The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To British Imperial History* mentions that is that the Indian Mutiny of 1857 was caused by a myriad of reasons, ranging from mis-management by the East India Company to resentment against the Westernisation of India to the cartridges for the Enfield 1853 rifled muskets being greased with animal fat (abhorrent to both Muslim and Hindu alike); and the edited highlights were that huge numbers of the Indian soldiers of the East India Company mutinied and the whole thing got very unpleasant very quickly, spread to several cities, a lot of people got killed, and when it was all sorted out the next year, the British Government stepped in and relieved the East India Company of the burden of governing India.
What I’ve wondered lately is if the East India Company would still exist today in some form (maybe the world’s largest Tea Merchants or perhaps as a Jardine Matheson-like company that has many interests in many areas) if the Indian Mutiny had never happened, or had been contained quickly?
I can’t help but feel that the dissolution of the EIC (instead of, say, simply removing them from Government but allowing them to maintain a Tea monopoly or something) was based largely on the political need for them to be made an example of (did I mention that a lot of people, both European and Indian, got killed in the Indian Mutiny?) than any particular inability of the EIC to function as a corporate entity.
So, the question I have for my fellow Officer’s Club Historians here on the boards is, basically, had the Indian Mutiny not happened (or been contained quickly), would the East India Company still be with us today?
Personally, I’m inclined to say “Yes”- I suspect they’d have been replaced as Government of India by the 1880s anyway in favour of either Imperial rule from London (or maybe some type of Semi-Autonomous Home Rule)- but probably with some sort of deal that would enable the EIC to continue to be the major trading arm of the British Empire in the region for some time to come. By now, I suspect they’d either be something akin to Jardine Matheson, or possibly something like the Hudson Bay Company in Canada- largely a retail chain, but no doubt with some impressive transport, logistics, and warehousing infrastructure behind them (The Anglo-Indian version of Woolworths, perhaps?)
Anyone else want to indulge in some historical speculation?
*Which doesn’t exist in a cohesive form yet, but will when I get around to writing it