The East India Company – Guided by a Distinguished Diplomat

(39 customer reviews)

Monument Tube, Fish Street Hill exit

Guided by Lisa

Walk Times

Day Walk Type Start Time End Time
3 March 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter
29 March 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter
5 April 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter
21 April 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter
5 May 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Summer
10 May 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Summer
28 June 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online
30 June 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online
26 July 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online
28 July 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online
12 August 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online
15 August 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online
18 August 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Summer Reserve Online

“The craving for power and wealth is an atavistic instinct. The lust for conquest is part of the human condition. The spirit of imperialism is not dead: it haunts the modern world and its manifestations are legion” Piers Brendon

“London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour” The New York Times

Your guide:  the distinguished former diplomat Lisa Honan CBE.  The walk: Lisa’s tour of the East India Company.

A former Governor of St Helena – a British Overseas Territory governed by the East India Company for 200 years – Lisa has a unique insight into the East India Company. Indeed she lived in the mansion – pictured below – that was built for East India Company Governors on St Helena in 1792. That’s Jonathan, the world’s oldest land animal, in Lisa’s front garden. She used to feed him. Jonathan pitched up not long after Napoleon checked out.

For the record, Lisa was the first woman Governor in its 500 years of history and so far the only one.

Having fed Jonathan, it’s time to stroll out to the palisades of St Helena to take a look out across the bay to Lisa’s (the Governor’s) ship, the RMS St Helena. It carried Governor Lisa and other passengers to and from St Helena. A six-day journey from Cape Town.

Ok, Governor Lisa having presented her diplomatic credentials, let’s get down to business with the walk. The former diplomat takes us to sites (sights and insights aplenty) associated with the East India Company. She lays bare its history, from 1600 to the present day.

She takes us to the courtyard where the Company first began in the 17th century. From there it’s a journey through East India Company history. How it changed what the world ate, drank, and wore through its trade with India, Indonesia, China and points beyond.

How it ruled over 300 million people in India. The battles it fought – some of them – with its private army. How it caused the Boston Tea party and sparked the desire for American independence. And there’s the file past of its people, its employees, variously called merchants, adventurers, pirates, traders, drug smugglers, and imperialists.

You go on this walk, matters of world-historical importance brush you with their wings. The East India Company wasn’t just the largest and most powerful multinational corporation in the world – it was history’s fulcrum.

And in the interests of making sure that nobody gets the wrong end of the stick: our view of the East India Company – and indeed Lisa’s view – is trenchantly summed up by John O’Farrell’s observation that it was “a sustained protection racket that went on for nearly 300 years and needed military brutality to enforce it.” And that generally British colonialism and imperialism “required and therefore cultivated a level of racism from which we have still not recovered.”

Ok, that marker put down, let’s go back, momentarily to St Helena. Happily, St Helena is an important reverb in the walk. Not least, the Napoleon connection.
Lisa’s early 19th-century forerunner Hudson Lowe was the Governor who had to guard Napoleon.  (Lisa did an exhibition with the French consul at the house about their time together.) Napoleon loathed St Helena and Hudson Lowe.  The only thing he liked was the coffee.  He and Hudson Lowe only met six times in the six years he was there.  Hudson Lowe was a Company man but approved by the Crown given who the prisoner was.  There is a chandelier in the house and a wine cooler that was in Napoleon’s place never to be returned.
Also Wellington and Napoleon slept in same bed 10 years apart on St Helena.  Wellington nearly drowned getting to shore.  Wellington was also fighting for the Company and called into St Helena on his way back to London, having amassed a fortune from India.
You are cordially invited to meet the Governor. She’ll show you around – drawing on her distinguished diplomatic career and a year’s research on the white-hot core, here in London, of the East India Company. You’re in for a special couple of hours.

39 reviews for The East India Company – Guided by a Distinguished Diplomat

  1. Anita Kapoor

    Well researched and very interesting walk through nooks and crannies of the City.

  2. Barbara Hearn

    I went with 12 friends on Lisa’s East India Company walk in April 2024. We agreed wholeheartedly that it was excellent. We were taken carefully through key points in the development and collapse of the company…. It’s critical role in laying the foundations for the British Raj…It’s appalling theft and violence across what we now know as India led to many squeals of horror and shame. To see its starting point in a coffee shop, the spread of its wealth and links to people like John Stuart Mill and Daniel Defoe was all so very interesting. Well organised and well run. Thankyou Lisa.

  3. Mani Ranjan

    This London Walks isn’t your average stroll – it’s a groundbreaking journey into the dark heart of history’s most ruthless and money making corporation: The East India Company. Prepare to be blown away by the guide’s passion and meticulous research as you delve into the untold story of this brutal company.

  4. Judy

    A fascinating tour by Lisa which such a passion for her subject and real research plus her personal interest from having been the governor of St `Helena. The East India Company played such a crucial part in our history, its own history should be widely understood. Thank you Lisa.

  5. Jem Bowen

    I did the East India Company walk on New Year’s Eve 2023 with Lisa, and it was absolutely wonderful!
    Such a fascinating tour, and Lisa is brilliant!
    I’d really recommend this walk.

  6. Michaela Butter MBE

    Lisa was an excellent guide providing a lively and informative tour that brought the East India company to vivid life. I really enjoyed the thoughtful way she had planned the walk to include hidden historic and artistic gems within the City. The tour was well paced with places to sit along the way for those who needed it. We can’t wait for her tea tour!

  7. Eddy

    Best walk around the city of London explaining the history of the East India Company that shaped the world we are today.

  8. Bennett Brooks

    Friends and I just did the East India Company walking tour this morning with Lisa, and it was fantastic. Lisa has done such fascinating research into the company, and she spooled out the stories in such a compelling and thoughtful way. It was also great to be shown the historic out-of-the-way alleys and sites that are seemingly everywhere downtown and yet so hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Such a treat!! Highly recommend!

  9. Anna

    The East India Company tour has been one of the most interesting and memorable walks I have been on over the years and Lisa was a very entertaining and knowledgeable guide. Thank you Lisa I really learnt a lot today !

  10. Karen

    Absolutely fascinating to hear how the EIC became so powerful and basically laid the foundations of the British Empire. Lisa really knows her stuff and relays the narrative in a non-judgemental way. It’s amazing that so little is widely known about the EIC given it’s importance in British and world history – it may just as well have been running the country for 200 years. Never thought I would ever want to visit St Helena – but now I do!

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