The British East India Company

The British East India Company was a company which, at the insistence of rich and influential English merchants of Queen Elizabeth I, for the first 15 years, on December 31, 1600, received a license to handle all trade with India.
In addition, the company was allowed to appoint its governor and the 24 directors.

Over time, the company developed into one of the most powerful ventures in British history.




The beginnings:

At the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch and French branches dominated the Indian subcontinent. It was not until 1608 that the first British base was built in Surat. In the next two years, the first trading office in Machilipatnam on the Coromandel Coast in the Bay of Bengal was also established. Due to the high profits King James I extended the license of the company on the condition that it expires if no profits were made for 3 consecutive years.

At the insistence of the company, the British king was instructed to enter into diplomatic contact with the Mughal emperor in order to found permanent British branches. In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe was commissioned with this mission and sent to the Mughal Jahangir, who at that time ruled most of the Indian subcontinent. The negotiations were quite successful and the British were able to secure the exclusive rights of some locations in exchange for European luxury goods.




The rise of the company:

Over the next few years, partnerships with the Mughal Emperor have created additional offices, including Surat 1612, Madras 1639, Bombay 1668 and Calcutta. The core businesses at that time related to trading
- Cotton
- silk
- Indigo dyes
- Saltpetre
- Tea
An entry into the spice monopoly of the Dutch, however, the British were denied.
In 1657, Oliver Cromwell renewed the company's license with some changes in the ownership structure.

In 1670, King Charles II of England extended the rights and powers of the Company. Now she was able to work independently
- Acquire territories
- shape money (like the Dutch company)
- Command and use fortresses and military troops
- lead diplomacy (make alliances, declare war)
- carry out civil and criminal justice

Due to the ongoing hostility of European competitors and the native population, the first elimination of own troops took place from 1680. The soldiers were mainly from local men (Sepoys), the service ranks of the NCOs and officers, however, were intended only for British men.




The company and politics:

The high profits in India allowed business people in England to buy more businesses and increase their wealth. This resulted in a great power, which they also used for their political purposes and founded a lobby to represent and enforce their interest. Yet, despite this, opposition from other and former businessmen was spreading against the company, demanding the opening up of the Indian market to other ventures. This meant that 1698 another East India Company was founded. Although these two competed in the English and Indian markets, but against the old company could secure the new barely noticeable market share. In addition, the businessmen of the old company bought into the new one, so that these two merged in 1702 already. After the Ministry of Finance lent a sum of £ 3,200,000, in return it obtained the exclusive trade rights issue for a further three years.

The next few years were marked by the disputes between the company and the parliament over the rights in India. The company was concerned with the preservation of its generous rights, the parliament wanted to be involved in the profits of the enterprise. Nevertheless, in 1712 the status of the company was extended, in 1730 again until 1766.
After political tensions between England and France worsened in the 1940s, status was even extended until 1783.




The military expansion of the company:

The seven-year war in Europe also led to military clashes between England and France of the respective colonies. Not only in North America, therefore, it came to fighting, in India, the conflict was fought.

Read in this article:  BRITISH CONQUEST OF INDIA


Karte Asien im 18. Jahrhundert

Map Asia in the 18th century




The downfall of the company:

Despite the company's large expansion and high profits at the beginning, it was not possible for the managers to permanently control the areas.

For example, around 1/6 of the population died in a famine in Bengal. In addition, productivity in parts of the regions declined while the costs of administration and the military apparatus increased. In addition, the company created the economic stagnation and depression in Europe as well as the independence aspirations in North America. Out of desperation, the company's managers turned to the British parliament for financial support. It was then enacted the Tea Act of 1773, whereby the final price of tea in the North American colonies could be lowered without lowering the controversial import tariffs. The ensuing boycott was one of the main reasons for the independence movement that erupted shortly thereafter.

After the United States of America gained independence, the focus of the British crown was again on India and the company. In 1773 she had to bow to the Regulating Act for India, which provided for the transfer of the administration and the administration of the controlled area to the British crown. In return, the company was able to continue its business by paying an annual lease. Thus, the company was still preserved, but developed in the course of the next few years more likely to a subsidiary of the British crown.

By the middle of the 18th century, the areas could be partially extended, with large parts of India, Burma, Singapore and Hong Kong were under British control. In 1833, the company lost its trading monopoly and fell back to the level of a normal company. After 1857 Indian soldiers rebelled, 1858 in the Government of India Act the complete surrender of the areas, possessions and the fortune of the company to the British crown was granted. Thus, India transformed into a crown colony and the company managed only the tea trade.

With the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act of January 1, 1874, the British East India Company was completely dissolved.



The flag of the English East India Company 1600-1707


The flag of the English East India Company 1707-1801


The flag of the English East India Company 1801-1858






You can find the right literature here:


The Honourable Company

The Honourable Company Paperback – October 22, 1993

During 200 years the East India Company grew from a loose association of Elizabethan tradesmen into "the grandest society of merchants in the universe". As a commercial enterprise it came to control half the world's trade and as a political entity it administered an embryonic empire. Without it there would have been no British India and no British Empire. In a tapestry ranging from Southern Africa to north-west America, and from the reign of Elizabeth I to that of Victoria, bizarre locations and roguish personality abound. From Bombay to Singapore and Hong Kong the political geography of today is, in some respects, the result of the Company. This book looks at the history of the East India Company.

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A Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company

A Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company (Harvard Historical Studies) Hardcover – May 7, 2018

At the height of its power around 1800, the English East India Company controlled half of the world’s trade and deployed a vast network of political influencers at home and abroad. Yet the story of the Company’s beginnings in the early seventeenth century has remained largely untold. Rupali Mishra’s account of the East India Company’s formative years sheds new light on one of the most powerful corporations in the history of the world.

From its birth in 1600, the East India Company lay at the heart of English political and economic life. The Company’s fortunes were determined by the leading figures of the Stuart era, from the monarch and his privy counselors to an extended cast of eminent courtiers and powerful merchants. Drawing on a host of overlooked and underutilized sources, Mishra reconstructs the inner life of the Company, laying bare the era’s fierce struggles to define the difference between public and private interests and the use and abuse of power. Unlike traditional accounts, which portray the Company as a private entity that came to assume the powers of a state, Mishra’s history makes clear that, from its inception, the East India Company was embedded within―and inseparable from―the state.

A Business of State illuminates how the East India Company quickly came to inhabit such a unique role in England’s commercial and political ambitions. It also offers critical insights into the rise of the early modern English state and the expansion and development of its nascent empire.

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The East India Company, 1600–1858: A Short History with Documents

The East India Company, 1600–1858: A Short History with Documents (Passages: Key Moments in History)

In existence for 258 years, the English East India Company ran a complex, highly integrated global trading network. It supplied the tea for the Boston Tea Party, the cotton textiles used to purchase slaves in Africa, and the opium for China’s nineteenth-century addiction. In India it expanded from a few small coastal settlements to govern territories that far exceeded the British Isles in extent and population. It minted coins in its name, established law courts and prisons, and prosecuted wars with one of the world’s largest armies. Over time, the Company developed a pronounced and aggressive colonialism that laid the foundation for Britain’s Eastern empire. A study of the Company, therefore, is a study of the rise of the modern world.

In clear, engaging prose, Ian Barrow sets the rise and fall of the Company into political, economic, and cultural contexts and explains how and why the Company was transformed from a maritime trading entity into a territorial colonial state. Excerpts from eighteen primary documents illustrate the main themes and ideas discussed in the text. Maps, illustrations, a glossary, and a chronology are also included.

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Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600--1900

Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600--1900 Hardcover – December 7, 2010

Commerce meets conquest in this swashbuckling story of the six merchant-adventurers who built the modern world

It was an era when monopoly trading companies were the unofficial agents of European expansion, controlling vast numbers of people and huge tracts of land, and taking on governmental and military functions. They managed their territories as business interests, treating their subjects as employees, customers, or competitors. The leaders of these trading enterprises exercised virtually unaccountable, dictatorial political power over millions of people.

The merchant kings of the Age of Heroic Commerce were a rogue's gallery of larger-than-life men who, for a couple hundred years, expanded their far-flung commercial enterprises over a sizable portion of the world. They include Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the violent and autocratic pioneer of the Dutch East India Company; Peter Stuyvesant, the one-legged governor of the Dutch West India Company, whose narrow-minded approach lost Manhattan to the British; Robert Clive, who rose from company clerk to become head of the British East India Company and one of the wealthiest men in Britain; Alexandr Baranov of the Russian American Company; Cecil Rhodes, founder of De Beers and Rhodesia; and George Simpson, the "Little Emperor" of the Hudson's Bay Company, who was chauffeured about his vast fur domain in a giant canoe, exhorting his voyageurs to paddle harder so he could set speed records.
Merchant Kings looks at the rise and fall of company rule in the centuries before colonialism, when nations belatedly assumed responsibility for their commercial enterprises. A blend of biography, corporate history, and colonial history, this book offers a panoramic, new perspective on the enormous cultural, political, and social legacies, good and bad, of this first period of unfettered globalization.

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