But in , those were cut, leaving only Christmas Day. Workers were expected to put in the hours, too. In the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, company clerks had to be in the headquarters from 7am to 8pm, with a two-hour lunch. They also worked on Saturdays. In May , the Court of Directors saw the case of warehouse porter John Smith, who had been absent without leave since January , an impressive month absence. This 18th-Century Ferris Bueller was promptly let go. Other workers at the Company had it better.
Warehouse labourers worked a six-hour day, including a minute rest, from Monday to Saturday. Those at other London dockyards regularly pulled to hour days. And at the Surat factory in the 17th Century, Ovington tells us, clerks rose at dawn, prayed, worked from 10 to 12, ate a large lunch, took a siesta, and worked again from 4pm to 6pm, followed by prayers, supper and relaxing by the water or a garden.
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A lack of job satisfaction is seen as a problem today; years ago, it was pretty much a given. While some employees no doubt enjoyed their work and the opportunities it gave them, it could be extremely difficult — or mind-numbingly dull. For those who made it to shore safely, more dangers — mainly disease — awaited. In some years, writes Farrington, up to a third of overseas personnel died.
Those who stayed at the London headquarters found that the work tended to be less than exciting. Each dispatch — whether the minutes of a meeting or an account — would have to be copied up to five times. One of the most thorough accounts of the drudgery of office work was given by prolific writer and lifelong Company official Charles Lamb, who worked there from to His life at the office was one many of us might recognise: he became chummy with his co-workers and enjoyed the financial stability.
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And he dreamed of retirement. Thirty years have I served the Philistines, and my neck is not subdued to the yoke. Despite his misgivings, Lamb would, indeed, retire three years later. He enjoyed eight years of retirement before dying aged From requiring bonds for good behaviour to its all-male workforce, there are significant ways in which the British East India Company differed from a modern multinational.
Its ability to exploit global markets using not only economic and political, but military force marks the corporation irrevocably as a product of its time. But whether enjoying a swanky headquarters, taking on unpaid internships or dreaming of retirement, 21st-Century employees have more in common with 18th- or 19th-Century office workers than they might think. Imagine a company with the influence of Google or Amazon, granted a state-sanctioned monopoly and the right to levy taxes abroad.
On-site sleepovers Some modern companies offer their employees nap rooms; the East India Company went further. Meal ticket The East India Company had other on-site perks, too — like food. Company card Many City firms have taken flack for their sky-is-the-limit expense policy for entertaining clients. Gifts galore — and a code of ethics? Flight and Freedom. Adjunct Professor Ratna Omidvar. Children of Monsters. Jay Nordlinger. Simon Hall. The Wilsonian Moment. Erez Manela. Far and Away.
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