(Last Updated on : 17-02-2012)
The early voyages of the British East India Company supported in flourishing their trade business to a large extent. During the days of 13th February 1601-1611 to September 1603, Captain James Lancaster led the British East India Company
's first voyage of three vessels to the East Indies. It was just the initiation of the early voyages of British East India Company. It was supported by a subscription of 68,373 pounds. On June 5, 1601 it arrived at Achin, on the north end of the island of Sumatra. At Bantam, Lancaster received permission to construct a factory and to trade freely. On November 9, 1602 Lancaster left for England with a cargo consisting mainly of pepper.
Within the time period of 1604 to 1606, the second East India Company's voyage proceeded to Bantam in Java under the command of Captain Sir Henry Middleton. (d. 1613). Its mission embraced the expansion of the Company's trade to Banda and Amboyna in search of cloves and nutmeg. The resulting plethora of spices stimulated their re-export to Europe. Sales from the combined accounts of the first two voyages realised a profit of ninety-five percent.
In 1607, the third East India Company voyage, led by Captain William Keeling (c.1578-1620) left Plymouth having been subsidised with 53,000 pounds in new stock. Its mission encompassed not only continuing the trade with Java, but also developing commercial opportunities beyond the pepper on India's Malabar Coast. From these efforts Surat
emerged as the Company's primary centre of trade on India's west coast. A profitable trade with Persia also developed from Surat.
In 1608, Captain Alexander Sharpie commanded the British East India Company
's fourth voyage for the purpose of furthering trade in the Red Sea and at Surat which had been supported by 33,000 of stock. Both ships of the voyage eventually were lost.
On 1st February 1609, Captain William Hawkins (d. 1613) who had accompanied the Company's third voyage to India's west coast, left Surat for Agra
. Here, from 1609 to 1611 he resided at the Mughal court. He failed, however, to acquire trading rights from Emperor Jahangir
In April 1609, the fifth Company voyage consisting of a single vessel, was commanded by Middleton who proceeded to Bantam. In the face of great Dutch hostility, he acquired a freight of spices and returned safely to England in the summer of 1611.
In 1610, under the auspices of a new charter granted to the East India Company on May 31, 1609, Middleton commanded the sixth voyage to Surat on India's west coast. At the estuary of the Tapti River
near Surat, Middleton won a naval victory over the Portuguese. In August 1602, he proceeded to Bantam to seek a widened range of imports.
From 1610 onward, the practice of "indulged trade" developed, which were related to the Company's reservation of cargo space for goods transported on the private account of the Company's directors and employees. Often considerable fortunes developed from this procedure as an element of the Company's patronage system.
Within the period of 1610 to 1620, the Company built thirty ships for use in the India trade. In the 1620-26 period, another twenty vessels were constructed, after which the Company restricted its building programme to pinnaces of a small tonnage. The cost of shipbuilding averaged 4 pounds per ton.
Within the period of 1611 to 1615, two Dutchmen, Pieter Floris and Lucas Antheunis, directed the seventh voyage with the mission to establish a factory at Masulipatam on India's Coromandel Coast
. The factory was to supply textiles, or piece goods, to Bantam, to engage in country trade and to initiate factories at Masulipatam and at Ayuthia and Patani in Siam. With an initial subscription of 15,000 pounds, this voyage earned a profit of slightly over 200 percent.
In 1611, the Masulipatam factory served as the principal English centre on the Coromandel Coast, until the establishment of a factory at Madraspatam which later became the fortified post of Fort St. George. In 1652, the post became commonly known in Madras and the seat of the Company's eastern trade.
In 1613, the eighth East India Company voyage under the command of Captain John Saris (1580-81 -1643) initiated a factory at Hirado, Japan. Dealing in English woollens, the factory lasted only ten years.
Within the period of 1612-1614, Captain Thomas Best (c.1570-c.1638) led the tenth voyage to the East Indies in charge of the Dragon. In September 1612, he won trading rights for the Company at Surat
from the Mughal Court. In November 1612, Best engaged the Portuguese fleet and drove them from the Gulf of Cambay. By January 1613 he had built a factory at Surat, with trade extending into the interior to Ahmedabad
Within the times of 1613-1621, the first joint stock venture with a capital of 418,691 pounds focused on developing trade at Surat. In January 1615, Nicholas Downton (d.1615) led the Company's naval forces to a decisive victory over the Portuguese Navy at Tapti River
. This gave the British dominance at Surat and secure control over its trade.
On 31st May 1609, n a new Charter issued by James I (1566-1625) to the British East India Company
, a previous restriction on exporting foreign money was removed. The new measure allowed for the export of up to 30,000 pounds of foreign silver coin or bullion on any one voyage.
Within the period of September 1615 to February 1619, Sir Thomas Roe (1581-1644) resided at the Mughal Court of Emperor Jahangir
for the purpose of consolidating British commercial interests. Roe obtained only a 'farman' agreeing to the conduct of English trade at Surat.
In the extensive period of 1615 to 1618, from Surat, the Company initiated trade with Persia with the support of Shah Abbas the Great. Led by Edward Connock (d.1617), the English were particularly in want of Persian silk.
In 1619, the first consignment of 500 bales of Persian silk reached England. Silk proved to be a fickle commodity as it also reached Europe from the Levant and via Dutch imports. For a time the English East India Company had a factory at Ispahan in Persia, but the price of silk proved too variable and it closed in 1639.
In the same year, an agreement made in London between the Dutch and English brought a measure of cooperation in the East Indies. Its terms specified an English share of one-third of the Spice Islands' trade, one-half of the pepper trade with Java and payment of one-third of the costs of the Dutch garrison. The agreement collapsed in 1623 as a result of the Dutch massacre of ten Englishmen at Amboyna in the East Indies.
On 28th December 1620, in protection of its Persian trade, the English met and defeated a Portuguese naval squadron led by Ruy Freire de Andrade off Jask in the Persian Gulf. By this time, the Company's organisation in India had reached a definite form. The President of the Surat factory held supreme authority over all Indian and Persian trade. The President also possessed control over the subordinate factories at Ahmedabad
and those of the Persian Gulf. The Bantam factory controlled trade matters in the East Indies and on India's Coromandel Coast
In 1621, Thomas Mun (1571-1641), an important trader in the English East India Company, published three tracts. The first appeared in 1621 another in 1628. A third appeared posthumously in 1664. Collectively they provided an intellectual framework for the Company's policies and practices for most of the seventeenth century. In particular, Mun defended the Company's shipment of large amounts of bullion to the East in payment for spices and later textiles.
In 1622, the British-Persian Treaty granted free trade status to the British in Persia and a portion of the duties collected at Ormuz. In turn the British provided the necessary amount of military assistance to force the Portuguese out of Persian territories.
On 1st February, the British East India Company
naval forces captured the Portuguese castle at Qishm and on April 23 took control of Ormuz in thus acquiring control of the Gulf in protection of their Persian trade. In consequence, this success of arms brought a renewal of English interest in the Persian silk trade.
On 9th March 1623, the Dutch Governor, Van Speult, beheaded Gabriel Towerson and nine other Englishmen, ten Japanese mercenaries and a Portuguese at Amboyna. The massacre turned on Van Speult's perception that the English were plotting to seize Fort Victoria. In consequence, the English shifted the focus of their trading interests from the East Indies to India, as Anglo-Dutch relations were poisoned for the next fifty years.
In September 1624, the British reached an agreement with Mughal authorities which provided for certain amenities. The English could retain their factory at Surat, receive compensation for some of their claims and obtain free trade rights throughout most of the Mughal Empire
. In turn, the British were required to obtain a license from the Governor of Surat in order to board any local Indian vessels.
In January 1626, the first shipment of saltpetre from India arrived in England. Until 1635 this commodity was further re-exported to the Continent when it became a royal monopoly.
Within the period of 1627 to 1628, the English East India Company began the practice of selling its pepper in bulk to large British syndicates rather than to individual, small marketing firms.
In the times within the years of 1630 to 1635, western India suffered a devastating famine, seriously disrupting the manufacture of Gujarat
textiles. Later floods and widespread disease killed seventeen of the twenty-one English factors in the region. In consequence, the Company initiated trade in calicoes available on the Coromandel Coast
of India. These textiles were subsequently traded for cloves, turtle shell and sandalwood in the East Indies. As the famine imposed a lack of trade in Surat
, considerable port-to-port trade developed with Persia and the Coromandel Coast.
In 1633, the British East India Company
established a factory in Madras under the leadership of Francis Day (d. 1642). Madras rapidly developed as a centre for the trade of calicoes. Likewise, the Company established its first factory in Bengal at Hariharpur
on the Mahanadi River Delta
In January 1635, William Methold (1590-1653), President of the English Factory at Surat, visited the Viceroy of Goa and concluded a truce in the English and Portuguese hostilities. Later the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty, or the Convention of Goa
of 1642, turned the truce into a lasting peace and greatly improved the conditions for trade on India's western coast.
In December 1637, Charles I (1600-1649) granted a charter to Sir William Courteen (c.1568-1636) and his associates to trade in the East Indies where the East India Company had not already established factories. In 1637, on Courteen's death a new charter was provided to his son. While causing considerable harm to the East India Company, The Courteen Association lasted for only fifteen years.
In 1640, the East India Company established a factory at Basra with links to Surat in support of its Persian trade interests.
In September 1641, the Company constructed Fort St. George at Madras and designated it as the principal English factory on the Coromandel Coast
. Later the British also initiated on the Coromandel Coast factories at Cuddalore
During the 1650s, the Company completed the policy decision to rent, rather than buy ships in which to conduct their trade in the East. In consequence, the East India Ship emerged with special characteristics for this trade.
In 1651, the Company established its first Bengal factory at Hooghly
in Bengal in 1658. A customs payment of 3000 rupees satisfied the needs of the Mughal Governor of Bengal.
In 1657, the Company withdrew the privilege of private trade by its members in India. In 1661, this was modified to allow Company servants to participate in country trade between ports lying east of the Cape of Good Hope.
On 19th October 1657, Oliver Cromwell, the Protector, (1599-1658) issued a charter which provided for a permanent Joint stock in place to successive joint stock ventures as the basis for financially organising the British East India Company
. On his restoration, Charles II (1630-1685) granted nearly the same charter terms. Hence, the Company reinitiated its operations with a subscribed capital of 739,782 pounds.
During the period of 1659 to 1663, India suffered a severe drought and subsequent famine, which disrupted economic activity, particularly in the growth of food and the manufacture of cotton piece goods. The struggle for the Mughal throne following the reign of Shah Jahan
in 1658 further dislocated the economy.
The period of 1660s marked the great growth of a market in Europe for Indian textiles. These cotton goods came mainly from the Coromandel Coast
In 1661, the Company decided to withdraw its participation in intra-Asian trade in the islands of the East Indies. In consequence, Company servants and free merchants were authorised from 1667 onward to carry out the very lucrative "country" trade, excepting calicoes and pepper from India to the East Indies.
In 1662, the English East India Company made financial contributions to the Crown of 10,000 pounds and again in 1667 50,000 pounds. These "loans" gave the Company added political leverage, when its financial affairs came under scrutiny.
In 1665, Job Charnock (c.1631-1693) initiated the Company's saltpetre operations in Patna
. In 1666, the Great Fire of London caused the company to lose large quantities of goods, especially pepper stored in its London warehouses. In 1668, the English Crown leased the port of Bombay to the Company which by 1687 superceded Surat as the Company's headquarters in Western India.
From 1670 onwards, the building of East India ships to a specialised set of specifications of the East India Company, was executed principally by John Perry and Company and Stanton and Wells on the Thames. By this time, the East India Company determined on a course of sustained expansion of its import of raw silk from Bengal, particularly from the region of Kasimbazar. By 1673, silk imports had increased to almost 22,000 pounds. Silk supplied a substantial profit for several decades, until the advent of trade with China and the availability of Chinese silk.
In December 1672, Gerald Aunger (d. 1677), Governor of Bombay, established the first British Mint in India. At first only copper and tin coins were made, until 1675 when the use of silver began. In 1675, the Mint began the production of the Indian rupee.
In 1673, the English East India Company directed that the Portuguese could be allowed to establish factories in English territories in India. In consequence, in Madras a trade was composed of saltpetre and textiles. The construction of warships also grew after this permission.
In 1682, with the Dutch capture of Bantam, the British East India Company
lost its major source of pepper. In consequence, it established a factory at Tellicherry in northern Malabar, from which to buy pepper to threaten Dutch monopolistic practices. In 1688, another factory was initiated at Anjengo in southern Malabar with the same intent. The English paid cash for its pepper in a more highly valued coin than that of the Dutch.
In 1683, the Chinese opened Canton to trade with the English East India Company. The China trade rode on the export of silver to China for the purchase of tea.
In 1686, the English East India Company provoked an abortive war with the Mughal Empire in an attempt to end Mughal assistance of the English interlopers' trade at Surat
. Emperor Aurangzeb
terminated all English trade and occupied a large part of Bombay. The conflict ceased with the English payment of reparations.
In 1697, England's Spitalfields silk weavers engaged in serious rioting over the threat to their trade offered by the Company's import of competitive Indian textiles.
In 1697, a report issued by the British Commissioners of Trade and Plantations recommended measures to be taken against the British East India Company
regarding the export of bullion to India. The Commissioners also had issued for the protection of domestic cloth industries from Indian textiles. Further, in April 1700, the Parliament passed an act prohibiting the use or wearing of various types of Indian textiles.