East India Company

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The East India Company (also the East India Trading Company, English East India Company[1] and then the British East India Company)[2] was an early English joint-stock company[3] that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China. The oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies, the Company was granted an English Royal Charter, under the name Governor and Company of Merchants under the chairmanship of Lord Mayor of London To form an association to trade directly with india, by Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600.[4] After a rival English company challenged its monopoly in the late 17th century, the two companies were merged in 1708 to form the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies, commonly styled the Honourable East India Company,[5] and abbreviated, HEIC;[6] the Company was colloquially referred to as John Company,[7] and in India as Company Bahadur (Hindustani bahādur, "brave").[8]

The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, tea, and opium. However, it also came to rule large swathes of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits. Company rule in India, which effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey, lasted until 1858, when, following the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and under the Government of India Act 1858, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India in the new British Raj. The Company itself was finally dissolved on 1 January 1874, as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act.

The Company long held a privileged position in relation to the English, and later the British, government. As a result, it was frequently granted special rights and privileges, including trade monopolies and exemptions. These caused resentment among its competitors, who saw unfair advantage in the Company's position. Despite this resentment, the Company remained a powerful force for over 200 years over India.

In 2005, Sanjiv Mehta, an Indian businessman bought East India Company from the "30 to 40 people" who owned the shares of East India Company[9]. Starting with Mayfair in Central London, Mr. Mehta plans to launch several stores around the world for selling luxury goods under the East India Company brand[10].

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008, "East India Company"
  2. 1. Columbia Encyclopedia 2007, "East India Company, British". 2. Marx, Karl (June 25, 1853), "The British rule in India", New York Daily Tribune  republished in Carter, Mia; Harlow (editors), Barbara (2003), Archives of Empire, Raleigh: Duke University Press. Pp. 802, ISBN 0822331640, http://books.google.com/books?id=13pyxO8o4moC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA117,M1 . Quote (p. 118): "I do not allude to European despotism, planted upon Asiatic despotism, by the British East India Company, forming a more monstrous combination than any of the divine monsters startling us in the temple of Salsette."
  3. The Dutch East India Company was the first to issue public stock.
  4. The Register of Letters &c. of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, 1600–1619. On page 3, a letter written by Elizabeth I on January 23, 1601 ("Witnes or selfe at Westminster the xxiiijth of Ianuarie in the xliijth yeare of or Reigne.") states, "Haue been pleased to giue lysence vnto or said Subjects to proceed in the said voiadgs, & for the better inabling them to establish a trade into & from the said East Indies Haue by or tres Pattents vnder or great seale of England beareing date at Westminster the last daie of december last past incorporated or said Subjecte by the name of the Gournor & Companie of the merchaunts of London trading into the East Indies, & in the same tres Pattents haue geven them the sole trade of theast Indies for the terme of XVteen yeares ..."
  5. A. Oxford English Dictionary (Draft Edition, September 2008, requires subscription) entry for "honourable": "2b. Applied as an official or courtesy title of honour or distinction." Usage: ... the prefix ‘Honourable’ ... is also applied to the House of Commons collectively; ... also formerly to the East India Company, etc. Examples: 1698 FRYER Acc. E. India & P. 38 "In pay for the Honourable East India Company." B. Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911, "HONOURABLE (Fr. honorable, from Lat. honorabilis, worthy of honour), a style or title of honour common to the United Kingdom, the British colonies and the United States of America.... The epithet is also applied to the House of Commons as a body and to individual members during debate ('the honourable member for X.'). Certain other corporate bodies have, by tradition or grant, the right to bear the style; e.g. the Honourable Irish Society, the Inns of Court (Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, &c.) and the Honourable Artillery Company; the East India Company also had the prefix 'honourable' . The style may not be assumed by corporate bodies at will, as was proved in the case of the Society of Baronets, whose original style of 'Honourable' Society was dropped by command." C. Birdwood, George (1891), Report on The Old Record of the India Office, London: W. H. Allen & Co., Limited, and at Calcutta, http://books.google.com/books?id=m-WBAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA14&dq=Charter+of+1709+%22Honourable+East+India+Company%22&lr=&num=100&as_brr=1  Quote (p. 14): "The English Company [Including The General Society chartered by William III, 3rd September 1698] trading with the East , commonly called "the New Company," was incorporated by William III, 5th September 1698; its charter running to 1714. The above Company of Merchants of London and the English Company, were finally incorporated under the name of "The United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East [commonly styled, "the Honourable East India Company"] in 1708-9."
  6. Hawes, Christopher J. (1996), Poor Relations: The Making of a Eurasian Community in British India, 1773-1833, London: Routledge. Pp. 217., ISBN 0700704256, http://books.google.com/books?id=d22WUEmG49IC&pg=PR13&vq=HEIC&lr=&source=gbs_search_r&cad=1_1  Quote (p. xiii): "Abbreviations: Honourable East India Company (HEIC)."
  7. Ride, Lindsay; Ride, May; Mellor, Bernard (1995), An East India Company Cemetery: Protestant Burials in Macao, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Pp. 304, ISBN 9622093841, http://books.google.com/books?id=flbXWNoVraEC&pg=PA7&dq=charter+1709+%22honourable+east+india+company%22&lr=lang_en&num=100&as_brr=3  Quote (p. 7): "In 1709, the Company amalgamated with a rival group, which had been chartered in 1698 by William III. This union took the title 'The Honourable East India Company,' which was shortened for general use to 'the Honourable Company' and more often still to John Company, until it ceased operations in 1834, after its monopoly of British trade with China was discontinued."
  8. Gandhi, M. K. (1997), Hind Swaraj and other writings, (Edited by Anthony J. Parel) Cambridge and London: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 208., ISBN 0521574315, http://books.google.com/books?id=oc47gUOPZfcC&pg=PA39&dq=%22Company+Bahadur%22#PPA39,M1 . Quote (p.39): "... They came to our country originally for the purpose of trade. Recall the Company Bahadur. Who made it Bahadur? They had not the slightest intention at the time of establishing a kingdom. Who assisted the Company's officers? Who was tempted by their silver? Who bought their goods? History testifies that we did all this. ... †: 'the Company Bahadur': an honorific title by which the East India Company was known among Indians. 'Bahadur' means brave, powerful, sovereign."
  9. Sarkar, Dipanker (2010-02-14), East India Company now has n Indian owner, The Hindustan Times, http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/business/East-India-Company-now-has-an-Indian-owner/Article1-508853.aspx }}
  10. Fresco, Adam (2010-02-10), With one eye firmly on the past, new chapter begins for East India Company, The Times Online, http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/retailing/article7018409.ece