In the chapter “Scandal” from The Scandal of Empire, Nicholas B. Dirks argues that the actions taken by corrupt, self-interested British officials acting within the Dutch East India Company played an integral role in helping to establish the British Raj.
Officials within the Dutch East India Company used their positions of power to unscrupulously profit from imperialism. This desire for profiteering led the organization to become increasingly state-like. “What was supposed to have been a trading company,” Dirks explains, “had become a rogue state: waging war, administering justice, minting coin, and collecting revenue over Indian territory” (13). By describing the Company as a “rogue state,” Dirks indicates that the Dutch East India Company’s actions in India were both sweeping and erratic. In choosing how to govern and conquer various Indian territories, the officials creating colonial policy often overstepped the boundaries assigned to them within the Company’s Parliamentary charter.
Capitalist interests are what inspired Britain to focus on India in the first place, and after Britain lost the American colonies, it began to pay closer attention to India. During this time, wealthy British elites quickly realized that much profit was to be made from India, and company officials made choices to maximize the benefits for themselves (under the guise of fully serving the British Empire). Thus, as Dirks emphasizes, “Scandal was the crucible in which both imperial and capitalist expansion was forged” (8). As the Dutch East India company became increasingly active in working out trade deals with local nawabs and in fighting wars, each directive came from self-interested British officials.
Because the courses of action taken during Britain’s colonial expansion into India were decided upon by self-interested Dutch East India Company officials, scandal and corruption played an indelible role in helping to establish the British Raj.