Free Trade Agreements and Level Playing Fields. Britain and the Indian Ocean 1600-1757
Dr. Peter Good | University of Kent
The English East India Company’s presence in Persia represents one of the longest non-colonial or imperial relationships of a European state with an Indian Ocean Empire. The Company’s ability to maintain its position as both a trading and diplomatic presence in the Safavid Empire was due to mutually recognised benefits. These included joint military campaigns against the Portuguese (1622), Gulf Piracy, or Arab and Afghan rebels along the littoral of the Persian Gulf. This paper will explore the different and changing methods used and deployed by both parties in order to maintain this valuable cooperation. The Company and the Safavid State enshrined their relationship in an evolving written document, the Farman. However, the Farman alone was rarely sufficient to fully answer all eventualities faced by either party, renegotiations were therefore required to better reflect changing circumstances. This paper will explore how the Anglo-Persian relationship was maintained within and outside of the formal confines of the written Farman. By exploring these bilateral exchanges, it is possible to better understand how the Company’s business was interwoven with the local and state policies of the Safavid Empire and its successors. Understanding the balance of power and management of the Anglo-Persian relations has an important impact upon the way we understand the agency of non-European states and peoples in their commercial and diplomatic exchanges. This helps us to understand the multi-valent nature of these interactions, rather than relying solely on Eurocentric views.