Clio Edition 4 - page 18

Parliament. This brought pressure from other tradesman
and previous associates of the company who were jealous of
the firm’s Indian income, and a deregulating act was passed
in 1694. This allowed any English business or firm to trade
with India, unless stated otherwise, thereby voiding the
exclusive charter that had been in place for almost a century
protecting the interests of the East India Company. Backed
by £2 million of state money, a new parallel East India
Company was born, namely the English Company Trading
to the East Indies. The two companies competed, both in
England and India, to dominate trade. The only solution was
to merge, and in 1708 they formed the United Company of
Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies. The new
even more powerful company lent the Treasury £3.2 million
in return for exclusive privileges for three years, after which
a review would occur. The agreement gave the new company
un-precedented power and set up an ongoing battle between
company and parliament. By 1720, 15% of British imports
were Indian, with almost all passing through the company.
The Industrial Revolution, however, was about to change the
fortunes of the East India Company. England had grasped
onto the textiles trade, and was producing the light and
colourful garments favoured by the upper classes in its own
factories, which had previously been produced by skilled
weavers in India. This forced the East India Company to look
at other markets to maintain its profits. It decided on Chinese
tea - a popular beverage throughout Europe. This was the
beginning of the downturn in the company’s fortunes. To
buy the tea, the company started trading illegally in opium-
growing it in its Indian territories and selling it to China.
It used the ill gotten gains to fund its tea business. In 1839
Commissioner Lin Zexu spoke out against the company,
which was using its warships to destroy Chinese vessels. ‘…
there is a class of evil foreigner that makes opium and brings
it for sale, tempting fools to destroy themselves, merely in
order to reap a profit...’ The OpiumWars were fought to
destroy the importation of opium into China and at the same
time,India began to rebel against the Company. Many of the
rebels in India were members of the Company’s own army
and the bloodshed was devastating with many Indian and
British soldiers and civilians massacred.
The Indian rebellion was the end of the Company. The
British government, alert to the dangers of the Company’s
power, absorbed its possessions and armed forces in 1858.
The East India Company stands unique in the history of
Britain for being a commercial organisation with the power
of a country. Its greed and the tides of history were its
downfall, but its achievements were remarkable.
The trademark of the
East India Company,
most likely used
for letterheads or
1...,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,...46
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