Monday, 17 November 2014

The British East India Company


East India Company (EIC), originally chartered as the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, and also called British East India Company, was an English company. Later (from 1707) it became a British joint-stock company, formed mainly for trading with the East Indies but that ended up doing business mainly with the Indian subcontinent, Qing Dynasty China, North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan.
Easy India co office, London. credit: wikipedia
East India co tea. credit: clairepetras.com
The British India company  was established mainly to control the spread of Dutch-Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade. The Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish  maritime traders in those days had a dominant position in overseas mercantile operations and they were being  well supported  by their rulers, whereas the British were not as competitive as they were.  British East India company was run by James Mill and  his son with head office on Leaden Hall Street, London.   

The defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) by England gave the English the needed  break  to cut the the monopoly of  Spain and other countries . Until 1612 the company conducted voyages, separately subscribed. In the early stages in  1620s, the East India Company  engaged in slave business,  using slave labour and transporting enslaved people to its facilities in Southeast Asia and India as well as to the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Angola. Though th salves came from Indonesia and West Africa, the majority came from East Africa - from Mozambique or especially from Madagascar - and were primarily transported to the company’s holdings in India and Indonesia.  Slave trade and  large-scale transportation of slaves by the company  peaked  in the mid 1700s and lasted till 1770s .

There were temporary joint stocks until 1657, when a permanent joint stock was raised. After 1694 BEIC retained its dominant position despite competition from other British companies and continued to make large profits from India and by 1720, 15% of Britain's imports came from India. Subsequently the company rose to account for half of the world's trade, particularly trade in basic commodities that included cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, salt peter, tea and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.
Add caption
East India co. emblem. credit: academics.tjsst.edu

The company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth in 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Wealthy merchants and aristocrats owned the Company's shares. Validity of the charter was first 15 years subject to renewal.
pinterest.com
greatgameindia.com
  Madras Army, EIC. credit:www.rf792.org
After the mid-18th century the cotton-goods trade declined because of the civil war in the USA, while tea became an important import from China. Later India became  a major supplier of cotton and tea.  Beginning in the early 19th century, the company financed the tea trade with illegal opium exports to China. Chinese opposition to that trade precipitated the first Opium War (1839–42),  The Chinese defeat saw the expansion of trade in SE Asia by the English company.  When the company acquired control of Bengal in 1757, the Indian policy was under the control of the shareholders and in 173 this led to government intervention. The Indian political policy was supervised by the governing board that was responsible to the parliament. EIC became a sort of proxy government for the crown simply managing the  Indian affairs and  the political and commercial control was with the crown. After 1857 the Great Indian Rebellion against the company's oppressive and unjust rule, the crown took over the administration directly and EIC ceased o exist in India.