The East India Company – Guided by a Distinguished Diplomat

(29 customer reviews)

Monument Tube, Fish Street Hill exit

Guided by Lisa

Walk Times

Day Walk Type Start Time End Time
8 November 2023 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter
18 November 2023 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter
3 December 2023 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
7 December 2023 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
31 December 2023 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
1 January 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
5 January 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
7 January 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
11 February 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
16 February 2024 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
3 March 2024 Tour du Jour 10.45 am 1 pm Winter Reserve Online
29 March 2023 Special 10.45 am 1 pm Winter

“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.

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

  1. Stephane Bosshart

    The English East India Company played such an important role in shaping London, the United Kingdom, and even the world that this tour is a must when visiting London.

    No other guide is better suited for this tour than Lisa. From her governorship of St Helena, she possesses insider information on the trade that transited through this island. After her retirement, she spent a year and a half researching the history of the company.

    During the tour, Lisa shares her knowledge with great enthusiasm and welcomes questions from the group. She ends the tour in an old pepper storage cellar which has been converted into a very nice bar and restaurant. Take the tour to find out where it is.

  2. stephen

    Lisa was a delightful guide with a personal passion on the subject that’s enhanced by her background as Governor of St. Helena. I was awed by the power and influence of the East India Company, essentially a direct competitor for power and influence with the Crown. A fascinating tale of history brought to life by Lisa. Highly recommended.

  3. Karyn Walker

    We joined this tour a week ago and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. It’s a very interesting topic and Lisa was a great guide. It was a real walk of discovery, visiting parts of London we hadn’t been to before, and learning how the formation of the East India Company had shaped parts of the city, and the impact on trade, commerce and significant parts of history.

  4. Tim Gifford

    We very much enjoyed the East India Company Walk on Tuesday 22nd August and learned a great deal about the history, influence and activities of the EIC. Lisa was a charming guide who has an obvious passion for the subject and her own background with St. Helena provides a link to the power and reach of the ‘adventurer merchants’ who drove the expansion of the organisation. A fascinating true story, brought to life. Highly recommended.

  5. Nadeem Khan

    Lisa wears her diplomatic credentials modestly. The sweep of 200+ years of history was expertly captured in the narrative built during an excellent walk, full of insights and information. The Company’s considerable legacy was well researched, and both senstivitely and honestly described. For what is perhaps a relatively ‘niche’ subject matter, you may well be surprised by how much you take away with you. Much food for thought. Would highly recommend. There is a gem of a hidden monument that also awaits..

  6. Gary Johnston

    I did this East India walk in early May. Lisa was very knowledgable and gave us an excellent overall history of the East India Company mixed with engaging anecdotes and amusing stories. Since that time I have noticed all kinds of connections to the East India Company from pairings in Tate ritain and the Courtauld institute to the founding of the Museum of the Home by a former East India Investir. Thanks Lisa

  7. Greg Gangi

    Lisa did a private tour for my group of 21 students from the University of North Carolina. She is an outstanding tour guide with a deep knowledge of the subject. Her former role as Governor of St. Helena gave her the time and access to explore the archives of the East India Company. St. Helena was at one point a property of the East India Company. The East India company was a fundamental pillar in the creation of the British Empire and had a profoundly negative impact on South Asia. Lisa does a great job explaining the important role of the East India Company in the growth of the British Empire while taking us to places that were utilized by the company within London. I highly recommend this tour.

  8. John Beasley

    We went on the ‘East India Company’ walk yesterday and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Our guide, Lisa, was engaging, knowledgeable and fun. She gave the story life and it was easy to share in her enthusiasm for the subject. There were lots of questions asked and she had answers for them all. It is very unusual for me to write any review, but this deserves one.

  9. Phillip

    Walking with the distinguished ex Governor of St. Helena gave us an enormous insight into the East India company. Reminding me of the fictional company Engulf and Devour we were led on a fact filled journey of a company that led Britain into the modern world and created the Empire as it developed across the globe. told, beautifully by Lisa we became more and more knowledgable and left us craving for more. Those people who were part of the company that originated from a coffee house and after hundreds of years eventually succumbed to being no more leaves but the history and legacy to discover. Elizabeth the 1st who signed the original charter created something very special and made a company that will forever be part of our history. Bravo Lisa, another tour beckons I think. Napoleon also exiled on the island of St Helena, what more could you ask from a walk. Go walk with Lisa and discover more.

  10. Felix Edwards

    My family and I went on the East India Company tour which we all thoroughly enjoyed. She paid particular attention to our children, 8 and 10, ensuring that material was adapted for them while also remaining interesting for the rest of the tour group. She was informative and entertaining and has sparked further interest. We will be keeping an eye out for future tours and have already recommended others to sign up for this one.

  11. David Singh

    We did the East India Company History walking tour yesterday, 11 June 2023. The guide Lisa Honan was very knowledgeable. She covered all the essential highlights. She was engaging and articulate with interesting anecdotes. Easy to follow. Also good that she uses a speaker so that it is loud enough for everyone to hear. She does her own ongoing research and keeps up to date on the topic. She is a caring person and made sure that on the hot day, we had plenty of shade. All her stops were interesting – we would have never known those places. Highly recommend

  12. Janet Springett

    I so enjoyed this informative walk around the City with Lisa. I confess that I knew very little about the East India Company before the walk except that it was granted a charter by Elizabeth I. I know a lot more now thanks to Lisa’s brilliant tour.

  13. Seema Iyer

    My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this very informative and engaging walk and talk. Lisa was very knowledgeable about the East India Company and delivered the story to perfection. This walk is highly recommended for those who are curious about the origins of this company in London and what became of them in their quest for power and greed in India. A wonderful history lesson. Thank you Lisa.

  14. Elizabeth Smith

    Lisa’s engaging and enthusiastic presentation made this a fascinating walk. Telling the 200 year plus history of the East India Company through a variety of locations across the City of London, Lisa revealed how the Company wove its activities into the fabric of British trade and governance and explored the sometimes devastating consequences for the people in the places where they operated. Highly recommended.

  15. Priya

    There were so many things that made this tour one of the best i have been on. The topic- as I am of indian origin; the walking route- whereby we walked good distances( so got some steps in); the sprinkling-in of personal experience(Lisa is a diplomat and worked in a country which had direct relevance to the EEC). As a bonus we had good weather. Also, it has been the only one that has got me thinking ….

  16. Alastair Holmes

    A thoroughly enjoyable and informative walk around the City. Lisa was able to explain the history of the East India Company from its inception in 1600 right through to the present day, showing us the historical sites in the city to bring the story to life. Her past role as Governor of St Helena also adds to the story, as the Company is also closely linked to the history of the island.

    Thoroughly recommended.

  17. Belinda Ackerman

    Lisa gave an excellent and detailed history of the East India Company and a wonderful tour of all its connections and locations in the City of London. The link to American Independence and the Chinese opium wars were fascinating. It has inspired me to read William Dalrymple’s book The Anarchy to find out more. I would definitely recommend this walk.

  18. Belinda Ackerman

    Lisa gave an excellent and detailed history of the East India Company and a wonderful tour of all its connections and locations in the City of London. The link to the Boston Tea Party and the Chinese opium wars were fascinating. It has inspired me to read William Dalrymple’s book The Anarchy to find out more. I would definitely recommend this walk.

  19. Hilda Cooper

    This is a riveting London Walk conducted by an expert guide, Lisa, who has done exhaustive research on the East India Company. She presents the history of this powerful company comprehensively and objectively. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly. I promise you, you will learn (and see) so much during this two-hour walk/history class, and the time will go by in a flash. This is a walk that I intend to take again and again when visiting London because Lisa continues to research her topic, and will, no doubt, uncover more stones and discover more fascinating information to share. She has inspired me to read about The East India Company, and increase my knowledge of its history and its impact on so many fronts. Thank you, Lisa. Well done.

  20. LK

    Fantastic tour – super informative, amusing, learnt a lot. Many thanks!

  21. HW

    An absolutely fascinating walk, covering the entire history of the East India Company and the places associated with it, many of which are visited during the walk. Lisa addresses the darker sides of the Company’s exploits, several of which are quite shameful, but also includes several ‘fun’ points of interest. The references she makes to her career as an island governor, which link nicely to the theme of the walk, are an added bonus.

  22. Rowan Freeland

    Lisa tells a complex history through a series of stories in a thoroughly engaging manner. The result is a fascinating and enjoyable walk that left me wanting more!

  23. Clement Giles

    Lisa provided a superb engaging walking history lesson. I joined this tour as an ex seaman with an interest in all matters shipping. I learned so much more about the East India company. A fascinating history of this company and indeed our History. The tour has inspired me to research more about the company and indeed St Helena. I would highly recommend this tour.

  24. Sophie

    Such an informative and interesting tour. Would definitely recommend. I learnt a lot about the East India Company and got to see the City in a new light.

  25. Jenny

    Thanks Lisa. An excellent introduction to the East India Company and the history of it’s London activities. Lisa has researched her topic well and created an interesting walk around the Company’s London locations, their offices, warehouses and places of worship. Her manner is friendly and easy so the walk is always lively and intriguing. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t tell it like it was for the harsher facts, she doesn’t gloss the darker part of the Company’s history. Definitely one of the better history walks. The East India Company ventures were so important to our social, cultural and commercial history. Let Lisa tell you the story and see London’s history in a different light! Highly recommended

  26. Cynthia Rowe

    Had a brilliant tour with Lisa! It was fun, engaging and shook me out my complacency that I knew all about the East India Company! I learnt alot and particularly enjoyed the looking at this remarkable and often disturbing part of history through the grand buildings as well as the nooks and crannies of London. Would highly recommend this tour!

  27. Linda

    I just loved the Tour so expertly guided by Lisa today. Lisa has the most congenial personality and is both welcoming and engaging, sharing her personal interest and passionate knowledge of the East India Company with an infectious enthusiasm. She took us on a journey of discovery, so well paced and accessible from the genesis of the company from its small beginnings to its exponential growth and shocking excesses to its final demise. I cannot recommend Lisa more highly. Thank you

  28. Stella Barlow

    Very interesting and enjoyable. The guide was excellent and extremely knowledgeable. I would thoroughly recommend this walk.

  29. John Beale

    Lisa proved a knowledgeable and engaging guide. She brought to life the amazing exploits of the East India Company, its people and its overall legacy in shaping the modern world. Not only did the company rule India and lay the foundations for the British Empire under Victoria, but it also had a hand in the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party (American Independence) and the Opium Wars with China. Lisa showed us where it all began and how it developed until the company’s demise after the Indian Mutiny.

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