Managing the British Empire

Managing the British Empire

The Crown Agents, 1833-1914

David Sunderland

The Crown Agents Office played a crucial role in colonial development.
The Crown Agents Office played a crucial role in colonial development. Acting in the United Kingdom as the commercial and financial agent for the crown colonies, the Agency supplied all non-locally manufactured stores required by colonial governments, issued their London loans, managed their UK investments, and supervised the construction of their railways, harbours and other public works. In addition, the Office supervised the award of colonial land and mineral concessions, monitored the colonial banking and currency system, and performed a personnel role, paying colonial service salaries and pensions, recruiting technical officers, and arranging the transport of officers, troops and Indian indentured labour. In this important book, the first in-depth investigation of the Agency, David Sunderland examines each of these services in turn, determining in each case whether the Crown Agents' performance benefited their clients, the UK economy or themselves. His book is thus both an account of a remarkable and unique organisation and a fascinating examination of the "nuts and bolts" of nineteenth-century development.

David Sunderland is Reader in Business History, Greenwich University.


Based on a detail reading of difficult archival material [this book] provides the first major account of the role and development of the Crown Agents. [It] makes a valuable addition to the historical literature in many different fields. These range from commercial, financial and business history to imperial, administrative and political history. As such it should be welcomed. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

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