Professor Megan Thomas will give a two-hour seminar at the LSE based on her paper Mutiny on the Patty Snow: Contradictions of East India Company Expansion in the Late Eighteenth Century.
The paper looks at how antagonists’ competing accounts of an eighteenth-century mutiny framed their own actions as legitimate and authorised by East India Company authority, and illustrate sig-nificant features of the East India Company’s expansionist aims in this period. The contested event took place on a ship bound from the island of Jolo (in the Sultanate of Sulu) to India in 1767, con-tracted by the Company to transport sepoys back to Madras (Chennai) after several years away as part of the British occupation of Manila (1762-4). Finding their quarters unlivable and believing the Captain would not return them to Madras as promised, the sepoys and their Francophone Swiss commander took control of the ship and changed its course for Bencoolen (Bengkulu, Sumatra), where the sepoys’ commander and the ship's Captain each pleaded his case to the local East India Company authorities. Using contemporary East India Company records as well as the captain's later account to analyse conflicts over material conditions, behaviour, and claims to authority, the paper argues that the episode illuminates some important tensions of the Company during this period just before its significant expansion and consolidation, such as its uncertain experiments in using sepoys overseas, its struggles to fund its trading concerns at Canton, and the ways that its agents' illicit trade conflicted with official company business, but also helped facilitate it.