From its origins as a small London enterprise, the East India Company (EIC) emerged as a powerful commercial and political organization, whose presence in the Gulf helped shape the region’s modern history.
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.
The British East India Company was a privately owned company which was established to create profitable trade with countries in the region of Asia called the “East Indies” and quickly became one of the most powerful mercantile organizations in the world by maintaining a monopoly on the importation of exotic goods (notably cotton, tea, and silk) from India into Britain. 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, at Madras, Bombay and Bengal.
The standing military was used in many cases to consolidate and enforce local authority in Indian territories. Official Company rule of India, or Raj, began in 1757, and was in full swing during the Romantic period, only coming to a close in 1858 following a bloody uprising and revolution.
In addition to establishing political and economic aspects of imperial power, the East India Company’s influence on British society was great. The availability of new and exciting products from foreign lands was very significant in the evolution of British identity, clearly evidenced by the well-known custom of “tea-time”. The fascination that many Romantic literary figures had with the “Orient” was undoubtedly due in some part to the East India Company’s dealings.
In my research paper, I will be exploring not only the economic hegemony that the British East India Trading Company established around the globe at the time, but the groundwork for British imperialism that they laid out. The Royal Charter that Queen Elizabeth granted to the British East India Trading Company marked a pivotal point in not only the history of the British Empire, but in the world, as it enabled the basis for British global dominance. I will be breaking down and analyzing the document and see the privileges and powers that the crown granted to the BEITC and how it introduced British imperialism to the East Indies.