About the book (from Introduction):
When John Corneille arrived in India in 1754, he found the English still only merchants and traders, anxious over their profit. When he left, just over three years later, those same merchants were assuming the role of empire-buildings and setting off – with some reluctance and foreboding – upon the conquest of India. They did so, not in the name of the king of England, but in that of the Directors of The United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies, with offices in Leadenhall Street, London….
Life in the English settlements was, on Corneille’s arrival, still very much as it had been at the beginning of the century though some changes had taken place, and were still taking place, under the pressure of events. The administration was strictly paternal in character. The governor, or president as he was called as Madras, was usually the senior merchant. He achieved his appointment not by merit but by longevity, having survived other merchants, over-eating, and the tropical climate.
To this rapidly changing and exotic world of mid-eighteenth century India, John Corneille brought an unprejudiced and objective eye. This in itself should not be thought remarkable. The eighteenth century was a particularly tolerant age. No man despised another before of his colour….His descriptions of places, people and things are sensible and accurate, and his judgement of his fellow officers and of the Company’s servants acute and informed.