Freedom in The City
Loot! Reckoning with the East India Company
Museum of the Corporation
Freedom in The City, a project to research the roots of contemporary corporate culture and behaviour, evolved with historian and socially responsible investment analyst Nick Robins.
The Honourable East India Company was one of several EICs to be established across Europe in the 17th century, but only it and its rival the Dutch East India Company (VOC in Dutch) made any lasting impact in terms of heralding an enduring change in power relations between western Europe and the east beyond India.
Yet walk about The City of London, the financial district which was its nerve centre, and you can barely find a trace of this 250-year old, extraordinarily powerful institution.
This global trading business was brought down not because of a disastrous fall in profits, but because of public outcry and political opprobrium on two issues: firstly its corrupt financial practices, and secondly, its behaviour as de facto governors of Bengal and India, especially over the handling of the Indian Mutiny in 1857. The British government in essence nationalised it, and moreover its land-holdings, handing India and Bengal from the rule of private enterprise to Great Britain and the British Empire.
The Loot! walks are interruptable two-handers, each person telling two parallel stories: one of the East India Company's activities, values and behaviour, told at the site of various of its moments in history (warehouses, headquarters etc), and the other, a set of questions about contemporary values in business that are arguably directly related to the specific issue in hand.
A walk as performance or a performance as a guided walk, the Loot! walks have been a tremendously successful and vivid way of enabling participants to interact with stories from seemingly deep history
immediately connected to the here and now, in the context of a history of the EIC - that suspiciously, has been erased without trace.
For Freedom in The City core PLATFORM member Jane Trowell is working with Nick Robins.
Freedom in The City is one strand in 90% CRUDE, an ongoing investigation into and provocation around the culture and impact of transnational corporations.