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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 ….

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. LK

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

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