1600 TO 1757

Posted by Usman Hameed on 09 June, 2020

The East India Company had the unusual distinction of ruling an entire country. On 31 December 1600, a group of merchants formed East India Company and got permission from Queen Elizabeth I on all trade with the East Indies. The Company's ships first arrived in India, at the port of Surat, in 1608. Sir Thomas Roe reached the court of the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, as an ambassador of King James I in 1612, and gained for the British the right to establish a factory at Surat. Gradually the British threatened the Portuguese and over the years they saw a massive expansion of their trading operations in India. Numerous trading posts were established along the east and west coasts of India, and considerable English communities developed around the three presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras.

There was enormous wealth in the subcontinent. Trade and profit were the real motives that East India Company (EIC) was looking at. Indian goods including spices, silk, yarn, cloth, cotton and goods of metalworkers were very demanding in the European markets. British factories needed raw materials while British merchants needed big markets like India to sell their industrial products. Cotton was the main raw material for the textile industries in Britain. EIC made huge profits and the company flourished very rapidly. By 1620, the company operated about 40 ships for trade with India. The company was having a very profitable future in trade with India. Indian soldiers at very cheap wages were available to protect their trade and profits. Therefore it was trade and high profit that allowed the EIC  to keep on coming India  which was later also  known as the Golden Sparrow on account of its natural resources and wealth. It was found that 10 % of the income of British government was obtained from taxes on trade with India.

S.M Burk (famous historian) believed that one of the most important reasons for British arrival was the spreading of Christianity .Churches and Chapels were established all over India and Christian missionaries also came with their arrival. The company also wanted to westernize the Indians. The British believed that western culture is superior and must be spread in the world. They thought themselves the most civilized nation of the world. 

The Portuguese and the Dutch were already in the field. But they turned their attention to East Indies and didn’t allow EIC to come over there.  This provoked the east India Company to come into the sub-continent. The French also came but they were eliminated by the British. Soon EIC started realizing the strategic position of India on the globe. It gave regional supremacy to the British and Royal Navy. They started controlling the sea routes and trade with the East.

                                Another reason which provoked Britain to come towards India was the Russian expansion in Central Asia. It worried the British so much that they also had to make moves to secure Afghanistan. Although the British first major adventure in Afghanistan failed miserably, but later on the British assumed full and proper control of whole of India.

East India Company had no political motives at first. It came to India primarily for trade. But the decline of Mughal Empire and the demolition of Maratha Power in 1761 by Ahmad Shah Abdali prepared the gateway for the British to take over India. Lack of a strong central government attracted the British attention for interfering with Indian political affairs. By that time, they had already got the skills of dealing with Indian rulers and merchants. Now they started thinking about establishing British Raj in the subcontinent.