Joshua Ehrlich

Feb 1, 2024

The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge

Cambridge University Press 2023

The East India Company was a unique entity in world history: More than just a commercial enterprise, the Company tried to act as its own government. Not many at the time–whether legislators or company officials in London, and certainly not Indian people—though this was a great idea.

As Joshua Ehrlich notes in his book The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press: 2023), the Company hit upon a novel justification for its work: It was committed to the pursuit of knowledge, and that was why it needed to merge commercial and political power.

In this interview, Josh and I talk about the East India Company, how it tried to make “knowledge” part of its responsibility, and how the “politics of knowledge” are still relevant today.

Joshua Ehrlich is an award-winning historian of knowledge and political thought with a focus on the East India Company and the British Empire in South and Southeast Asia. Currently Assistant Professor of History at the University of Macau, he received his PhD and MA from Harvard University and his BA from the University of Chicago. Ehrlich’s many articles have appeared in journals including Past & Present, The Historical Journal, Modern Asian Studies, and Modern Intellectual History.

You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.

Nicholas Gordon is an editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.

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Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.

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