The British East India Company

East India Company

East India company is the most famous London merchant company in history and one of the most profitable of all time. But it was more than a simple merchant company. What started as a merchant company soon morphed into a colonial force which paved the way for eventual annexation of India into the British Empire.

Formation of the Company

British East India Company was born on 31 December 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I put the signature on the first statute (also called royal patent) and recognized a monopoly for 15 years of business in the following zones between the Strait of Magellan and the Cape of Good Hope (the area of ​​the East Indies).

The national association of merchants, however, began its extremely profitable activity already at the end of the sixteenth century. It is said that the initial capital was equal to 72 thousand pounds, divided between 125 shareholders, and that in less than 50 years the amortization had multiplied considerably, exceeding 740 thousand pounds.

Rivalry with the Dutch

The first stumbling block from the British was the rivalry with the Dutch in the Indies: the Dutch East India Company gave a hard time to the British that is until the massacre of the English merchants of Amboina in 1623, which lead to a tacit division of the areas: the Dutch took Indonesia and Ceylon, while the British took mainland India.

Overseas presence

The main offices of the India Company were in London (with a detachment in Surat), but in 1616, with the authorization of the Grand Mughal dynasty, they also opened offices in the most important Indian cities, such as Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. In China, on the other hand, the largest office is in Canton. In addition, the British East India Company also enforced English law against its trade in these territories as well.

Military and Antipiracy activities

Within a few years, the activities in the East became a flagship for England which greatly let to the transformation of the organization of the Company, which in addition to economic strength, also became a military force. In fact, after the collapse of the Moghul empire and the Seven Years’ War, which stopped the French competition, the English local power became dominant throughout the territory.

In addition to this extremely favourable picture, some military victories, such as that at Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764) and, thanks to the intrigues of Robert Clive, an employee of the association, the Company also obtained control of Bengal and Clive was then elected governor. The National Association of British Merchants allowed the creation of the Raj, or British India.

The company also made efforts to eradicate piracy. Captain William Kidd was hired by the British to defeat the pirates. His mission was to capture enemy ships off the coast of Madagascar, aboard his Adventure Galley, a boat equipped with 34 guns and a crew of 80 men. In reality, Kidd turned out to be a corrupt pirate at heart and tried to make his fortune by attacking the Company’s ships, but the British soon discovered the deception and hung him in London.

Dominion over India and far East

In less than two centuries, the Company became very large, extending its territories and transforming itself into a sort of local government. Soon the company became PAN India meaning operating across the whole of India. But the administrative management proved to be complicated and accusations of corruption arose due to brigands and officials prone to malfeasance. 

The English government was forced to take matters into their own hands and in 1784 the Indian Act was passed, the law that separated the government of the East Indian territories from commercial activities. From then on the company was only responsible for the merchant traffic and governance of overseas territories was overtaken by the Crown.

Despite the political situation, the British East India Company continued to grow throughout the East: it arrived in Burma, established Singapore and Hong Kong, and even occupied the Philippines and Java.

Eventual decline

The decline began in the early nineteenth century, when it clashed with China for the export of Indian opium. China wanted to stop the English hegemony at all costs, so much so as to unleash the famous opium wars (1840-’42). In 1813 the Company lost its commercial monopoly and a few years later, in 1857 following the Revolt of the Sepoys (Indian War of Independence), it also lost its administrative powers. Finally, in 1860, the Crown took control of all the possessions of the Company, and it was dissolved on January 1, 1874.

Side Note

The British East India Company, defined by many experts as the first and longest-running multinational in history, has supplied Europe for almost two centuries with many precious products such as spices (from nutmeg to cloves), precious fabrics (from thirsty cotton yarn), coffee, sugar and tea. It was the English merchants who planted tea in India and it was the monopoly of the sale of this typical plant that triggered the American revolution (the famous ” Boston Tea Party ” of 1773).

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By Maria Hussain

Mars is a content writer and founder of Hesolite the place for you to get SEO tips, backlinks. He gained extensive knowledge by doing researches on various technology projects. You will find his SEO-related contributions on top sites online.

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