Tag Archives: East India Company

What’s for breakfast?

I’m currently reading the journal of Thomas Otho Travers. He worked for the East India Company in the early 19th century, at one time as private secretary to Sir Stamford Raffles when he was in Java. Raffles is best remembered because he later founded Singapore. The journal is rather frustrating, to be honest, because Tom seems to have written it up only once a month, just giving a summary of any important events during that time. It lacks the immediacy of a daily journal.

The reasons why we keep a diary are very different from the reasons later historians may want to read it. A diary may be a memoir or an aide memoire, a chance to sound off about the boss, or a spiritual solace.

What it never tells you, in my experience, is what the writer had for breakfast. Why should it? Travers’ diary was where he noted down significant or unusual events he needed to remember, or wanted to think through. He had no need to jot down details about his own daily life.

Old Bencoolen 1799

Joseph Constantine Stadler, Fort Marlborough from Old Bencoolen, Sumatra (1799)

And yet I would love to know more about what East India Company servants, and other British traders in the Far East, were having for breakfast in the early 19th century. Continue reading

Advertisements

…neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned…

Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who won a US Senate seat in Massachusetts, is an expert on bankruptcy.  Responding to Governor Romney’s statement that ‘Corporations are people’, she replied:

No…corporations are not people.  People have hearts.  They have kids.  They get jobs.  They get sick.  They thrive.  They dance.  They live.  They love.  And they die.  And that matters… because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.

The quote is everywhere; it even made it into a Doonesbury cartoon here.

Doonesbury cartoon, 7 November 2012

Meanwhile the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, worked as a derivatives trader for corporations – Elf Aquitaine and Enterprise Oil – before he changed course and decided to join the ministry in 1989.  His dissertation at theological college was on the topic ‘Can companies sin?’ – to which he answered Yes.  He recently told the Guardian:

Continue reading

Lachlan Macquarie takes the Overland Route

I’m on holidays in Russia at present.  Going to new places always sends me back to things I half knew, but wasn’t interested in before.  I vaguely knew that Governor Lachlan Macquarie had travelled through Russia, but now that I’m here myself, I thought I’d have another look at his journey.  His travel diary has been transcribed, and is available here.

Before he became Governor of New South Wales in 1810, Macquarie was a soldier in the Indian army – the sharp end of the East India Company.  In 1807, he was a lieutenant colonel.  His first wife had died, and at 44, he now planned to marry a cousin, Elizabeth Campbell, to whom he had proposed while on furlough in Scotland. Continue reading