Essay on East India Company !
After inflicting a naval defeat on the Spanish Armeda in 1588 the British acquired naval supremacy. This encouraged certain merchant adventurers of London to form a company for trade in the East.
Accordingly they formed the East India Company and received a charter from Queen Elizabeth I of England on 31 December 1600. During the initial years of its existence the Company undertook ‘separate voyages’ and distributed the profits from each voyage among the subscribers.
The first effort for regular trade with India was made in 1608 when the company wanted to establish a factory at Surat. The British Captain Hawkins tried to obtain permission from the Mughal emperor Jahangir to establish a factory at Surat, but the efforts were foiled due to the hostility of the Portuguese.
However, in 1612 two of the English vessels reached Surat and inflicted a defeat on the Portuguese fleet. In 1613 the English succeeded in securing permission from Jahangir to establish their first factory at Surat.
In 1615 the British succeeded through the good offices of Thomas Roe in securing from the Mughal emperor certain privileges including the right to erect factories in certain parts of the empire. By virtue of this concession the English established factories at Surat, Agra, Ahmedabad and Broach within the next four years. These factories were placed under the supervision of the President and the Council of Surat factory.
In 1668 Charles transferred Bombay (which he had received as a part of dowry of his queen) to the English East India Company on an annual rent of £10. In course of time Bombay became a flourishing commercial city and superseded in importance even Surat.
On the east coast also the English set up a number of factories. In fact they had established their first factory on the East coast at Masulipatam in 1611. They established another factory at Armagoan, few miles from the Dutch settlement of Pulicat in 1628.
In 1639 the English secured the site of the present city of Madras from the Raja of Chandragiri and built the fortified factory called Fort St. George. This ultimately became the headquarters of the company’s settlements on the Coromandel coast.
Soon after the English extended their trade activities to the north-eastern part of India. In 1633 they opened a factory at Hariharpur, followed by the one at Balasore. In 1651 they opened a factory at Hooghly followed by factories at Patna and Kasimbazar. In 1690 the Company secured the city of Calcutta from the Nawab of Bengal against the payment of Rs.1,200 per year.
During the initial years the Company followed the policy of peaceful trade, advocated by Sir Thomas Roe. It avoided all attempts for gaining territorial possessions, because it felt that it could prove ruinous to the English interests in India.
However, towards the close of the eighteenth century a change took place in the policy of the English. Taking an advantage of the downward trend in the law and order situation in the country, they began entertaining political ambitions and gradually adopted the policy of territorial acquisition.
In view of the increasing disorder in the country the Company was obliged to make necessary arrangements for its own defence. In view of the changed circumstances Gerald Aungier, President of the factory of Bombay, informed the Court of Directors that “the times now require you to manage your, general commerce with the sword in your hands.”
Accordingly in 1687, Sir Josiah Child, the President of the Board of Directors of the Company approved of a change in Company’s policy. The Britishers in India were advised “to establish such a politic of civil and military power and create and secure such a large revenue to secure both… as may be the foundation of a large well grounded sure English dominion in India for all times to come.”
As a result of this change in the policy of the Company, its activities began to acquire political nature and its trade interests also continued to expand. In 1715 the English secured from the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiya a Farman, granting the company the privilege of trading in Bengal free of all duties on an annual payment of Rs.3,000.
The Company was also permitted to rent additional territory around Calcutta, and to retain its privilege of trading in the province of Hyderabad free of duty. The Company was exempted from all customs and other duties at Surat in return for the payment of an annual sum of Rs.10,000.
The Company was permitted to mint its own coins, which were to have currency in the Mughal empire as well. This Farman is often described as the Magna Carta of the Company. Within few years of the issue of the Farman of 1716-17 the English fortified the city of Bombay as a measure of defence against the attacks of the Marathas and the Portuguese.
The company increased the number of its armed ships and entered into an alliance with the Peshwa to defeat the Angrias, who had dominated the Western coast from Bombay to Goa. The Company captured Suvamdurg, a stronghold of the Angrias in 1755 and their capital Gheria in 1757.