British East India Company and its rule over India


In the later years of the 1500s, European explorers were in search of some kind of profitable material. They decided to sail east for trading purposes. Originally, the Portuguese and the Spanish were dominant on these sailing routes. However, the Spanish Armada was destroyed in 1588. Since then, the British and Dutch took a more active role in trade with the East Indies. The Dutch focused on spices, mainly peppercorns.

 On 31st December 1600, the Queen gave 200 English merchants the right to trade with the East Indies. A small group of businessmen and investors were looking to capitalize on the new trading opportunities. James Lancaster led the first expedition to Asia in 1601 and returned with almost 500 tons of pepper. The Queen knighted him for his services.

When did the British come to India?

Then the British turned towards India. The British landed in India in Surat on August 24, 1608. A sea route that connected India to Europe had first come into the limelight in 1498 when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama came to Calicut. India was rich in spices and silk and other materials profitable to the British. This made India the center of attention of European’s trade circuit.

How was the East india Company able to trade in India?

The East India Company came to India as a spice trader because they needed spices to preserve their meat. They also traded in silk, cotton, tea, opium, and indigo dye. In 1613, the Mughal emperor Jahangir permitted an Englishman to erect a factory in Surat. In 1615, Jahangir granted Thomas Roe, the Ambassador to James 1 a royal Farman to trade and establish factories all over the Mughal empire.

After this, even the Vijaynagara Empire gave them permission to open a factory in Madras. With these began their rise in power. The primary motive of the East India Company was trade. But, with time, they grew interested in acquiring territory. The British were one of those powers looking for money and action. So, India was the best place to acquire both.

The plan of the British to rule India

The British established a number of trading posts all over the east and west coasts of India and communities developed in three major trading towns namely Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. India was one big collection of old and powerful kingdoms and the early East India Company knew that very well. So, they started poking their head into Indian politics and saw a steady rise in their fortunes.

The biggest blow from the British to India was the defeat of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah during the Battle of Plassey. He was defeated at the hands of Robert Clive in 1757. Then came the Battle of Buxar. Here the British captain Munro defeated the joint forces of Mir Qasim of Bengal, Mughal king Shah Alam II and Shujauddaula of Awadh.

In this way gradually, the East India Company started to transform from a trading company to a ruling company. The powers of the East India Company kept growing. There was a Revolt in 1857 due to which the company was dissolved in 1858 and the British crown took direct control of India. Thus began British rule.

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