‘It is no less Virtuous to Keep Possession than to Acquire It’: The East India Company and its Fortifications
The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London
Monday 23 January 2017
PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Research Forum seminar room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN
- Dr Emily Mann - University of Kent
- Prof. Christine Stevenson - The Courtauld Institute of Art
In 1731, the East India Company commissioned a series of views depicting overseas settlements under its control for display in the court of directors’ room at East India House, the company’s newly rebuilt headquarters on Leadenhall Street in the City of London. The landscape artist George Lambert painted Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Tellicherry, St Helena and the Cape of Good Hope in the manner of country-house views – with the Company fort substituting for the country house – and marine specialist Samuel Scott added the ships that work the waterfronts. While the artistic collaboration and visual structure of the paintings are suggestive of the Company’s interest in territory as well as trade, the commission reveals the significance of building in shaping its public image (Lambert was given permission to produce painted copies, and sets of prints followed). Linking the Company’s London headquarters with its major bases overseas, the paintings invite(d) consideration of its role in building over the previous century. Taking up the invitation, this paper investigates the influence of metropolitan debates and local conditions on the East India Company’s artistic and architectural exploits in Britain’s emerging empire.
Emily Mann completed her PhD at the Courtauld Institute in 2015. Focusing on architecture and its representation in English colonial and commercial settlements from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century, her research investigates the meanings of building and buildings in the expanding empire and in the broader context of inter-imperial competition and conflict over territory and trade. As Research Associate with the Centre for the Political Economies of International Commerce at the University of Kent (peic.org.uk), she is expanding her doctoral research on the architectural enterprises of overseas trading corporations in the early modern period, connecting the construction projects of the English East India Company in Asia – namely fortifications – to those undertaken by the Virginia, Bermuda, Royal African and other companies.