British East India Company
The English East India Company was an English and later (from 1707) Britishjoint-stock company formed for pursuing trade with the East Indies but which ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent.
The Company was granted a Royal Charter in 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Shares of the company were owned by wealthy merchants and aristocrats. The government owned no shares and had only indirect control.
The Company operated its own large army with which it controlled major portions of India.
The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium. The Company also came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858 when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of India in the new British Raj. The Company was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act.
East India Company
Soon after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, London merchants presented a petition to Queen Elizabeth I for permission to sail to the Indian Ocean. The permission was granted and in 1591 three ships sailed from England around the Cape of Good Hope to the Arabian Sea. One of them, the Edward Bonventure, then sailed around Cape Comorin and on to the Malay Peninsula and subsequently returned to England in 1594.
In 1596, three more ships sailed east; however, these were all lost at sea. Two years later, on 24 September 1598, another group of merchants having raised £30,133 in capital, met in London to form a corporation. Although their first attempt was not completely successful, they nonetheless sought the Queen’s unofficial approval, purchased ships for their venture, increased their capital to £68,373, and convened again a year later.
This time they succeeded, and on 31 December 1600, the Queen granted a Royal Charter to “George, Earl of Cumberland, and 215 Knights, Aldermen, and Burgesses” under the name, Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies. For a period of fifteen years the charter awarded the newly formed company a monopoly on trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan. Sir James Lancaster commanded the first East India Company voyage in 1601.
Initially, the Company struggled in the spice trade due to the competition from the already well established Dutch East India Company. The Company opened a factory in Bantam on the first voyage and imports of pepper from Java were an important part of the Company’s trade for twenty years. The factory in Bantam was closed in 1683. During this time ships belonging to the company arriving in India docked at Surat, which was established as a trade transit point in 1608.
In the next two years, the Company built its first factory in south India in the town of Machilipatnam on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. The high profits reported by the Company after landing in India initially prompted King James I to grant subsidiary licenses to other trading companies in England. But in 1609 he renewed the charter given to the Company for an indefinite period, including a clause which specified that the charter would cease to be in force if the trade turned unprofitable for three consecutive years.
The Company was led by one Governor and 24 directors, who made up the Court of Directors. They, in turn, reported to the Court of Proprietors which appointed them. Ten committees reported to the Court of Directors.
Foothold in India
English traders frequently engaged in hostilities with their Dutch and Portuguese counterparts in the Indian Ocean. The Company achieved a major victory over the Portuguese in the Battle of Swally in 1612. The Company decided to explore the feasibility of gaining a territorial foothold in mainland India, with official sanction of both countries, and requested that the Crown launch a diplomatic mission.
In 1612, Sir Thomas Roe was instructed by James I to visit the Mughal Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jahangir (r. 1605 – 1627) to arrange for a commercial treaty which would give the Company exclusive rights to reside and build factories in Surat and other areas. In return, the Company offered to provide the Emperor with goods and rarities from the European market. This mission was highly successful as Jahangir sent a letter to James through Sir Thomas Roe:
Upon which assurance of your royal love I have given my general command to all the kingdoms and ports of my dominions to receive all the merchants of the English nation as the subjects of my friend; that in what place soever they choose to live, they may have free liberty without any restraint; and at what port soever they shall arrive, that neither Portugal nor any other shall dare to molest their quiet; and in what city soever they shall have residence, I have commanded all my governors and captains to give them freedom answerable to their own desires; to sell, buy, and to transport into their country at their pleasure.For confirmation of our love and friendship, I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace; and that you be pleased to send me your royal letters by every opportunity, that I may rejoice in your health and prosperous affairs; that our friendship may be interchanged and eternal.
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The Company, benefiting from the imperial patronage, soon expanded its commercial trading operations, eclipsing the Portuguese Estado da India, which had established bases in Goa, Chittagong and Bombay (which was later ceded to England as part of the dowry of Catherine de Braganza). The Company created trading posts in Surat (where a factory was built in 1612), Madras (1639), Bombay (1668), and Calcutta (1690). By 1647, the Company had 23 factories, each under the command of a factor or master merchant and governor if so chosen, and had 90 employees in India. The major factories became the walled forts of Fort William in Bengal, Fort St George in Madras, and the Bombay Castle.
In 1634, the Mughal emperor extended his hospitality to the English traders to the region of Bengal, and in 1717 completely waived customs duties for the trade. The company’s mainstay businesses were by then in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre and tea. The Company’s bright future, however, was rudely braked by the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648, which freed the Netherlands from Spanish control allowing it to turn its full attention to expanding its trade both in home and distant waters and enter a period recognised as Holland’s ‘Golden Age’. The Dutch were aggressive competitors, and had meanwhile expanded their monopoly of the spice trade in the Malaccan straits by ousting the Portuguese in 1640-41. With reduced Portuguese and Spanish influence in the region, the EIC and Dutch East India Company (VOC) entered a period of intense competition, resulting in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Meanwhile, in 1657, Oliver Cromwell renewed the charter of 1609, and brought about minor changes in the holding of the Company. The status of the Company was further enhanced by the restoration of monarchy in England.
In an act aimed at strengthening the power of the EIC, King Charles II provisioned the EIC (in a series of five acts around 1670) with the rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops and form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas.
William Hedges was sent in 1682 to Shaista Khan, the Mughal governor of Bengal in order to obtain a firman, an imperial directive that would grant England regular trading privileges throughout the Mughal empire. However, the company’s governor in London, Sir Josiah Child, interfered with Hedges’s mission, causing Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to break off the negotiations. After that Child started war with the Mughals but the “Child’s War” (1686–1690) ended in disaster for the English.
In 1689 a Mughal fleet commanded by Sidi Yakub attacked Bombay. After a year of resistance the English surrendered in 1690, and the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb’s camp to plead for a pardon. The company’s envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behaviour in the future. The emperor withdrew his troops and the company subsequently reestablished itself in Bombay and set up a new base in Calcutta.
Mughal convoy piracy incident of 1695
In September 1695, Captain Henry Every, an English pirate on board the Fancy, reached the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, where he teamed up with five other pirate captains to make an attack on the Indian fleet making the annual voyage to Mecca. The Mughal convoy included the treasure-laden Ganj-i-Sawai, reported to be the greatest in the Mughal fleet and the largest ship operational in the Indian Ocean, and its escort, the Fateh Muhammed. They were spotted passing the straits en route to Surat. The pirates gave chase and caught up with the Fateh Muhammed some days later, and meeting little resistance, took some £50,000 to £60,000 worth of treasure.
Every continued in pursuit and managed to overhaul the Ganj-i-Sawai, who put up a fearsome fight but it too was eventually taken. The ship carried enormous wealth and, according to contemporary East India Company sources, was carrying a relative of the Grand Mughal, though there is no evidence to suggest that it was his daughter and her retinue. The loot from the Ganj-i-Sawai totalled between £325,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces, and has become known as the richest ship ever taken by pirates.
In a letter sent to the Privy Council by Sir John Gayer, then governor of Bombay and head of the East India Company, Gayer claims that “it is certain the Pirates…did do very barbarously by the People of the Ganj-i-Sawai and Abdul Ghaffar’s ship, to make them confess where their money was.” The pirates set free the survivors who were left aboard their emptied ships, to continue their voyage back to India.
When the news arrived in England it caused an out-cry. In response, a combined bounty of £1,000 (considered massive by the standards of the time) was offered for Every’s capture by the Privy Council and East India Company, leading to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history. The plunder of Aurangzeb‘s treasure ship had serious consequences for the English East India Company. The furious Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered Sidi Yaqub and Nawab Daud Khan to attack and close four of the company’s factories in India and imprison their officers, who were almost lynched by a mob of angry Mughals, blaming them for their countryman’s depredations, and threatened to put an end to all English trading in India. To appease Emperor Aurangzeb and particularly his Grand Vizier Asad Khan, Parliament exempted Every from all of the Acts of Grace (pardons) and amnesties it would subsequently issue to other pirates.
Forming a complete monopoly
The prosperity that the officers of the company enjoyed allowed them to return to Britain and establish sprawling estates and businesses, and to obtain political power. The Company developed a lobby in the English parliament. Under pressure from ambitious tradesmen and former associates of the Company (pejoratively termed Interlopers by the Company), who wanted to establish private trading firms in India, a deregulating act was passed in 1694.
This allowed any English firm to trade with India, unless specifically prohibited by act of parliament, thereby annulling the charter that had been in force for almost 100 years. By an act that was passed in 1698, a new “parallel” East India Company (officially titled the English Company Trading to the East Indies) was floated under a state-backed indemnity of £2 million. The powerful stockholders of the old company quickly subscribed a sum of £315,000 in the new concern, and dominated the new body. The two companies wrestled with each other for some time, both in England and in India, for a dominant share of the trade.
It quickly became evident that, in practice, the original Company faced scarcely any measurable competition. The companies merged in 1708, by a tripartite indenture involving both companies and the state. Under this arrangement, the merged company lent to the Treasury a sum of £3,200,000, in return for exclusive privileges for the next three years, after which the situation was to be reviewed. The amalgamated company became the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.
In the following decades there was a constant see-saw battle between the Company lobby and the Parliament. The Company sought a permanent establishment, while the Parliament would not willingly allow it greater autonomy and so relinquish the opportunity to exploit the Company’s profits. In 1712, another act renewed the status of the Company, though the debts were repaid. By 1720, 15% of British imports were from India, almost all passing through the Company, which reasserted the influence of the Company lobby. The license was prolonged until 1766 by yet another act in 1730.
At this time, Britain and France became bitter rivals. Frequent skirmishes between them took place for control of colonial possessions. In 1742, fearing the monetary consequences of a war, the British government agreed to extend the deadline for the licensed exclusive trade by the Company in India until 1783, in return for a further loan of £1 million. Between 1756 and 1763, the Seven Years’ War diverted the state’s attention towards consolidation and defence of its territorial possessions in Europe and its colonies in North America.
The war took place on Indian soil, between the Company troops and the French forces. In 1757, the Law Officers of the Crown delivered the Pratt-Yorke opinion distinguishing overseas territories acquired by right of conquest from those acquired by private treaty. The opinion asserted that, while the Crown of Great Britain enjoyed sovereignty over both, only the property of the former was vested in the Crown.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Britain surged ahead of its European rivals. Demand for Indian commodities was boosted by the need to sustain the troops and the economy during the war, and by the increased availability of raw materials and efficient methods of production. As home to the revolution, Britain experienced higher standards of living. Its spiralling cycle of prosperity, demand, and production had a profound influence on overseas trade. The Company became the single largest player in the British global market. It reserved for itself an unassailable position in the decision-making process of the Government.
William Henry Pyne notes in his book The Microcosm of London (1808) that:
- “On the 1 March 1801, the debts of the East India Company to £5,393,989 their effects to £15,404,736 and their sales increased since February 1793, from £4,988,300 to £7,602,041.”
Sir John Banks, a businessman from Kent who negotiated an agreement between the King and the Company, began his career in a syndicate arranging contracts for victualling the navy, an interest he kept up for most of his life. He knew Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn and founded a substantial fortune from the Levant and Indian trades. He became a Director and later, as Governor of the East Indian Company in 1672, he arranged a contract which included a loan of £20,000 and £30,000 worth of saltpetre for the King ‘at the price it shall sell by the candle’ — that is by auction — where an inch of candle burned and as long as it was alight bidding could continue. The agreement included with the price ‘an allowance of interest which is to be expressed in tallies.’ This was something of a breakthrough in royal prerogative because previous requests for the King to buy at the Company’s auctions had been turned down as ‘not honourable or decent.’
Outstanding debts were also agreed and the Company permitted to export 250 tons of saltpetre. Again in 1673, Banks successfully negotiated another contract for 700 tons of saltpetre at £37,000 between the King and the Company. So urgent was the need to supply the armed forces in the United Kingdom, America, and elsewhere that the authorities sometimes turned a blind eye on the untaxed sales. One governor of the Company was even reported as saying in 1864 that he would rather have the saltpetre made than the tax on salt.
Basis for the monopoly
The Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) resulted in the defeat of the French forces, limited French imperial ambitions, and stunting the influence of the industrial revolution in French territories. Robert Clive, the Governor General, led the Company to a victory against Joseph François Dupleix, the commander of the French forces in India, and recaptured Fort St George from the French. The Company took this respite to seize Manila in 1762.
By the Treaty of Paris (1763), France regained the five establishments captured by the British during the war (Pondicherry, Mahe, Karikal, Yanam, and Chandernagar) but was prevented from erecting fortifications and keeping troops in Bengal (art. XI). Elsewhere in India, the French were to remain a military threat, particularly during the War of American Independence, and up to the capture of Pondicherry in 1793 at the outset of the French Revolutionary Wars without any military presence. Although these small outposts remained French possessions for the next two hundred years, French ambitions on Indian territories were effectively laid to rest, thus eliminating a major source of economic competition for the Company.
In contrast, the Company, fresh from a colossal victory, and with the backing of a disciplined and experienced army, was able to assert its interests in the Carnatic region from its base at Madras and in Bengal from Calcutta, without facing any further obstacles from other colonial powers.
The Company continued to experience resistance from local rulers during its expansion. Robert Clive led company forces against Siraj Ud Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, Bihar, and Midnapore district in Orissa to victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, resulting in the conquest of Bengal. This victory estranged the British and the Mughals, since Siraj Ud Daulah was a Mughal feudatory ally.
With the gradual weakening of the Marathas in the aftermath of the three Anglo-Maratha wars, the British also secured Ganges-Jumna Doab, the Delhi-Agra region, parts of Bundelkhand, Broach, some districts of Gujarat, fort of Ahmmadnagar, province of Cuttack (which included Mughalbandi/the coastal part of Orissa, Garjat/the princely states of Orissa, Balasore Port, parts of Midnapore district of West Bengal), Bombay (Mumbai) and the surrounding areas, leading to a formal end of the Maratha empire and firm establishment of the British East India Company in India.
Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore, offered much resistance to the British forces. Having sided with the French during the war, the rulers of Mysore continued their struggle against the Company with the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. Mysore finally fell to the Company forces in 1799, with the death of Tipu Sultan.
The last vestiges of local administration were restricted to the northern regions of Delhi, Oudh, Rajputana, and Punjab, where the Company’s presence was ever increasing amidst infighting and offers of protection among the remaining princes. Coercive action, threats, and diplomacy aided the Company in preventing the local rulers from putting up a united struggle. The hundred years from the Battle of Plassey in 1757 to the Indian Rebellion of 1857 were a period of consolidation for the Company, which began to function more as a nation and less as a trading concern.
A cholera pandemic began in Bengal, then spread across India by 1820. 10,000 British troops and countless Indians died during this pandemic. Between 1736 and 1834 only some 10% of East India Company’s officers survived to take the final voyage home.
In the 18th century, Britain had a huge trade deficit with Qing Dynasty China and so in 1773, the Company created a British monopoly on opium buying in Bengal. As the opium trade was illegal in China, Company ships could not carry opium to China. So the opium produced in Bengal was sold in Calcutta on condition that it be sent to China.
Despite the Chinese ban on opium imports, reaffirmed in 1799 by the Jiaqing Emperor, the drug was smuggled into China from Bengal by traffickers and agency houses such as Jardine, Matheson & Co and Dent & Co. in amounts averaging 900 tons a year. The proceeds of the drug-smugglers landing their cargoes at Lintin Island were paid into the Company’s factory at Canton and by 1825, most of the money needed to buy tea in China was raised by the illegal opium trade.
The Company established a group of trading settlements centred on the Straits of Malacca called the Straits Settlements in 1826 to protect its trade route to China and to combat local piracy. The Settlements were also used as penal settlements for Indian civilian and military prisoners.
In 1838, with the amount of smuggled opium entering China approaching 1,400 tons a year, the Chinese imposed a death penalty for opium smuggling and sent a Special Imperial Commissioner, Lin Zexu, to curb smuggling. This resulted in the First Opium War (1839–1842). After the war Hong Kong island was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking and the Chinese market opened to the opium traders of Britain and other nations. A Second Opium War fought by Britain and France against China lasted from 1856 until 1860 and led to the Treaty of Tientsin.
Check out that flag above ….look familiar ..or an newer version ?
However, this were the early roots of vulture capitalism.
The Monarchy always has been and always will be puppetts in the front…. Rothschilds and ilk new this from early on….when the revolving doors of leaders came into play, these leaders needed to fund armies to protect their domain (and their own heads). Hence the banking system and usury, whereby the given leaders sell out their subject /citizens in order to maintain personal power, can’t be better summarized than that re its genesis , evolution, or the roots of the banking system is WAR..and to this day its lifeblood is WAR…talk about real- life vampires.
Monarchy simply acted as “symbols of unity”..pretty faces for the sheep to put on pedestal and to worship ?(Personally I think they are all useless twits whose wealth and power is built on Graves of Millions of innocents).
Then behind the scenes they grant charters to various groups like the East India Company to rape and pillage other lands , impose imperialism and, share the plunder with the Monarchy.
Basically the deal was “Your Majesty..Your Highness, we wish to rape pillage plunder and plant-the- flag in “X” country….we will give you a cut…., y ‘know…add to the Crown Jewels…thus will you grant us your blessing ?”
However, people sit there and literally worship these inbred dysfunctional useless morons…but don’t even know WHY ?….or if they knew the REAL history would anyone show up ?