hanging [Cloth] depicting a European conflict in South India’, before 1763. Description: “This multilayered tableau of a battle is the most spectacular, complex, and complete surviving example of a rare chintz history painting. The hanging may celebrate the successful 1760–61 English siege of Pondicherry, on the southeast coast of India, headquarters of the French East India Company. The English forces (under a stylized Union Jack) are shown fighting alongside allied local soldiers. Indian regiments appear to be distinguished by dress—Muslims with long gowns and bushy beards, the Hindus in skirt cloths—indicative of the complex web of regional alliances forged by the European trading companies. Two ships (upper register, center) flying a simplified version of the triple fleur-de-lis and crown, the insignia of the French East India Company flag from 1756, represent the defeated French.” Culture: Indian, Coromandel Coast, for British market. Medium: Cotton, plain weave (drawn and painted, mordant and resist dyed). Dimensions: Overall: 116 3/4 × 103 in. (296.5 × 261.6 cm). Credit Line: Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Louis V. Bell Fund; Larry and Ann Burns and Brett and Sara Burns Gifts, in honor of Austin B. Chinn; and Austin B. Chinn and Joseph Conforti and Douglas Jakubowski Gifts, 2014. Accession Number: 2014.88. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

IMAGE 27: An East India Company servant in the second half of the eighteenth century. ‘Painting, portrait of East India Company official, by Dip Chand, opaque watercolour on paper, Murshidabad or Patna, ca. 1760-1764’. Description: “An East India Company official is shown in uniform, seated on an embroidered floor spread, leaning against a bolster and smoking a huqqa, with three attendants in waiting. Probably a portrait of Dr. William Fullerton of Rosemount, a Scottish surgeon. … This painting probably depicts William Fullerton of Rosemount, who joined the East India Company’s service in 1744 and was second surgeon in Calcutta in 1751. He was present at the siege of Calcutta in 1756 and became mayor of Calcutta in 1757. In 1763 Fullerton became a surgeon to the Patna Agency. He was the only Englishman to survive the massacre of the English during the war with Mir Kasim of Murshidabad. Numerous East India Company officials adopted aspects of Indian court life during their careers in India, and, as an excellent linguist, Fullerton was very much at home in Bengal, keeping one or more Indian bibis (mistresses). Fullerton was a collector of paintings and it is likely that the Murshidabad artist Dip Chand painted a number of pictures for him when visiting Patna. This portrait shoes Fullerton receiving a visitor, attended by servants with fly-whisks (chauri). He is depicted seated on a rich carpet, leaning against a bolster and smoking a huqqa. Nearby are two rosewater sprinklers, a sword, and a box for betel nut. These accoutrements are generally assumed to signify Indian royalty, thereby conflating Fullerton’s portrait with that of an Indian prince. … Dr. Fullerton was a patron of the local Murshidabad painters. Paintings by Dip Chand and other painters in his school differed from other Murshidabad court work of the period in the choice of subject matter: it was unusual to depict a European in paintings like this.” Marks and Inscription: “‘dastkare dip chand musawwir’ The work of Dip Chand the painter[.] 1) Signature; Persian; Persian; on lower mount; gold paint”. Dimensions: Height: 26.2 cm, Width: 22.6 cm. Museum number: IM.33-1912. Gallery location: In Storage. South & South East Asia Collection, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

IMAGE 28: An example of a Company Painting. Unknown South Asian Artist, ‘Painting; gouache, A military officer of the East India Company, Murshidabad, ca. 1765 – ca. 1770’. Description: “The pictures made by Indian artists for the British in India are called Company paintings. This one shows a military officer of the East India Company. The Indian artist has used the native technique and the style of the late Mughal Murshidabad school of painting. However, the style is moving in the direction of Company painting. The tree in particular shows the influence of European watercolours. The river is probably the Bhagirathi in West Bengal….A military officer of the East India Company is standing with his dog and a boy attendant under a tree on the bank of a river. The attendant holds a sword across his arm….The painting is in the style of Murshidabad school. The composition shows the growing assimilation of European techniques by Murshidabad artists, particularly [in the] depiction of the tree.” Materials and Techniques: Opaque watercolour on paper. Dimensions: “Height: 333 mm maximum, Width: 264 mm maximum, Height: 277 mm image within innermost painted borders maximum, Width: 215 mm image within innermost painted borders maximum”. Museum number: IS.16-1955. Gallery location: In Storage. South & South East Asia Collection, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

IMAGE 29: John Wells after Elisha Trapaud, ‘Aquatint showing an East India Company vessel entering Tapanuli Bay’, 1788. Description: “Late 18th century view of the British settlement of Tapanuli on the small island of Punchon Cacheel (also called Tapanuli Island), at the entrance of Tapanuli Bay (also known as Sibolga Bay), Sumatra. Tapanuli (spelled Tappanooly then) was the northernmost of the string of settlements comprising British Bencoolen. Elisha Trapaud, soldier, surveyor, draughtsman and amateur actor who joined East India Company 1776 and who took part in an expedition to survey Sumatra between 1783 and 1785, published in 1788 a book of 20 uncoloured aquatints, [to] which this one belongs. Inscription: ‘S. W. View of the Island of Tappanooly on the S. W. Coast of Sumatra.'” The British Library, downloaded via Wikimedia Commons.

IMAGE 30: ‘Fort William in the Kingdom of Bengal belonging to the East India Company of England’, 1754. Artist and engraver: Van Ryne, Jan (1712-60). Description: “Coloured engraving of Fort William in Calcutta by Jan Van Ryne (1712-60) published by Robert Sayer in London in 1754. Calcutta was founded on the mud flats of [the] Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges, by the English merchant Job Charnock in 1690. After 1696, Fort William was constructed under the supervision of John Goldsborough. It was situated near the bank of the river. As we can see from this view, the building had two storeys and projecting wings. In 1757, an attack on the fort by the forces of Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, led the British to build a new fort in the Maidan. The old fort was repaired and used as a customs house from 1766.” The British Library, Online Gallery, Online Exhibitions, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. © The British Library Board

IMAGE 31: ‘A View of Calcutta from Fort William’, 1807, plate 46-a. Engraver: Duburgh. Description: “Aquatint with a view of Calcutta from Fort William, from a set of prints published by Edward Orme in 1807 and part of King George III’s Topographical Collection. The East India Company established a fortified trading station in 1690 along the Hooghly River on the east coast of India. This spot, formerly the site of small villages, then expanded into the city of Calcutta, which by 1773 became the effective capital of British India. The town was originally clustered close to the fort for defence. However in 1757, it was decided to rebuild it in Gobindpore, south of the trading settlement. New arrivals sailing to Calcutta passed the octagonal fort before reaching the city. They were often impressed by the approach. John Prinsep wrote in 1771, ‘The Stream seemed to widen as we proceeded and straight before use we beheld a stately forest of masts, vessels, an immense city and the bustle of commercial business’.” Medium: Aquatint. The British Library, Online Gallery, Online Exhibitions, King George III Topographical Collections. © The British Library Board. Downloaded via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

IMAGE 32: A Changing Political Landscape. Edinburgh Geographical Institute, ‘Map of India under the British East India Company, comparing 1765 and 1805’ (1907), in J.G. Bartholomew, Imperial Gazetteer of India (New edition, published under the authority of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for India in Council. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907-1909). Downloaded via Wikimedia Commons.

IMAGE 33: An Expanding Territorial Empire. Edinburgh Geographical Institute, ‘Map of India under the British East India Company, comparing 1837 with 1857’ (1907), in J.G. Bartholomew, Imperial Gazetteer of India (New edition, published under the authority of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for India in Council. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907-1909). Downloaded via Wikimedia Commons.

IMAGE 34: The British Empire in the early twentieth century. Edinburgh Geographical Institute, ‘Map of the British Indian Empire from Imperial Gazetteer of India’ (1909), in J.G. Bartholomew, Imperial Gazetteer of India (New edition, published under the authority of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for India in Council. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907-1909). Downloaded via Wikimedia Commons.

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