24th August 1608: The First Representative of the East India Company Lands in Surat


On 24th August 1608, the first representative of the East India landed in Surat for purposes of trade.


The East India Company was a British joint stock company founded in 1600 to carry out trade with the East Indies (a term used to refer to South and South East Asia), but primarily ended up carrying out trade with the Indian subcontinent, the North West Frontier provinces and Balochistan.


The East India Company primarily traded in silk, indigo dye, cotton, tea and opium. The company was also one among the oldest European East India companies and was granted the Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth in 1600. Shares of the East India Company were held by affluent members of society, such as rich merchants and wealthy aristocrats. The Government of Britain held no shares of the company and had no direct control over their operation.


Even though the East India Company came to India as traders, they eventually gained control over large areas of the country using their private army. Officially, the rule of the East India Company in India began in 1757, after the Battles of Plassey and Buxar. The rule of the East India Company was brought to an end in 1858 after the Indian First War of Independence (also known as the Indian Rebellion) in 1857. Following the dissolution of the East India Company from India, the British Crown too overtook direct control of India to begin what is known as the British Raj.


The East India Company gained a footing in India in 1612 after then Mughal ruler Jahangir gave the Company rights to build a factory and trading port in Surat (present day Gujarat). Following this, the East India Company got similar permission from the Vijayanagara Empire in the South of India and set up their second factory in Madras. Twenty years later, the East India Company spread its presence to the East of India by setting up a factory in Kolkata. Around the same time, other European traders like the French, Portuguese and the Dutch were also trying to expand their presence in India, but it were the British who succeeded in firmly anchoring their presence in India for the longest time to come.


By the end of the 17th century, India became an important country for the East India Company. Cotton woven in India was considered of extremely high quality and a large quantity of it was exported to Britain. This cloth was produced in factories and trading ports directly under British jurisdiction. By the 1750’s, the East India Company began intervening in Indian politics. The Mughal Empire was in its twilight years, which gave way to the emergence of regional states. These new states sought the help of the British and British commanders who helped Indian rulers to the throne were handsomely rewarded.


By 1763, the conflict between the British and the French, which began in the 1750’s ended and the British had successfully established a stronghold across most of India. By 1764, the East India Company had dominion over Bombay, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and large parts of South India. By 1773, the East India Company had set up its capital in Kolkata and appointed Warren Hastings at the First Governor General of India and took over responsibility of direct governance of India.


One of the main functions of the East India Company was collecting taxes. One third of the produce of land was taken from the cultivators and sent up to the British Government though a string of intermediaries, who kept a portion of the produce for themselves.


The British looked at India as backward and thought it to be necessary to improve the condition of the country by changing the laws and refurbishing the education system and by making Indians less dependent on religious education, by the introduction of secular education. In the meanwhile, the territorial conquests that were being carried out by the East India Company in India did not have the sanction of the British Government and they demanded that the Company curb their expansion across India. But this did not stop the East India Company who formed further alliances with neighbouring states to keep enemies away. This resulted in many wars which cost the East India Company a lot of money and also drew a lot of criticism against them at home in Britain.


The rule of the East India Company came to an end in 1858 after the Indian First War of Independence. Following this massive uprising of Indians against the East India Company, the British Crown was convinced that the East India Company did not have what it took to run the administration in India. The Government of India Act was passed in 1858 after which the British Government had direct control over the administration of India.


Also on This Day:


1690: Job Charnock of the East India Company landed in Kolkata and this day is considered the foundation day of the city.


1925: An Indian Scholar and social reformer, R.G Bhandarkar died


1969: V.V Giri became the fourth President of India.


1974: Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed became the fifth President of India.

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