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Experiencing time in the early English East India Company

Williams, Mark R. F. ORCID: 2022. Experiencing time in the early English East India Company. Historical Journal 65 (5) , pp. 1175-1196. 10.1017/S0018246X2100087X

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The structuring of time in the early modern period has traditionally been associated with a broad, European-led shift towards ‘accuracy’, and with it connotations of ‘modernity’. Yet, a fuller examination of the temporal world of early modern merchants challenges such a teleology. Taking as its focus the English East India Company, this article situates concerns for accuracy in the management of time (and with it profit) within a broader spectrum of temporal influences, including seasonal, indigenous, and embodied time. It draws upon the experiences of the merchant Isaac Lawrence (1639-1679), whose trade began around the Mediterranean Sea but ended in the service of the EIC in Persia. Like many of his contemporaries in the Company, Lawrence died relatively young and in obscure circumstances; however, the survival of his personal papers through his brother William Lawrence affords vital insights into how time was observed, measured, and felt within mobile early modern lives. Read alongside Company records, Lawrence’s experience makes clear the necessity of reading subjective temporalities into historical understandings of time within global frameworks.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0018-246X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 December 2021
Date of Acceptance: 9 December 2021
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 12:44

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