Monday, September 12

Going back to school

So I decided to go back to school. To be precise, Institute of Persian Language and Literature Studies. To learn Persian as a language. Why? well, good question. Now that I have finished my last PhD, I am at a bit of a loose end and need to do something to keep the old couple of rusty neurons in knick otherwise I will end up spending time on facebook or blogging jokes or watching tv or eating. Wait, I already do that. Erm. Well, ok.

Anyway, this is what I am currently thinking about. You see, the antecedents of the current Companies Act and how they were established goes back to the British East India Company, Dutch East India Company etc., way back bazillions of years. In particular, the British East India Company was particularly instrumental in the way they established the principles of corporate management for the world. The other strand which impacted modern corporate management is the accounting strand going way back to the Egyptians and then down to the Venetians and and and, but not interested in that, had enough of accounting thank you very much.

So we have the British East India Company now arriving in India back in the time of the Mughals and they are starting to trade. So how did they actually trade? What were the corporate structures? How did they manage the liaison with local counterparties? How were the contracts arranged? Indemnified? Collateral? In cases of disputes locally, who dealt with them and under what legal code? How did the local Indian code influence the workings of the British East India Company?

But then what happened was that the British East India Company slowly started to have fiduciary as well as political power locally in India. This meant that it had to actively rule. Now there was a body of law here in the UK back at that time, there was some maritime law, but for a corporate like BEIC, it had to start drawing up an Indian corpus of law otherwise it would be absolutely chaos and corruption (as it proved). So it started drawing up various laws and and and. But that gave rise to many issues. If the BEIC is going to rule Indians on the basis of British Law, then how can it handle the fact that the Indians previously were ruled on the basis of Sharia, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, etc. etc. legal systems. And you simply cannot take up a legal system which has been designed for the UK and plonk it down locally. As you can appreciate, this created an almighty stink, confusion and massive set of inconsistencies. As soon as they would reconcile one bit between say British maritime law and local Madras shipping, it wouldn't fit in with the processes in Fort William or Surat or Bombay. If they fixed everything in India, it would be out of kilter with what’s happening in the UK. Based upon my reading, this was one of the major reasons why the BEIC lost, the mutiny happened, etc. etc.

So how did the local Indian magistrates and royal courts function when the BEIC was bumbling around? How did they deal with disputes? How was the escalation made way back to the British Crown? How did they respond? What were the differences between the Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Tribal, etc. etc. courts and how did they mesh with the BEIC legal work?

I can get the British end of the information quite easily from the Kew Archives, India Office Archives and and and. Tons of stuff here. But guess what? the information in India is not that easy to procure because at this period, the court language in most of the Indian Kingdoms was? Guess. Yes, you are right, it was Persian. So I have to get to a middling level of Persian understanding of formal, courtly, scholarly writing in couple of years. Don't need to learn philosophy level of Persian. So when I go to the Indian archives, I will be faced with Persian stuff. Sanskrit I can handle (ish). So that’s the plan.


So off I toddled over to school. Lovely place, you enter and there is a huge open hall. That’s the library, full of wonderful books in Persian and a small section of English language books. And just off it, was the classroom. Popped in there and there were 4 more students in this elementary class and a lovely teacher. We explored some of the common Persian words. I was amazed, so much of India’s history, linguistics, culture and and and has been borrowed from Iran. Its extraordinary. I never knew that.

Spent the 1.5 hours being totally befuddled. The habit of writing right to left, the fact that the numbers are written left to right, the alphabet is borrowed from Arabic but not fully, there are differences. So many times, I was looking bewildered at the teacher, but we went through the vowels and made some words and sentences. More to work. And I have assignments (10-20 sentences to make), write 20-50 Iranian words. So my very rusty knowledge of Urdu should come in use, but fun.

I could almost feel some of the neurons getting stretched. Nice one. But for the next couple of years, I guess my Saturdays have gone. lol. But I have to immerse myself in Iran and Persia, so have ordered a shedload of Iranian history books, culture, and and and. Happy days, now I know how a pig feels when he has been given a load of warm potatoes and a bed of warm squishy mud.

No comments: