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East India Company, British

British East India Company, 1600–1874, company chartered by Queen Elizabeth I for trade with Asia. The original object of the group of merchants involved was to break the Dutch monopoly of the spice trade with the East Indies. However, after 1623, when the English traders at Amboina were massacred by the Dutch, the company admitted defeat in that endeavor and concentrated its activities in India. It had established its first factory at Machilipatnam in 1611, and it gradually acquired unequaled trade privileges from the Mughal emperors. Although the company was soon reaping large profits from its Indian exports (chiefly textiles), it had to deal with serious difficulties both in England and in India. During the 17th cent. its monopoly of Indian trade was constantly challenged by independent English traders called "interlopers." In 1698 a rival company was actually chartered, but the conflict was resolved by a merger of the two companies in 1708. By that time the company had established in India the three presidencies of Madras (now Chennai), Bombay (now Mumbai), and Calcutta (now Kolkata). As Mughal power declined, these settlements became subject to increasing harassment by local princes, and the company began to protect itself by intervening more and more in Indian political affairs. It had, moreover, a serious rival in the French East India Company, which under Joseph François Dupleix launched an aggressive policy of expansion. The victories (1751–60) of Robert Clive over the French made the company dominant in India, and by a treaty of 1765 it assumed control of the administration of Bengal. Revenues from Bengal were used for trade and for personal enrichment. To check the exploitative practices of the company and to gain a share of revenues, the British government intervened and passed the Regulating Act (1773), by which a governor-general of Bengal (whose appointment was subject to government approval) was given charge of all the company's possessions in India. Warren Hastings, the first governor-general, laid the administrative foundations for subsequent British consolidation. By the East India Act of 1784 the government assumed more direct responsibility for British activities in India, setting up a board of control for India. The company continued to control commercial policy and lesser administration, but the British government became increasingly the effective ruler of India. Parliamentary acts of 1813 and 1833 ended the company's trade monopoly. Finally, after the Indian Mutiny of 1857–58 the government assumed direct control, and the East India Company was dissolved.

See studies by B. Willson (1903), H. Furber (1948, repr. 1970), L. Sutherland (1952), and B. Gardner (1972); D. Gilmour, The Ruling Caste (2006).

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East India Company, English

EAST INDIA COMPANY, ENGLISH

EAST INDIA COMPANY, ENGLISH. The English East India Company (1600–1874) was one of the longest-lived and richest trading companies. It exercised a pervasive influence on British colonial policy from early in its history because of its wealth and power both in England and in the rest of the commercial world. Nevertheless, not until the era of the American Revolution did the company figure in American affairs. At that time it was expanding its activities in the East, particularly in China, and in order to strengthen its rather precarious foothold at Canton, the company purchased increasing amounts of tea. Soon, with its warehouses overflowing and a financial crisis looming, the company surrendered part of its political power for the exclusive right to export tea directly to America under Lord North's Regulating Act (1773).

This development coincided with and influenced the outbreak of disputes between Great Britain and its American colonies. After Britain imposed the tea tax in 1767, American boycotts reduced colonial tea consumption from 900,000 pounds in 1769 to 237,000 pounds in 1772. The Regulating Act allowed the East India Company to ship huge quantities of tea to America duty-free. Although this act allowed Americans to purchase tea at a discounted rate (even accounting for the tea tax), it also enabled the East India Company to undersell colonial smugglers who had benefited from tea boycotts. When Boston importers resisted Patriot pressure to refuse tea shipments, proponents of the tea boycott organized anti-British activities, which culminated in the Boston Tea Party (1773). After the Revolution the company had little or no contact with America.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Keay, John. The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. New York: Macmillan, 1994.

Lawson, Philip. The East India Company: A History. New York: Longman, 1993.

Charles F.Mullett/s. b.

See alsoBoston Tea Party ; Coercive Acts ; East Indies Trade ; Intolerable Acts ; Smuggling, Colonial ; Tea, Duty on .

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"East India Company, English." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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East India Company

EAST INDIA COMPANY

British trading firm doing business in the Middle East during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The East India Company was active on behalf of Britain in the Persian Gulf, from 1820 until World War I, to ensure the security of Britain's merchant vessels heading toward ports in southern Iraq and Iran. This was achieved by signing peace treaties with the shaykhs of the lower Gulf, the first in 1820 and two more in 1835 and 1853. The main objectives of these treaties were to put an end to piracy, to prevent traffic in slaves, to curb widespread smuggling of arms and other goods, and to promote peaceful trade. By 1869, Britain was able to conclude a treaty in which the Gulf rulers pledged to refrain from conducting foreign relations with powers other than Britain, in effect providing Britain with protectorate powers over those territories.

Britain's interests were represented in the Gulf by the government of India through the local political resident, headquartered in the coastal township of Bushehr in Iran (moved after World War II to Bahrain). The political resident had representatives, called political agents, posted in Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, and political officers in the Trucial Coast.

See also Trucial Coast.

jenab tutunji

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East India Company

East India Company. The first English East India Company was formed in 1599 to compete with the Dutch for the trade of the spice islands. However, following the Amboyna massacre of 1623, it abandoned the East Indies to concentrate on the Indian subcontinent. The Stuarts regularly revoked and reawarded its charter, Charles II no fewer than five times. It was not until the so-called Godolphin Charter of 1709 that the company's institutional structure was consolidated. Thereafter, it prospered greatly from trade with China, over which it also had a monopoly. The company began to acquire a territorial empire in India after the battle of Plassey in 1757. The defeat of the Maratha empire in 1818 gave it undisputed supremacy. Territorial conquest, however, brought about more direct parliamentary control through the Regulation Act of 1773 and the India Act of 1784. The company was progressively converted from the activities of a merchant to those of a governor. In 1813 and 1833, it lost its monopolies over the India and China trades. It survived somewhat anomalously as a quasi-department of the British state until the Indian mutiny of 1857, whereafter it was abolished and its powers vested in a secretary of state for India.

David Anthony Washbrook

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"East India Company." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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East India Company

East India Company Name of several organizations set up by European countries in the 17th century to trade e of Africa. Louis XIV founded the French company in 1664, and it set up colonies on several islands in the Indian Ocean. It was abolished in 1789. The Dutch company was founded (1602), with headquarters in Jakarta from 1619. It dissolved in 1799. The British company was set up in 1600 to compete for the East Indian spice trade, but competition with the Dutch led it to concentrate on India. In the 18th century, Robert Clive defeated the challenge of the French company and captured Bengal (1757). Corruption and financial mismanagement led William Pitt (the Younger) to make the company responsible to Parliament. Increasingly it became an administrative arm of colonial government in India and the company lost its commercial monopolies in 1813. The Indian Mutiny (1857) led to its powers being transferred to the British Crown and the company dissolved in 1873.

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British East India Company

British East India Company: see East India Company, British.

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