Volume I
A Gallery of East India Company Portraits

The volumes draw on exhaustive study of the Company’s voluminous archive and upon the holdings of two dozen other repositories. Archives throughout England, the Orkney Islands, the Channel Islands, the Netherlands, the Isle of Man, Denmark, Sweden and the USA were consulted. For the first time, the provincial impact of England’s largest, most powerful, caring and successful of commercial undertakings will be assessed in full context. This volume, the first in a trilogy, fills a gap of information by examining the East India Company’s relationship with, and impact upon the mighty military and naval town of Portsmouth, considering local, regional, national and international developments during the crucial period 1700-1815.


“This scholarly, well-written and interesting work is a major contribution to eighteenth-century studies. This reflects not only Thomas’ ability to offer much in a number of fields but also the way in which his book appears at the intersection of these fields. In particular, his research throws valuable light on the nature of maritime society and on the impact of Britain’s colonial development. ... Thomas’ book reveals the possibilities of the East India Company archives and invites attention to be drawn to similar relationships between ports and charted trading companies. More generally, the frequent description of eighteenth-century Britain as a military-commercial state requires works such as these: probing analyses of the local dimension.” – The Local Historian

“... it places the regional minutiae of a great company in its international context, giving a much needed depth to the study of the topic and interweaving a wide array of themes into a comprehensive whole. ... Based on fifteen years of work, the book relies for much of its detail on primary sources from over thirty different repositories, including papers in private hands. It is a remarkable synthesis of information. It contains sixty tables and six maps, as well as a full bibliography and index. Meticulously documented, it is undoubtedly destined to serve as work of reference for anyone interested in either of the subjects ... Thomas has performed a service which long be of value to the commercial and the local historian.’ – The Northern Mariner

“The book is rich in documentation and well grounded in the local archives. ... will be useful as a data source for scholars interested in the commercial and colonial development of Britain in the eighteenth century. ... a useful addition to our store of knowledge about the larger context of commercial development of provincial Britain in a crucial century of economic change.” - Albion

“... offers a valuable provincial dimension to work on British transoceanic expansion. ... Thomas demonstrates these points with considerable skill, displaying his enviable command of the sources.” – International Journal of Maritime History

Table of Contents

Tables, Maps, Charts, Introduction, Notation on Citation, Spelling and Dates
1. Commerce, Community and Context: Portsmouth’s Seaborne Trade 1650-1815
2. A Relationship Develops
3. Investments, Investors, and the Saving of Souls
4. Agency work in Portsmouth
5. Ships, Officers and Crews
6. John Company and Jack Tar: A Relationship Examined
7. Soldiers, Citizens and the Company
8. Cargoes, Smugglers and Revenue Men
9. Flee Departures for the East: Preparations
10. Portsmouth and the European East India Companies
11. Ships and Shore: Fleet Returns and Company Impact on Portsmouth
Appendices: the East India Company and Pilots; Sir John Biggs’ Oath, Commission and Will; East India Company Agents in Britain; The Company and Mutiny in 1783: a Ballad; Passengers aboard Indiamen: A Sample; Batavia-Found East India Company Vessels; Visiting Portsmouth, 1700-1795; Cargo of the Returning India Fleet, 1800
Bibliography and Index