Abstract: The Actionnaire and the Annuitant: Shareholder Advocacy and the Compagnie des Indes, 1719-1769
This paper analyzes shareholder advocacy in the Compagnie des Indes (French East India Company) during its years of operation, 1719-1769. It argues that Company investors intentionally cultivated an image of powerlessness within the corporation in order to advocate for greater rights and improved protection of their shares. As I show, shareholders ultimately came to style themselves as a type of “economic patriot,” alienating their fortunes on behalf of the state. They adopted a language of shared sacrifice that became a key bargaining tool in their negotiations with the Company directorate and the monarchy. An analysis of these efforts helps to situate the political struggles of the Company within the broader political culture of Old Regime France, showing how problems of investment and citizenship were worked out in reference to each other. It also enriches our history of the Company by showing how it negotiated overlapping identities as both a business and a form of political association.