East India Company

                The East India Company was first and foremost a trading company, it was one of the first sea trade connections between Europe and India. The Company was formed in 1600 when a group of merchants were granted a monopoly on the trade between Britain and India. With the expansion of sea travel the company was able to set up ports along the sea coast. Sea trade routes gained popularity after ships and navigation techniques improved, lessening the dependence on traditional land trade routes. These ports operated under a sophisticated Indian economy, one which would allow Britain to trade for spices, cotton and textile goods. The British and Dutch trading companies were able to trade for these goods only after the end of the Spanish Armada in 1588, until this time the Portuguese had maintained their own monopoly on Indian goods. The East India Company gained the monopoly on the trade with India after being given a royal grant at its conception. By the end of the end of the 17th century the Company had formed major cities or ports where cotton and textiles were easily accessible, the main settlements were Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. These ports were under British jurisdiction and remained so until the mid-18th century.

            A strong Indian rule on the subcontinent allowed for profitable trade, however this rule started to deteriorate. The hold started to decline due to internal issues as well as the increased pressure from the British inhabitants who started to push military involvement and certain instabilities in India. Many of the old states were held together by local powers after the downfall of the Mughal Empire, the new states however began to fight for power. This allowed the Company and Britain an opportunity to become a local political power. As the smaller and newer states fought for power they asked for help from both British and French powers. Because the British and French were slow at beginning trade with India, tensions began to rise and personal gain began to sway the forces.

            In 1763 the British-French quarrel ended when the British won multiple battles under the command of Robert Clive. Clive’s successes allowed the British to install a satellite ruler which led to the complete control of Bengal. This newly formed British Empire was to be led by the East India Company under the strict eye of Britain and Parliament. With this came the change of the Company, it went from being a trading organization to one which was heavily involved in politics and began ruling the settlements which had originally been trading posts. This new ambition led to the creation of massive armies which were stationed on the Indian continent and meant to detour any resistance to British rule.

            The British government started to lessen the control the Company had over the Indian states by the end of the 18th century. Through the use of the Regulating Act which was passed in 1773 and the India Act in 1784. With these in place the company lost its monopoly by 1813 and by 1873 the company failed to exist all together.





Marshall, Peter. “East India Company.” BBC News. BBC, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 June 2014.

Landow, George P. “The British East India Company — the Company That Owned a Nation (or Two).” The British East India Company — the Company That Owned a Nation (or Two). Victorian Web, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 17 June 2014.

Lawson, Philip. The East India Company: A History. London: Longman, 1993. Print.


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2 thoughts on “East India Company

  1. Its amazing that the East India Company lasted for roughly 273 years and grew from simple trading to a political and military powerhouse. There are many cultural aspects that are heavily influenced by the East India Company as well. India Pale Ales were brewed with a higher alcohol content so they wouldn’t spoil during the long journey. Also, gin and tonics were invented by the East India Company. Indian tonic water contained quinine, an anti-malarial compound, was very bitter and unpalatable on its own, but when combined with dry gin became a delicious cocktail. Punch was also a product of the East India Company. Punch is derived from the Hindustani word “Panch”, which translates to “five”, referring to the five ingredients: tea, arrack (grain/rice spirits), sugar, lemons, and water. These drinks were created because clean drinking water was not very available and the alcohol in these drinks killed pathogens.

  2. I have known for some time about the British occupation of India, but I never fully understood many of the different dynamics involved in how that came to be. Your post has really cleared a lot of that up for me. The idea of a company basically making the transformation to a governing and political power is extremely interesting. Being from Virginia, I have gone on more field trips to places like Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg than I can count, and I feel like this post has given me some more insight into what was going on with the Virginia Company of London then. I think your mention of seafaring technology brings up a really good point, in that those advances were really what made all of this trade and colonization possible. To a large extent, it is what made The United States possible. On the whole, I think this post on the East India Company really helps to explain a lot of the mindset and conditions behind this kind of British expansion.

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