The East India Company
What is the East India Company?
It is an English Trading company started in India by 1600 and lasted till 1858 i.e. over two hundred and fifty eight years.
How was it established?
The desire to trade with India came through the letters written by Thomas Stevetis, who is believed to be the first Englishman to stay in India and later became the Head of the Jesuit College in Goa in 1579.
In 1585, Ralph Fitch and William Leeds arrived at Fatehpur Sikri (Capital of Akbar, the Mughal Emperor).
After 8 years they established the first trading centre at Surat.
It began with 125 shareholders with a capital of 70000 pounds.
Initially got enormous wealth later became worse with the rivals both European and English.
East India Company outlived the others and established some other important trade centres in India.
First Centre- Fort St. George in the Presidency of Madras.
Second Centre- The Presidency of Bombay. (Surat centre was transferred to here)
Third Centre- The Presidency of Bengal.
The Power Struggle and the Establishment of Supremacy in Trade:
The English took advantage of the political issues of the country.
Their only rival was the French.
The French leader of that time was Dupleix.
The English leader of that time was Robert Clive.
After the three Carnatic Wars the British supremacy was established in South India.
Right after defeating the French, Clive defeated the Nawab of Bengal in the Battle of Plassey (1757).
By all his achievements Clive was made the first Governor of Bengal (Later called as Lord Clive of Plassey)
The Acts passed to control the activities of the Company:
a) The Regulating Act:
Passed in 1773.
According to this, the Governor of Bengal was made the Governor- General with supremacy over Madras and Calcutta Presidencies.
He was to be assisted with a council of four members.
A Supreme Court with a chief of Justice and three other Judges was appointed to deal with all kinds of crimes.
(The Act was a failure, which led to…)
b) Pitt’s Act of India:
Passed in 1784.
According to this act all Indian affairs had to be managed by the committee of three senior Directors, supervised by a Board of Control appointed by the Crown.
In practice, The President of the Board of Council took the power.
The British Supremacy over the Country:
To establish supremacy over the country the company waged wars, transacted treaties, made subsidiary alliances with the native rulers and annexed States.
According to the Subsidiary System, the Indian Rulers have to pay a certain amount of money to the British Government and in return they were assured of external defense and internal security.
Eminent Englishmen during the period and their social reforms:
A) William Bentinck:
Ruled from 1828- 1835
His principle was, “English greatness is found on Indian happiness”.
The prohibition of Sati in 1828. (where Hindu widows were burnt alive)
This reform was supported by Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
Made English as the medium of higher education.
He announced that, “the great object of the British Government ought to be the promotion of European Literature and Science among the natives of India.” (this resulted, in establishing (all in 1857) The Universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, all modelled on the University of London)
B) Lord Macaulay:
Drafted the Penal Code of India in 1837 which was adopted in 1860.
C) Lord Dalhousie:
The first railway built in 1853, a twenty mile track built from Bombay to Thana.
The second was constrcted from Calcutta to Raniganj coalfield.
Then the line connecting Madras and Arkonam was built.
A network of roads covering 2000 miles was built by the Public Works Department.
The Riot of 1857 and the End of East India Company:
The spread nationalism spirit all over the country made many conflicts between the British and Indians.
The violation over the natives’ religious believes provoked the famous riot of 1857.
Mutiny broke at Meerut on 10th May 1857.
Delhi, Cawnpore, Lucknow and Central India was heated up with riot.
This riot made an end to this company.
India Under the Crown:
The British Parliament made decisions to abolish the company and bring the control of the Government of India direct to the Crown.
Queen Victoria’s Proclamation was read by Lord Canning, the Governor- General, at Allahabad on 1st May 1858.
The Company’s Impact:
Indian goods like silk, tea, calico cloth and especially pepper were popular among the English markets.
Whoever gone to work for the company returned wealthy.
The old and established aristocratic family did not accept those inside their fraternity.
English scholars were attracted to Indian religions and education.
Bhagavat Gita- Hinduism Holy Book was translated into English by Charles Wilkins.
Sakuntala by Kalidasa was translated by William Jones.
Many word from various Indian languages were included to the English diction.
Social History of England by Louise Creighton
An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier
A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge
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