Company Curiosities

Nature, Culture and the East India Company, 1600–1874

Arthur MacGregor

Company Curiosities

Arthur MacGregor

Distributed for Reaktion Books

352 pages | 100 color plates, 60 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4
Cloth $60.00 ISBN: 9781789140033 Published January 2019 For sale in North and South America only

In colonial India, a range of administrators, soldiers, surveyors, and others invested large parts of their lives in attempting to inventory and comprehend the vast country, its teeming populations, and their myriad customs and religions. Company Curiosities offers the first overview of the remarkable role of the East India Company and its servants in collecting, cataloging, and transmitting from India to Europe a treasure-house of natural specimens and man-made objects—from craft materials to paintings and sculptures, weapons, costumes, jewels, and ornaments.

For a time, the East India Company’s own India Museum in London led the way in presenting their findings and establishing for a larger public the characteristic features of a subcontinent that would become the heart of Britain’s worldwide empire. Later, when the Great Exhibition and its successors redefined the style and the scale of presentation of the world’s commercial and industrial processes, the Company’s talented curators (now under their new masters, the India Office) continued to play a key role in articulating these materials. Meanwhile, Company employees returning from years of service diffused a taste for all things Indian. Superbly illustrated, Company Curiosities reveals how these diverse players invented the look and feel of India for those who had never ventured abroad.

Review Quotes
Alexandra Wolfe | Wall Street Journal
“For nearly two centuries, much of what the West knew about Asia came through the East India Company, the British corporation (1600-1873) that exercised a monopoly on trade with India and Southeast and East Asia. . . . Company Curiosities showcases specimens that the company collected there, including crafts, weapons, jewelry, and ornaments.”
Felix Driver, University of London
Company Curiosities significantly enhances our understanding of colonial collecting in India and the presentation of these collections in Britain.”
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