British East India Company


July 1, 2022

The British East India Trading Company (Honorable East India Company, Bahadur Company or John Company) was one of the first joint stock companies in the world (the first was Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, the Dutch East India Company). It operated from 1600 to 1874 and was based in London, England. The company was mainly engaged in trade in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpeter, tea and also opium. The specificity was that, although a private company, in addition to its economic interests, it also defended the interests of the British Empire and gave British colonialism a specific character.


The company was formed in response to its Dutch counterpart. The charter was issued on 31 December 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I, but was limited in time, so it had to be renewed after a few years. This charter guaranteed a monopoly, the company could even confiscate the goods which, according to the monopoly, belonged exclusively to it. The company was headed by a governor and a board of twenty-four presidents with a one-year term. Each director was headed by a certain committee, which was responsible for the individual activities of the company. On May 31, 1609, King James I declared Elizabeth's charter "eternal," but reserved the right to amend the charter every three years. As the spice trade in Indonesia was in the hands of the Portuguese and the Dutch, the British sought their bases in less frequented places, especially in Central India. They established their factories and bases along the Red Sea coast and in Muscat, Surat and Makilipatnam in India. They also penetrated the Spice Islands (Maluku) and even established a factorial in Hirad, Japan, from where they were expelled in 1623. At the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, a period of serious crisis began for the company. The plague epidemic in England in 1625, followed by an economic recession and a raging Thirty Years' War on the continent, made it very difficult to finance society. Neither the wars and the famine in Indian Gujarat nor the increasing Dutch competition helped the situation (there were common pirate raids and fighting between East Indian societies). In addition, it had to contend with internal competition in the form of the emerging Scottish East India Company, which the British eventually had to pay out to both the king (£ 20,000 loan) and SVIS founder James Cunningham. The company had to close some factors, it completely withdrew from Moluk. However, the greatest disaster came during the Civil War in England. The company's shareholders split into Republicans and Royalists, and its ships were used in battles of warring parties. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell even suspended the company's charter. It was renewed in 1657 for a "loan" of £ 50,000. After the restoration of royal power in Britain, the situation changed for the better. She was helped by a hostile relationship with Cromwell and a few "loans" to the king (£ 3,000) and his brother (£ 1,000). Another boost for society was the so-called Navigation Act (1651), which excluded the Dutch from trade with England. In addition, it has acquired extensive rights in its dealings with Asian states. The society was able to declare war and make peace with the indigenous rulers, administer the territory around its forts, and judge and punish the local population. It could also mint coins (1676), only for use in the Orient. So she started minting rupees, piceas and pagodas. This gained almost complete economic independence from the monarch. The transfer of the crown province on the island of Mumbai (the dowry of Queen Catherine of Braganza) into her hands played an important role. Mumbai soon became the center of trade with India and a starting point for conquering the entire subcontinent. Under the leadership of managers as well as military commanders such as Robert Clive, the company gradually took control of India and laid the foundation