Friday, 5 December 2014

British East India company in India - a brief review


East India company house, London.en.wikipedia.org
East India Company, (1600–1708) was an English company formed for the exploitation of trade with East and Southeast Asia and India, incorporated by royal charter on December 31,1600. Starting as a monopolistic trading body In India, the company became actively 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.

East India co logo.worldofimmigation.com
 With other European nations importing fortunes in goods and plunder  after Vasco de Gama's discovey of new sea route to India and far East (1598), Queen Elizabeth decided England should get some, too. So she granted the charter for the East India Company. She not only gave  just royal decree but also coffers (treasury funds) to help merchants and explorers establish trade on behalf of England in the East. The charter she issued created the first official joint-stock corporation. 
 
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  which gave the English a chance to break their monopoly and backbone. Until 1612 the company conducted numerous voyages, separately subscribed. There were temporary joint stocks until 1657, when a permanent joint stock was raised. A joint-stock corporation is  made of investors who are granted shares in a company. In return for their initial investments, shareholders are given dividends, or percentages, of the company's profits based on the number of shares the investor holds. The company will be run by a board of directors who preside over the progress and activities of the company that help the company make profits.
 
british East India co. flags.seeker401.wordpress.com
British East India coins.wikis.engrade.com

The English company met with opposition from the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and the Portuguese Where the Dutch had been mercantile traders for sometime. 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 Mogul Empire prior to that the Portuguese were the tough competitors, especially on the Indian west coast. The company settled down to trade in cotton and silk piece goods, indigo, and saltpeter, 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, on account of tough competition from America because the Yankees had a better textile technology than the British and their products were far superior than them.At this juncture tea became an important import from China and both Europeans and Americans had developed interest in drinking tea regularly. Beginning in the early 19th century, the company financed the tea trade with illegal opium exports to China. Chinese opposition to this trade caused 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 stiff opposition to its monopoly, which led to the formation 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 English company, which had a settlement in Calcutta,Bengal for trade purpose in 1600s, gradually and carefully started making inroad into Indian politics.That, the Mogul Empire's influence and power were on the decline  which gave the wily British to accelerate their wonton interference in Bengal politics, was a turning point in British history in India. After the major war at Buxar 1865 with the Nawob of Ouadh, Mogul emperor Shah Alam and Mir Qasim, and later treaties(Allahabad Treaties) with them,the Company had acquired absolute control of the revenue systems of Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar, on India's east coast, and became the largest territorial power in India. 

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. But the heads of the Company oversaw the governance of India. 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. Parliament transferred the Company's power over administration of the vast Indian territories to the British Crown in 1858 after the Indian Mutiny (1857, an uprising of Indian soldiers (Sepoys) that was largely blamed on the Company's mismanagement of the territory, rampant corruption, extortion of Indian Maharajahs and Nawobs, interference in natives' religious matter and racial discrimination in jobs, etc and it ceased to exist as a legal entity in 1873.

The untrustworthy British East India company earned the hatred of entire Indian population and became a symbol of corruption, coercion, diabolism and cunning.The company literally made India become a poor and impoverished nation. No country would have taken so much beatings stoically as India did under the East India company, a proxy government well nurtured by the British Crown all for their advantage. 
 Ref:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company