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. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. Stella Barlow

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

  9. 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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