Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

British East India Company: The story of capturing India

Mohiuddin Chaudhry

0 95

British East India Company: The story of capturing India

British East India Company received its first royal charter in December 1600, in London, England. It was basically a trading body of English merchants for the trade of spice from the Far East. Later they added the trade of cotton, silk, indigo, dyes, salt,.tea, and opium to their wares. Some Captains of the ships were involved in piracy on the high seas and later involved themselves in the slave trade in Africa.

Their first ship anchored at Surat in August 1608, Captain William Hawkins had journeyed from Surat to Agra to petition Emperor Jahangir for trade Permission (Tajarti Farman). After his failure, Sir Thomas Roe, the first official ambassador of the Royal court visited Agra. He got the rights of trade but to avoid any fortifications, garrisons, etc.

East India Company now concentrated in the weaker states of the southern tip, out of Mughal control. In 1640 Madras has been acquired from a local ruler, where the garrison was stationed in a suitable fort St. George.

In 1661 Bombay has passed to King Charles- II  as part of the dowery of his Portuguese Queen, Catherine of Braganza. This area was leased to the East India Company and as a result, Bombay was fortified and garrisoned.

Calcutta was an anchorage downstream of the Hugli river. In 1664, a director of East India Company, William Hedges sought to persuade the Governor of Bengal, Shaista Khan to grant permission for trade in Bengal. He was given a place for a company near Calcutta but soon after “Child’s War” undermined all the efforts of William Hedges.

The company had secured so many areas on the South Indian coast,  they had fortifications at Bombay, Anjengo, Fort St. David at Cuddalore, Madras, and Calcutta.  Sir Josiah Child the bellicose governor of the British East India Company wanted to get the rights by force.

The story of capturing India

Sir Child sent two ships sailing up the Hugli to press the company suit and challenged the great Moghul Empire under Emperor Aurangzeb. Mughal armies retaliated and captured the ships, and the remaining fleet ran away to the high seas. They attacked Moghul Shipping and looted the pilgrim ships sailing to Jeddah.

In early 1689 Sidi Yaqoob, the commander of the Moghul Coast Fleet defeated the British ships and captured Bombay in a surprise attack. East India Company lost all its assets along the Indian coast.

In 1690, the Company’s envoys traveled to the Imperial encampment to plead for pardon. Emperor accepted the mercy appeal, and he graciously agreed to the restoration of trading privileges. They were allowed to trade with Bengal.

Ever since the days of prior Jahangir, the European trading companies had been petitioning Mughal Courts for FARMAN, the Imperial directive. These would theoretically regularise their status, privileges, and trading terms through the empire, and would trump the variety of vexatious exactions and demands imposed by the local officials in different ports and provincial areas.

For a British East India company whose existence depended on a national charter, it needed some reciprocal authorization guaranteeing favorable access to its most important trading partner was well evident.

After the death of Bahadur Shah I, Moghuls were becoming weaker. The company started recruiting Indian troops throughout the subcontinent, ( Sepoys) from local Marhatas, Rajputs, and Deccan. So they gathered sufficient trained manpower, well trained, drilled, and uniformed, it was a well-disciplined army, led by British Army Officers.

Their main rivals were Marhatas and French in the coastal region. French had their headquarters at Pondicherry, and fortification with the garrison at Mahi and Chandernagore near Calcutta. Europeans kept on fighting, and Anglo-French rivalry for hegemony in South India spluttered on from 1749 to 1754.

The most immediate concern to the directors of the Company was the activities of its employees in a personal capacity. From Madras employees of the company, the Yale brothers amassed a considerable fortune through leased ships, freighted cargoes, sold insurance, and giving such shipping were provided protection.

British East India Company: The story of capturing India

British East India Company
British East India Company

Some company men were actually interlopers and pirates on the high seas. All illegal English syndicates were known as interlopers, they normally sailed under the flag of convenience.

One such interloper was Thomas Pitt, who amassed a lot of fortune as an interloper and sometimes through Piracy. Pitt became a member of Parliament in England and in 1699 returned as Governor of Fort St. George Madras. He stayed there for 12. Years, amassed a fortune for himself through all means.

Including the famous.” Pitt Diamond”. He bought from a Hindu Raja, by force, for 45’000 Pounds and soon sold to the Regent of Franc at a hefty price of 135,000 pounds. Such an amount would comfortably sustain the political careers of Pitt,s prime ministerial grandson and great-grandson William Pitt the younger.

When Emperor Farrukhsiyar took over, the company,s hopes soared again. In 1715 a mission of East India Company proceeded to Delhi, headed by John Surman guarded by six hundred troops, a caravan consisting of 160 bullock carts, twelve hundred porters and a choice assortment of carriages, cannons, and camels headed towards Delhi.

After reaching Dehli, he relished the impressive ceremonial and was soon dispensing lavish bribes. John Surman succeeded in getting Royal Farman from the court of Moghul Emperor Farrukhsiyar.

Exploits as to the territorial and commercial rights enjoyed by the Company throughout India, the Farman indeed ” indicate such favors as has never before been granted to any European nation”.In London, Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay celebrations were held, and toasts were drunk.

The document was paraded through the streets of London. The Farman was considered ” the Magna Carta of the Company in India. It accepted the Company into the political order of Moghul India. After thirty years the strength of this Farman was that Robert Clive would legitimize his development to Plassey and took over Bengal.

British East India Company: The story of capturing India

British East India Company
British East India Company

Now the company targeted Bengal, these expansionist ambitions in the context of global imperialism can only be explained simply in terms of greed. Bengal was no more under the fold of the great Moghul Empire, Nawab was young and immature to tackle the cunningness of the Company.

British Company cashed the situation and entered into the power vacuum left by the declining Mughal Empire. No native regime rose to fill the vacuum, authority was fragmented and economic decline threatened. The lawlessness of Maratha, Afghan, and other warlords created a great situation, which was grabbed by the British Company.

The British system of ” ring-fencing” based on subsidiary alliances was the reason for territorial acquisitions. In India where revenue extraction was the main business of Government and where personal fortunes were not readily distinguished from official receipts, British rapacity was attracted to it.

Conquests and access to revenue depended on power and prestige, greed was as much the essence, as merchants became rulers happily adjusted to the ripe situations.

Clive played tricks and Company succeeded in conquest the richest and possibly the largest province of the Moghul empire. Bengal duly became the “bridgehead”, “springboard” and foundation of British Rule in India.

Much emphasis is laid on the fortune acquired by greedy individuals of the Company and the so-called ” Nababs” of the Company. Systematic exploitation is harder to quantify. The company and its greedy employees created the situation that in the great famine of 1770, a quarter of the Bengal population was killed.

Following Nadir Shah,s humbling of Moghul Emperor, the ruler of Bengal Ali Wardi Khan declared the independence of Bengal. Since he was a usurper, he faced the challenge of Marathas.

When Nawab Siraj took over Clive and his men engineered a plan to replace unstable weaker Nawab by subverting the existing order. Siraj attacked Calcutta and captured it. Blackhole drama was staged by the British and reduced the chances of restoring relations between the company and Nawab of Bengal.

Clive and Admiral Watson set sails for Calcutta, recaptured it, then defeated the French at Chandernagore as they were allies of Nawab. At that time Nawab Siraj was at Plassey with fifty thousand army, but Siraj had to run away due to the treachery of Mir Jaffer and most of his army commanders.

Mir Jaffer was the next puppet Nawab. He paid over 1,250,000 pounds to British benefactors. Furthermore, a cluster of two dozen districts( Parganas) south of Calcutta was passed to Company, this area is still known as ” 24 Parganas”.

British East India Company: The story of capturing India

British East India Company

Ahalyabhai Holkar, the “philosopher queen” of Malwa, had evidently been an acute observer of the wider political scene in India. She warned Maratha Peshwa against association with the British Company.

She linked their embrace to a “bear hug”. She wrote in her letter ” Other beasts like tiger, can be killed by might or contrivance, but to kill a bear, it is very difficult. It will die only if you kill it straight in the face. or else, once caught in its powerful hold, the bear will kill its prey by tickling. Such is the way of the English, and in view of this, it is very difficult to triumph over them.”

The British were generally restrained, they avoided mostly ravaging the countryside and plundering the towns. They could sell hostility that looks like friendship and conquest as a favor. It was really difficult to rally support against their tactics. Of religious zeal and dynastic ambition, they had seemed refreshingly free. Indeed their respect for the traditions of Islam and Hinduism was laudable.

From the somewhat chaotic nomenclature of Indian potentates, the Company began distilling a competitive hierarchy of princely titles and perquisites. “Rais” and “Rajas” were gratified to find their rank receiving their official recognition way beyond its local parameters, some rajas were recognized as Maharaja, Muslims were recognized as Nawabs, and lady Nawabs as “Begums”.

All such elements and states became. under the political umbrella of the British East India Company. Soon Mir Jaffer was out of favor, as he could not fulfill the demands of the company and its employees, he was replaced by Mir Qasim, the son-in-law of Mir Jaffer, in 1760. Mir Qasim made valiant efforts to re-establish his truncated state.

He annoyed the Company officials, by dismissing some of his own officials suspected of collaboration with the British. The Company greatly increased revenue demands and claimed some coercoal liberties in the province.

Mir Qasim refused the undue pressure of British officials, so he was attacked in 1763, and defeated by Company troops. Mir Qasim fled to Awadh, and Mir Jaffer was again placed as Nawab of Bengal.

In 1764 at Buxar the combined forces of Moghul King Shah Alam, Mir Qasim, and Nawab of Awadh were defeated through the collaboration of certain treacherous elements, by Major Hector Munro. At Buxer all that still remained of Moghul power in India was shattered.

The Emperor has to transfer his vestigial prestige to the British East India Company and award “Diwani” of Bengal to the company. Meanwhile, areas of Awadh from Varanasi to Allahabad fell to the British Company.

Issuance of Imperial Farman of Diwani to EIC

Mohiuddin Chaudhry, the writer of this research paper, with his friend.

In May 1771, Emperor Shah Alam issued an Imperial Farman granting Diwani of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to the East India Company, it provided a lot of power and fiscal powers to the governor of Calcutta.

Until 1774 the Company,s administration in India was managed through three separate presidencies, Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.

Now by the order of Company Directors, the governor of Calcutta, Warren Hastings took over as Governor-General in India, he shifted Bengal treasury from Murshidabad to Calcutta, and all the occupied areas in India were governed from Calcutta as the Capital of the British Company.

The participation of company officials in different forms of maritime trade was involved in all types of monopolies, franchises, revenue farms, and commercial concessions. Every company official had his local agent, known as ” Bania” or “Dubash”.

Whereas the company was grabbing the territory by different means, fair or unfair. They allied with Muhammad Ali and made him Nawab of Arcot, but soon maximum territory of Arcot was ceded to Madras Government. Marhatas states were another target and soon some of the weaker states were ceded to Company’s government.

The Kingdom of Mysore under Hyder Ali khan stopped the onslaught of Company Forces and defeated them, but the Tiger of Mysore Tipu Sultan the valiant son of Hyder Ali failed to contain Company Forces despite his professional Army and determined command.

He defeated British forces under famous British commanders at different times but Company succeeded in getting the help of greedy individuals within the Tipu government. Defeat and Shahadat of Great Tipu in 1799 in the fourth Mysore war, opened the flood gates for Company,s onslaught.

On behalf of the puppet state of Awadh, in 1774, company troops penetrated Rohilkhand, invaded the small state, and attached it to Awadh. Now Company troops were supreme throughout the Gangetic plain.

The Maratha power was shattered when defeated by Abdali at Panipat. It was a great opportunity for the British Company to avail the chance. Historians narrate the victory of Abdali was short-lived, as he withdrew soon back to Afghanistan, now Maratha power was easy prey for Company, and smaller fragile Maratha states soon surrendered to Company.

Till 1804 the Maratha power was destroyed throughout central and Northern India. Now new British frontier ran along the river Sutlej in Punjab, along the borders of Punjab, governed by Raja Ranjit Singh of Lahore.

1857 WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, MUTINY AGAINST BRITISH OCCUPATION:

The British had one outstanding advantage against Indian rulers. They had appointed their men as” residents” almost at every Indian Ruler,s court, ostensibly for trade, in fact, to build an empire. They advised every ruler against everyone and sponsored different pretenders to dynastic succession.

From the resultant chaos pieced together, the British empire on different areas of India. The local rulers were set against each other and then offered protection, in exchange for some choice territory. British were experts in this art and raised it to the highest level.

Indian soldiers were recruited from different states mostly from Bengal and Bihar, in beginning. Later when different Indian states were annexed by Company, the soldiers of those states opted for the relative security of Company service.

Among the people of India, there was little tradition of revolution in pursuit of an abstract idea. The uprising of 1857 was a fight to rid the country of an alien power. The Moghul Emperor had little military power and he lived in the fiction of authority because the ultimate sanction behind the law is military power.

Many different groups with as many grievances became aligned in great rebellion against British rule. Paradoxically there was something of a national character in the composition of those who supported the rebellion. It is an astonishing factor that it lacked a Pan-India dimension.

The rebellion commanded support amongst most communities in northern and central India and although nationalist rhetoric contributed to it, most of the areas of future India and Pakistan were quite unaffected.

In 1857, soon after Dalhousie had fanned this still simmering discontent about overseas service, the Bengali Hindu sepoy became aware of another development that would compromise their beliefs.

Another source of unrest and mistrust was the annexation of Awadh without any valid reason and compounded it, first by the refusal of Nawab and secondly, Dalhousie had to use force to get the papers signed. Legally it was a doubtful decision on the part of the Company.

A big Army of Awadh was sent home, only limited soldiers were inducted into the Company force. It created great unrest as a lot of armed soldiers were now jobless. During the war against the British Company, these trained soldiers played a pivotal role.

In 1857 after the departure of Lord Dalhousie, a new rifle was being issued for which the cartridge had first to bitten open with teeth, and the fat of cow and pig had been used in it. Cow reverencing Hindus as to pig paranoid Muslims. Soldiers started refusing to use such ammunition.

Mutiny in Bengal, over the cartridges, was suppressed in Feb 1857, and such offending cartridges were quickly withdrawn. But the rumors and the rancor spread upcountry they multiplied and were magnified.

British arrogance is sufficient to invite the distrust. On 24 April 1857, at Meerut, an important garrison town about sixty kilometers from Delhi, a particularly insensitive and brevet British command court-martialled 85 troopers for refusing suspect cartridges and then publicly humiliated them in front of the entire garrison.

The next day their comrade in arms at Meerut rose as one, to free them. They also broke into the armory and began massacring the British Officers and the local British community. It was early May, the dry hot season, and the huts of the garrison and the thatched roofs of officer’s lines were ignited at the kiss of a torch.

As a metaphor, spark and tinder would feature widely in contemporary British accounts. Meerut lot the ” conflagration” which spread like wildfire, across the parched Gangetic plain and deep into the forest scrub of central India. From Meerut, the first insurgents headed immediately for Delhi, there to seek out the higher authority of the Moghul Emperor.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was eighty-two and has ruled from Red Fort for the past twenty years. He was as long with limited subjects and had no troops. Now his British sponsors were quickly evicted from the city, and their sepoys joined the men from Meerut.

There was no central control or any administration in the city. Bakht Khan came to Delhi from Bareilly and took over the command of troops, he was a capable officer. But soon he was forced to give way, due to the pressure from governing council.

In another part of India, Awadh had erupted, Kanpur was taken over from Company, Agra, Allah Abad, Varanasi, and Gowaliar revolted and British authority was shattered badly. Freedom fighters in Delhi were joined by sepoys and volunteers from different parts of Punjab, Rohilkhund, Bundhelkhund, Agra, and Owadh.

The contingent from Breiley was commanded by Bakht Khan, who proved to be the most competent of revolutionary commanders.

Fall of Red Fort and surrender of Emperor

The groups of freedom fighters headed immediately for Dehli, there to seek out the higher authority of the Moghul Emperor. The sudden accession of troops improved the authority of the aging Moghal Emperor.

The local British officials and traders were quickly evicted from the city, with their native sepoy force joining hands with the freedom fighters. The Emperor was with neither subjects nor troops for the past twenty years. Now the Emperor was the rightful representative of the people of India.

From May to August 1857 suspect Indian Units were disarmed, throughout India. According to British official records the sepoys were ordered to parade with their weapons. On parade they were ordered to lay down their arms, which they did, then ordered to return to their barracks without weapons.

Some of them changed their hearts and escaped to join the freedom fighters. The Native infantry units at Peshawar, Nowshera, and Mardan tried to escape but they were hunted down by the British forces, mercilessly. Some units reached Dehli from Multan, Jhelum, Lahore Kangra, and Ferozepur had to fight hard to reach Dehli.

Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar established a council for the conduct of war. 83 years old Emperor appointed six military and three civilian members of the war council. During June sepoys and volunteers from Punjab, Rohilkhund, Bundhelkhund, and Agra joined the Dehli forces.

The contingent of Bareilly was commanded by Bakht Khan, who took over as commander in chief of the Dehli force.

The Company forces assembled in Lahore:

General Anson commanded the force and reached Karnal on 25 May. He died of cholera on May 26. He was relieved by General Barnard but the next week, he also died of cholera, and command was handed over to General Reed, he was medically unfit and sick so he was relieved by General Wilson on 17 July. Freedom fighters kept on attacking, plus cholera was killing the people in the British camp.

The British assault on Dehli city started on 14 September. The bombardment started, and the fort wall was breeched at places. The British spies had access to Egerton,s House. In this house, an underground tunnel provided a wide passage that leads outside the wall.

There was an efficient British spy network, and plenty of British spies were available to render the necessary services. Rajab Ali, Gowri Shankar, and Emperor,s secretary Hakim Ahsanullah were there to lead this spy network.

On September 21 Dehli was taken after fierce fighting. Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was advised to leave the capital for safety but he preferred to shift to Humayun,s Tomb, he surrendered on 21 September. Major Hudson killed twenty-one princes of royal blood. Raja of Ballabgarh and Nawab of Jhajjar met a similar fate and were hanged.

The Emperor himself traded trial and ignominy for a few more months of an already wretched existence. The Moghul Emperor was exiled to Rangoon( Burmah) he died,” a plaything of fortune, in a foreign land, far from the country of his ancestors, unhonoured and unsung, but maybe not altogether unwept “.

Freedom fighters lost control of Dehli as they were poorly armed compared to British forces, lacked a proper command structure, and were severely hampered by weak communication. Freedom fighters were ill-equipped and ill-organized to hold prestigious strong points.

Their capabilities and their composition, are now heavily diluted by irregular local militias, unruly bands of aggrieved cultivators, and the firebrand of various religious movements. So the fall of Dehli was possible.

By the end of September 1857, it was clear that south of River Narmada, the freedom fighters enjoyed little support, and the Madras and Bombay armies remained loyal to the British. Sindh was indifferent, Maharaja of Kashmir was supporting the British, and Chiefs of Punjab States were loyal.

The prompt arrivals of British troops back from China and the Persian Gulf neutralized the situation in Bengal and Bihar. The freedom fight thus became confined to the vast Gangetic region and Rajasthan only.

The End of Freedom Struggle:

After the fall of Dehli, the region of Awadh became the main arena of the freedom fight. In Awadh whose revenue system has just been so disastrously reorganized by the Company after annexation.

Lucknow now eclipsed Dehli as the military focus of rising. In Kanpur, the Nana Sahib, the adopted heir to the Lastarhaya Peshwa, emerged as the figurehead of freedom fighters.

The killing of English men, women, and children on the Ganga River complicated the situation. Tantia Topi his ablest commander fought valiantly but they have to leave Kanpur and then joined the freedom fighters at Lucknow.

Meanwhile, the recapture of Kanpur had given the British a forward base from which to attempt the relief of British soldiers and civilians in Lucknow Residency.

Lucknow was under the control of freedom fighters and British Residency was under Company forces, where 1500 British soldiers, 1400 women, and children had taken refuge. British Residency was a fortified area, on the outskirts of the city.

All the relief efforts failed and the siege lasted nearly five months. The British forces kept the freedom fighters at bay.

The freedom fighters knew that Lucknow was very important, and the siege of residency provided an area, a sustained focus for the local freedom fighters. As Lucknow was a source of power and authority.

The fight was on, till March 1858, when the city of Lucknow fell to a large British Army. Within the rest of the Awadh, freedom fighters kept on fighting for another year.

The final scene of freedom fighting occurred to the south of the Jamna river, where Laxmi Bai the Rani of Jhansi led the freedom fighters. Bombay Army captured Jhansi but Rani with the help of Tatya Topi captured Gwalior.

Lakshmi Bai died the death of the heroine, she was riding around the rampant, when she was hit by a spray of bullets launched by British soldiers. After the death of Rani Lakshmi, the fort of Gwalior fell to the British force.

Kharrals Jats of South Punjab put up a fierce fight before being defeated by British forces. Khan Bahadur Khan of Bareilly, Ram Singh of Malir Kotls, Thothal and Chib tribes of Kashmir Foothills, and Hasanzai Pathans of Oghi led the freedom fight even after the Lucknow fall.

Fires of the struggle for liberation were smothered, but small embers continued to glow. The bid for freedom failed, as there was no political leadership far-sighted and hard-headed, who could see the thing to the end of the tunnel. There was no central organization to direct the explosive power of the freedom struggle.

British political leadership was outstanding, their tactical failures did not upset the strategic direction.

The royal proclamation of 1858 announced a decision of the British Parliament that all rights previously enjoyed by the East India Company in India were being resumed by the British Crown. Queen Victoria thereby became Queen of India as well of the UK.

India’s governor-general became Queen,s Viceroy as well as the British Government,s chief executive in India. The fiction of Company Rule thus finally ended. The company became irrelevant as the Moghuls, the Company now shared its fate as a casualty of the Revolt.

So the sad story of the British East India Company ended, it lingered on for a few more years in its London Office.

The status of princes was further enhanced by a new constitutional relationship between Britain and India. The Star of India, a royal Indian knight, was introduced in 1861, and the first tour by the British Royal family member took place in 1869.

Meanwhile, India,s aristocracy of feudatory princes, chiefs, Rajas, Nawabs, and so on was being further stratified and grouped to confirm the ideas of British hierarchy.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COMPANY:

In the late 1500s, European explorers started sailing east for trading purposes. The Spanish and the Portugese were originally dominant on these new sailing routes, but after the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 the British and Dutch were able to take more of an active role in trade with the East Indies.

The Dutch initially took a lead in this, focusing mainly on spices and in particular the trade of peppercorns.

Concerned that the English were falling behind to the Dutch on these new trading routes, on the 31st December 1600 Queen Elizabeth I granted over 200 English merchants the right to trade in the East Indies.

One of these groups of merchants called themselves Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, later to become simply The East India Company.

As the name suggests, the Company’s humble origins was as a small group of investors and businessmen looking to capitalise on these new trading opportunities. Their first expedition left for Asia in 1601 with four ships commanded by James Lancaster .

The expedition returned two years later with a cargo of pepper weighing almost 500 tons! James Lancaster was duly knighted for his service.

Although these initial voyages turned out to be extremely profitable for the shareholders, increased competition in the mid-1600s made trading much more difficult. Wars, pirates and lower profit margins forced the Company to grow into new markets where competition was less fierce.

It was during this time that the Company also decided that it could not compete with the more powerful Dutch East India Company in the trading of spices, so instead turned its attention to cotton and silk from India.

This strategy appeared to pay off, as by the 1700s the Company had grown so large that it had come to dominate the global textile trade, and had even amassed its own army in order to protect its interests. Most of the forces were based at the three main ‘stations’ in India, Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta.

Although the forces of the East India Company were at first only concerned with protecting the direct interests of the Company, this was to change with the Battle of Plassey in 1757. However, this was to be a turning point for the Company and the following years saw it take full administrative powers over its territories, including the right to tax anyone living within its boundaries.

Although the 1600s and early 1700s saw the East India Company primarily focused on the trade of textiles, by the mid 18th century the Company’s trading patterns began to change. The reasons for this were two-fold.

Firstly, the industrial revolution changed the way that the Company dealt with the textile trade. Prior to this, highly skilled weavers were employed in India to make cotton and silks by hand.

By The time of the Industrial Revolution, Britain had started producing these garments in its own factories, dramatically lowering prices (due to mass production) and bringing the fashions into the reach of the middle classes.

The second reason for this change in trading patterns was the growing desire in Europe for Chinese tea. This was a potentially massive market for the Company, but was held back by the fact that the Chinese only traded their tea for silver.

Unfortunately Britain was on the gold standard at the time, and had to import silver from continental Europe, making the whole tea trade financially unviable.

The Company started encouraging opium production in its Indian territories, which it then gave to private merchants (heavily taxed, of course) to be sold to China. The tax revenues from this funded much of the Company’s profitable tea business.

Unfortunately this broke Chinese law, although it was tolerated by the authorities for a good 50 years until the trade balance fell to such a point that the Chinese could not afford to let it continue.

This came to a head in 1839 when the Chinese demanded that all opium stock be handed over to its government for destruction. This ultimately led to the Opium Wars.

At the same time as the Opium Wars, the Company started witnessing an increasing amount of rebellion and insurgence from its Indian territories. There were many reasons for this insurgency, and the Company’s rapid expansion through the sub-continent during the 18th and early 19th centuries had not helped matters.

The rebels, many of whom were the Indian troops within the Company’s army (which at this time was over 200,000 men strong, with around 80% of the force made up of Indian recruits) caught their employers off guard and succeeded in killing many British soldiers, civilians and Indians loyal to the Company.

In retaliation for this uprising, the Company killed thousands of Indians, both rebel freedom fighters as well as a large number of civilians perceived to be sympathetic to the uprising. This was the Indian war of independence of 1857.

The Indian Rebellion was to be the end of the East India Company. In the wake of this bloody uprising, the British government effectively abolished the Company in 1858. All of its administrative and taxing powers, along with its possessions and armed forces, were taken over by the Crown.

This was the start of the British Raj, a period of direct British colonial rule over India which continued until independence in 1947.

……………….

NOTE:

This article is, basically, Mohiuddin Chaudhry‘s “Research Paper”. Mohiuddin Chaudhry is a fine writer. He writes in English and Urdu as well. Mr. Chaudhry studied “History and International Law” at the University of Birmingham.

He has been associated with Pakistan Navy also. You can read his articles at Mohiuddin Chaudhry.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.