The Company

.. Clive’s annexation of Bengal, the private trade which enabled merchant’s in the Company’s service to make fortunes on the side, coupled with a high level of corruption, meant that more and more men sought their fortunes in India — and where the men went, women followed. The early lifestyle of the merchant adventurer in the Company’s trading posts gave way to a more conventional society, with its clubs, churches and social functions. The accoutrements of civilised life had to be imported from England, and many were adapted to suit the new circumstances. Wicker picnic hampers, tiffin and tonic water all evolved from the needs imposed by the harsh Indian climate.

Hugely wealthy men returning from Company service to England attracted much envy as they bought up country houses and seats in Parliament, and many of these ‘nabobs’ kept the habits they had learnt in India. The Company Bahadur By the early nineteenth century the East India Company’s writ extended across most of India, Burma, Singapore and Hong Kong, and a fifth of the world’s population was under its authority. The Company had at various stages defeated China, occupied the Phillipines, conquered Java and imprisoned Napoleon on its island of St. Helena. It had neatly solved its perennial need for bullion to buy tea by illicitly exporting Indian-grown opium to China. It was the largest single commercial enterprise the world had ever seen, with revenues derived not only trade but also tax-collecting.

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Yet as it became the administrative arm of the fledgling Empire, the Company attracted men of selfless zeal — Bentinck, the Lawrences, Edwardes — who saw their work in India as an opportunity to bring an enlightened regimen to bear on a country that had suffered under the yoke of previous conquerors. The East India Company Today The East India Company is now a United Kingdom based public company which brings its unrivalled heritage to bear on the modern commercial world. Such was the power, authority and diversity of interests of the East India Company in the past that the name gives credibility to virtually any product or service, in virtually any major consumer market. It allies the great strengths of British brand associations — tradition, old-fashioned luxury, impeccable class — with the general appeal of exotic countries, seafaring, travel and adventure. The Company trades in a wide range of goods, including those historic staples, tea and coffee. It has also developed products for consumer markets.

It is forging partnerships in many parts of the world where the Company is a household name, and provides a familiar authoritative port of call for many businesses looking to expand into new markets. The reborn East India Company has established close links with those institutions in London which have inherited the Company’s archives and artefacts, such as the India Office and Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Armouries. The Museum of London provided the original Chop or merchant’s mark of the Company, and the Garter and Clarenceaux Kings of Arms at the College of Heralds has granted permission for the Company to use and register as a Trade Mark the original Coat of Arms of the East India Company. An archivist has been appointed who assists in providing the authentic background of visual and written material for new product development, packaging and design. In addition, historical associations with particular regions of the world are researched.

The East India Company was established in 1600 to challenge the Dutch-Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade. Queen Elizabeth granted the company monopoly rights to bring goods from India. With the approval of local Indian rulers, the East India Company established trading posts in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. The company was now trading in cottons, silks, indigo, saltpeter and tea. The East India Company had a monopoly of this trade until 1694 when the House of Commons passed an act that enabled all British firms to trade with India. The East India Company retained its dominant position and continued to make large profits from India and by 1720, 15% of Britain’s imports came from India.

The international headquarters for the company was established at East India House in Leadenhall Street. James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill, both worked for the company and eventually both became head of the office at East India House. The British government became concerned with the power of the East India Company and in 1783 Charles Fox attempted to persuade Parliament to pass a bill that would replace the company’s directors with a board of commissioners. George III made it known to the House of Lords that he would consider anyone voting with the Bill an enemy. The following year, the new Prime Minister, William Pitt convinced George III and Parliament to accept a new India Bill.

This measure created a new Board of Trade and helped to transfer the political, financial and military power of the East India Company to the British government. The East India Company now found it difficult to make a profit from its activities and in 1834 ceased trading and instead acted as a managing agency for the government. The company finally came to an end in 1873 and Lloyds took over East India House. The English company was the most important of the East India companies and a major force in India for more than 200 years. Queen Elizabeth I granted the original charter in 1600, giving the company a monopoly of trade in Asia, Africa, and America, and in 1610 it established its first trading posts in India. During the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) the company acquired sovereign rights, and in 1689 it began its long rule in India.

The military victories of company official Robert Clive over the French in 1751 and 1757 made the company the dominant power in India. All formidable European rivalry vanished with the defeat of the French at Pondicherry in 1761. In 1784 the India Act created a government department to exercise control over the Indian affairs of the company. Although the company lost its monopoly of the Indian trade in 1813, it continued its administrative functions until 1858, when the Crown assumed all governmental responsibilities held by the company. The company was dissolved in 1874.