Founded in 1600, the East India Company monopolized all English trade with Asia. The company was run out of its head quarters in London, operating under a team of twenty-four directors. The directors were elected each year by the companies estimated 3,000 merchant class and aristocratic shareholders, enabling it to function as a joint-stock company. By 1720, 15% of all British imports were coming from India, with virtually all of them passing through the East India Company.
The East India Company wasbuilt on a sophisticated Indian economy, trading cotton, ink, silk, indigo dye, tea, salt, opium, and saltpeter. Eventually, the British began to intervene in Indian political affairs, and in the 1750’s, the aggressive ambitions of the company would begin to cause revolutionary changes in their relationship with India. The Mughal Empire that reigned in Indian when the company was founded had collapsed into a structure of regional states. British influence in Bengal on the Eastern boarder of India culminated into all-out rule in the mid 1750’s, under the control of the East India Company. As the company established more control over the Indian states, the new company governments resembled the ones already in place in the territories, and the main function at first revolved around tax collection. A system was put in place that ensured 1/3rd of the territories’ produce provided the company with the food and resources to sustain their armies.
The company continued to collect revenues from trade, but the focus of the East India Company shifted to include the private armies that functioned primarily as method of defense for the British Territories, but also served to quell and potential uprising or resistance movements among the colonized people. The massive military expenditures began to be detrimental to the company. In order to preserve it and continue to generate revenues, the Regulating Act of 1773 was passed under the rule of the third King George. The act instated a level of parliamentary control over the affairs of the company, which previously had been extremely minimal. The act also instated a Governor-General to control the English territories in India. Warren Hastings took charge of Bengal until 1785, and firmly opposed further British intervention. He believed the system already in place served the needs of India, and believed if “ancient constitution” was restored, India would naturally recover past prosperity.
Toward theend of the century, the annexed Indian states began to rebel against the East India Company’s rule. The company’s conquests extended up the Ganges Valley into Delhi and down over most of the southern peninsula. The end of the Georgian Era would mark the period of decline for the Company, and it was finally dissolved in 1858.
“Manas: History and Politics, East India Company.” Manas: History and Politics, East India Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/History/British/EAco.html>.
Marshall, Peter. “The East India Company.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/east_india_01.shtml>.