On the other side of India the East India Company had since 1611 been based at Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast of India. By 1626 it had extended its activities further south and established a settlement at Armagon taking advantage of the cheapness of cloth there. However the new site had disadvantages and the Company accepted an invitation from the ruler of the district around Madraspatam to establish a factory there in 1640. The factory was called Fort St George and rapidly grew in importance as a centre for the Company’s trading activity in the east, replacing Bantam in 1682 as the headquarters of the eastern trade.
The textile industry in the main production areas of Coromandel, Gujarat and Bengal employed hundreds of thousands of skilled weavers, dyers and washers producing enormous quantities of muslins, chintzes, cotton and quilts which found a ready market in England. As early as 1620 50,000 pieces of chintz were imported and even as late as the 1750s Indian textiles accounted for sixty per cent of the total value of the Company’s sales in London.
In 1746 Madras was captured by the French and East India Company operations were transferred to Fort St David. Madras was eventually restored to the British in 1748.
The Factory Records for Madras (Fort St George), 1655-1704 are divided into two groups, Consultations of the Governing Council of the Factory and Copies of Letters despatched by the Factory.
Early records for 1676 cover topics such as the Council’s problems with possible attacks by the Rajah Sevagee including details of plans to reinforce the fort; details of the cost of calico; lists of ships sold with their sale price; lists and sale prices of “Europe goods” including bales of cloth and plates of copper. Also included is an interesting catalogue of books belonging to Sir William Langhorn, the Governor.
• notes of letters dispatched to the Councils of other factories such as Fort St David
• letters received from other factories including Surat, York Fort
• details of the arrivals of Company ships from Bengal including the names of the Masters of the ships
• details of the departure of Company ships and their destination with the name of the Master
• details of customs paid on goods and bills of exchange
• accounts of money paid to the Paymaster, Thomas Marshall for work carried out on fortifications of the Fort
• accounts of the Paymaster, Thomas Marshall showing money owed to him for the purchase of items such as cattle
• notes on money paid to washers for curing cloth
• orders from the Council to the warehouse keeper to sell goods for the highest price possible
• details of money paid by Thomas Wright, warehouse keeper for goods sold
• much detail on troubles with the local Nabob at St Thomas, gifts sent him by the factory and discussions with his Mulla
• orders from the council to sell all surplus naval stores held in the Company’s “shorehouses”
• details of goods unloaded at the factory – on one day in April 1702 150
bags of salt petre from Bengal were received
• notes on the appointment of Company staff in the warehouses
• notes on plans to build a grainery
• details on the disposal of raw silk and tea brought from China
Letters, some short and to the point and some consisting of many pages, were sent by the Council to a wide range of persons including the Council of other factories, the French and local Nabobs and Duans. Many of the letters give instructions to the Masters of the EIC ships on their destination and goods to be carried.
The extracts below will give an idea of the richness of the material. The first is taken from the Consultations for February 1702 and concerns the difficulties the Council encountered with the Nabob of St Thomas. Shortly after this letter was written the Council sent the Nabob two hundred Chinese oranges as a gift!:
The following two extracts are taken from the Copies of Letters despatched concerning problems with the local Duan and the French.
The second is from the Council at Fort St George to Charles Eyre, the Agent in Bengal:
The Factory Records of the East India Company for Fort St George (Madras) are an indispensable tool for researchers interested in the history of early trading networks in South East Asia. Further records for Fort St George will be covered in Part 4 of this publication. Parts 5 and 6 covering Calcutta and Bombay will be published in due course.
Arrival of William Hawkins in court of Jahangir Share on emailShare on facebookShare on twitterShare on printShare on google May 31, 20112 Comments In 1607, William Hawkins commanded the ship “Hector” for East India Company on a voyage to Surat and Aden loaded with letters & presents from King of England James I. He arrived in Surat in August 1608, but the road ahead was not a cakewalk. As soon as Hector sailed in, it was captured by the Portuguese. William Hawkins was told that all the ports belong to the “King of Portugal” and none ought to come here without his license. But, he was later let leave and receive a pass for his journey to Agra. He was helped by the Viceroy of the Burhanpur midway and after much labor, toil and many dangers; he was able to reach Agra on April 16, 1609. Akbar who was contemporary of queen Elizabeth-I was little known in England, but when Hawkins arrived, there was a different personality sitting on the throne who was not at all known in England. But Captain Hawkins was received by this new emperor Jahangir with all Indian hospitality and warmth. His letter was read in the court with the help of a Portuguese Jesuit. Then he was taken to the private audience chamber and they had a conversation for some 3 hours. Hawkins was well versed in Turkish and Jahangir and some of his ministers also knew Turkish, the native tongue of Babur. So the discussions took place in Turkish. Hawkins was able to acquire a footing in the court of Jahangir and in due course of time he got so intimacy with the “talented drunkard” emperor that no Europeans had ever afterwards. Jahangir called him “English Khan“. This English Khan was able to persuade the emperor to grant a commission for an English factory at Surat but under the Pressure of the Portuguese Viceroy, the grant was withdrawn. Hawkins lived in the court of Mughal emperor till 1611, tried to reverse the orders, but the Portuguese influence over the King was impregnable. He returned in disgust on November 2, 1611. He died a couple of years later.
The East India Company had the unusual distinction of ruling an entire country. Its formed for the exploitation of trade with East and Southeast Asia and India, incorporated by royal charter on December 31, 1600., a group of merchants who had incorporated themselves into the East India Company were given monopoly privileges on all trade with the East Indies. East India Company, also called English East India Company, formally (1600–1708) Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, or (1708–1873) United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.Starting as a monopolistic trading body, the company became involved in politics and acted as an agent of British imperialism in India from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century. In addition, the activities of the company in China in the 19th century served as a catalyst for the expansion of British influence there.
The company was formed to share in the East Indian spice trade. This trade had been a monopoly of Spain and Portugal until the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) by England gave the English the chance to break the monopoly. Until 1612 the company conducted separate voyages, separately subscribed. There were temporary joint stocks until 1657, when a permanent joint stock was raised.
The company met with opposition from the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and the Portuguese. The Dutch virtually excluded company members from the East Indies after the Amboina Massacre in 1623 (an incident in which English, Japanese, and Portuguese traders were executed by Dutch authorities), but the company’s defeat of the Portuguese in India (1612) won them trading concessions from the Mughal Empire. The company settled down to a trade in cotton and silk piece goods, indigo, and saltpetre, with spices from South India. It extended its activities to the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and East Asia.
After the mid-18th century the cotton-goods trade declined, while tea became an important import fromChina. Beginning in the early 19th century, the company financed the tea trade with illegal opiumexports to China. Chinese opposition to this trade precipitated the first Opium War (1839–42), which resulted in a Chinese defeat and the expansion of British trading privileges; a second conflict, often called the Arrow War (1856–60), brought increased trading rights for Europeans.
The original company faced opposition to its monopoly, which led to the establishment of a rival company and the fusion (1708) of the two as the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies. The United Company was organized into a court of 24 directors who worked through committees. They were elected annually by the Court of Proprietors, or shareholders. When the company acquired control of Bengal in 1757, Indian policy was until 1773 influenced by shareholders’ meetings, where votes could be bought by the purchase of shares. This led to government intervention. The Regulating Act (1773) and Pitt’s India Act (1784) established government control of political policy through a regulatory board responsible to Parliament. Thereafter, the company gradually lost both commercial and political control. Its commercial monopoly was broken in 1813, and from 1834 it was merely a managing agency for the British government of India. It was deprived of this after the Indian Mutiny (1857), and it ceased to exist as a legal entity in 1873.
Story of the East India Company
1. Early voyages : On 13 February 1601, four British ships set sail for the pepper producing islands of Sumatra and Java. In charge of the voyage was James Lancaster, a member of the newly founded Company – then known as the ‘Company of Merchants of London Trading with the East Indies’. The Company had been established a year earlier by a royal charter, which granted it a monopoly over all English trade with the East. This kind of restriction on competition was typical of late Elizabethan overseas trade: there were many risks involved in this type of trade (shipwreck, pirates, and war were frequent dangers), and so investors needed to ensure that they could safeguard their profits as much as possible.
The ships sailed around the coast of South Africa and across the Indian Ocean to Sumatra where two ships stopped at Aceh. The other two ships arrived at the busy port of Bantam in December 1602. They were carrying a cargo of woollen cloth and different kinds of iron. The problem was that Sumatrans were not very interested in trading their precious spices for these goods – given the climate in Sumatra, wool seemed particularly useless to the natives. So Lancaster acted quickly: he decided to capture a Portuguese carrack (a large ship) and steal its rich cargo of gold, silver and Indian textiles. These goods allowed him to buy pepper at Aceh. Soon he noticed that pepper was even cheaper in Bantam (Island of Java), and he traded more cloth there.
All four ships, filled with pepper, arrived back in London in 1603. Many sailors had died on the voyage. They had all lived in cramped conditions, their diet was poor and sickness was common. Over the next 9 years 11 more voyages left the Thames for the factory that James Lancaster had set up at Bantam. The East India Company had begun.
2. The Mughal Empire: The English had been trading their woollen cloth at Bantam market, but it soon became clear that they would do better to barter with other Asian goods, especially Indian textiles. For this reason they needed to dispose of their broadcloth and to find other Asian goods for barter. India, with its rich textiles, seemed to offer the answer.
The Mughal Empire covered northern and central India. It was perhaps the world’s most civilised centre of power. Its glittering court at Agra, Delhi and Lahore, was filled with all the magnificence and luxury that Asia could supply.
The Portuguese had traded directly with India for over 100 years before the first English East India Company ships reached Surat. The Company was not welcome, and in 1611 it asked King James to send an ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, to visit the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. The Emperor ruled over a prosperous civilisation that produced many goods, and had many different religions (the Mughals were Muslim).
In 1608, William Hawkins, commander of the Hector, was sent to askthe Mughal Emperor about trade with England. He impressed Jahangir with his grasp of Turkish and ability to drink copious amounts of wine, but he failed to get an agreement for an English factory. It took the arrival of a proper amabassador, Sir Thomas Roe, sent by King James I in 1615, before the Company was able to set up a base in India. From Surat the Company could send Indian textiles to the market at Bantam.
Highly skilled dyers and weavers in India produced cloth with beautiful colour-fast designs. This successful industry created an enormous amount of cloth for markets throughout Asia. In England, demand for Indian textiles grew fast, and many patterns for the new English textile industry came from India. By 1750, Indian silks, cottons and calicoes made up 60 per cent of the company’s sales.
By 1750, the Mughal Empire was in a state of collapse. Regional states emerged in India and the Company began to get involved in power politics. It raised its own armies and prepared for war.
Having seen off the rival French in the Carnatic, in 1765 the Company assumed the Diwani of Bengal. A trading company from England was now responsible for the civil, judicial and revenue administration of India’s richest province, with some 20 million inhabitants. It was now a regional state in India.
3. The British in India: By 1750, the Mughal Empire had been weakened by a series of wars, and was breaking up into smaller states. The Company took this as an opportunity to extend its territory in India.
In 1757, the Nawab of Bengal captured the Company’s settlement at Calcutta. The Company had refused to stop strengthening its walls against a possible attack by the French. The Company recaptured the settlement at the Battle of Plassey, and took control of the whole of Bengal, India’s richest province.
From this time on, the East India Company became more of a ruling power than a trading company in India. While the Company grew richer on the profits of its trade, land taxes shot up, and millions of Indians died in terrible famines. Over the following two decades, millions more would be disposessed of their land, and have their local industries crippled by the actions of the Company.
The British government became concerned about the Company’s ability to govern its territories and in 1783 it decided to make Calcutta the centre of government under a new Governor-General.
The first person appointed to this role was Warren Hastings. Power gradually slipped away from the Company into the hands of the British government.
By 1813 the Company’s trade was limited to China, but these powers were abolished in 1833. The Company lingered on until 1857 when there was a rebellion in Bengal by the “Sepoys”, who were Indian troops employed by the Company. This is believed to be India’s first war of Independence. The Company was abolished in 1858.
EAST INDIA COMPANY TIMELINE
A History of Connections
This is a story of trade and exploration, of ambition and foresight, of silk and spice, of tea and cricket, of timber and gunpowder, of cities and ports. It is the story of how a band of traders created a company that far exceeded the sum of their ambitions, uniting distant markets, bringing people together, building and sustaining an empire. It all starts in 1600 and continues on today.
1600 ROYAL CHARTER
The Company of merchants of London trading into The East Indies is granted a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I, established with 125 shareholders and £72,000 of capital. Sir Thomas Smythe is The Company’s first Governor. Elizabeth also limited the liability of the EIC’s investors as well as her liabilities in granting a Royal Charter. This made The Company the world’s first limited liability corporation.
1601 THE FIRST VOYAGE
Five vessels leave Woolwich for the Spice Islands or East Indies led by James Lancaster holding six letters of introduction from The Queen, each with a blank space for the name of the local King. Lancaster intended to trade Iron, lead and British broad cloth for Spice, but made little impression the Dutch controlled trade, and the broad cloth was deemed to heavy to be of value by those living in the tropics.
1608 LANDING IN INDIA
Ships belonging to The Company dock at Surat and in the next two years establishes its first “factory” as trading posts were called, in the town of Machilipatnam of the Coromandel coast of The Bay of Bengal. Landing in India gave The Company access to spices not controlled by Dutch traders.
1615 FIRST TREATY WITH MUGHAL EMPEROR
Sir Thomas Roe was instructed by James 1 to arrange a commercial treaty with Emperor Nurudin Salim Jahangir. This gave The Company exclusive rights to reside and build factories around Surat in exchange for rare commodities from Europe. This provided a secure base for operations to wage trade wars with Portuguese and Dutch governments and merchants.
By 1668 The Company had established factories in Goa, Chittagong,Bombay, Madras and three small villages in the east of India called Sutanati, Gobindapore and Kalikata which was renamed Calcutta in 1690. The major factories became the walled forts of Fort William in Calcutta, Fort St George in Madras and Bombay castle, which developed into the great Indian Cities of today. Of these forts Fort William remains active as the HQ of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army.
1684 TRADE WITH CHINA
The Company receives Chinese permission to trade from Guangzhou (Canton) importing silk, tea and porcelain. Trade was made with the Chinese Hongs (trading companies) who controlled trade within China. In England, the demand for tea booms, in 1664 The Company placed an order for Tea for 100lbs, by 1750 annual imports had reached 4,727,992Lbs. Having initially traded tea for silver, the English are concerned that too much silver is leaving their shores. They begin to trade the highly addictive drug opium for tea, this leads directly to the opium wars between Britain and China, as the Chinese government tries to stop this trade.
1667 LONDON WEAVERS ATTACK EAST INDIA HOUSE
Weavers, dyers and linen drapers in England protest that imports of Indian cloth are threatening their own industries. They riot and attack East India House in London. Initially, The Company responds by re-exporting Asian textiles to other countries in Europe. But market forces soon overshadow the cries of protesters, and Asian textiles continue to be hugely popular in England throughout the 18th century.
1733 ST HELENA, THE FORGOTTEN COFFEE
The East India Company bring coffee plants and seeds from Yemen to St Helena on board the ‘Houghton’ from the Red Sea port of Mocha. Napoleon Bonaparte, exiled to the island in 1816, remarked on the quality of St Helena coffee. St Helena coffee is unique, as it is not just a pure Arabica coffee, but produced from asingle type of Arabica bean known as Green Tipped Bourbon Arabica. This coffee is still grown in St Helena today and is amongst the worlds finest, respected and rare coffees.
1754 SEVERN YEARS WAR
The French and British East India Companies and their respective Indian allies were at war with each other. The East India Company led by Robert Clive defeat the French ally, Siraj Ud Daulah, at the battle of Plassey ending the rule of the last independent Nawab of Bengal. This is judged to be one of the pivotal events leading to the formation of the British Empire in South Asia. The resulting central administration and governance starts a process that leads eventually to the formation of unified India.
1773 BOSTON TEA PARTY
The Boston Tea party was driven by resistance throughout British America against the Tea Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act because it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Men thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians dumped 342 chests overboard three ships, the ‘Dartmouth’, the ‘Eleanor’ and the ‘Beaver’, loaded with tea from The East India Company.
1784 EAST INDIA COMPANY ACT
The East India Company had grown into a powerful political and trading organisation, rivaling that of the British Government, in effect ruling many of The British Empires territories. The bill differentiated The East India Company’s political functions from its commercial activities. In political matters The East India Company was subordinated to the British government directly. The process was slow and required subsequent parliamentary acts to allow The British Government to fully separate The Company’s political control from its commercial activities.
1813 THE CHARTER ACT
This asserted the sovereignty of the British Crown over the Indian territories held by The Company. It renewed the Charter of The Company for a further twenty years but ended its Indian trade monopoly except for trade in tea. At this point The East India Company was forced to open India to missionaries, who had previously been banned.
1848 DARJEELING TEA ESTABLISHED
Robert Fortune, a botanist, was hired by The Company to obtain the finest tea plants from China to establish plantations in India. He disguised himself as Chinese ‘from a distant province’, hired an interpreter, a precaution as the Chinese were extremely protective of their virtual monopoly on tea production. His efforts resulted in the shipment of 20,000 plants to the Himalayas, establishing Darjeeling as one of the finest tea producing regions in the world, and India as the dominant world tea producer it is today.
1873 EAST INDIA COMPANY STOCK REDEMPTION ACT
By the time of The Act’s passing, The Company had been effectively dissolved anyway, as The Crown assumed all governmental responsibilities held by The company by The Act for the Better Government of India. The Company’s 24,000-man military force was incorporated into the British Army, leaving it with only a shadow of the power it had wielded years earlier. Queen Victoria was the ruling monarch at the time, and thanks to her new authority over India, became the first monarch to use the title Empress of India.
“It accomplished a work such as in the whole history of the human race no other company ever attempted and as such is likely to attempt in the years to come”