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East India Company

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SCOPE OF COLLECTION

About East India Company
Beginning with the Company’s establishment by a charter from Queen Elizabeth I, users of this resource can trace its first voyages east, early attempts to trade in the Spice Islands (Indonesia), India and Japan, and skirmishes with pirates and rival trading companies.

By the mid-18th century, the company had unprecedented powers to raise armies, purchase territories, mint currency and administer criminal justice to citizens of its dominions. It straddled the globe with its domination of international commodity networks, and generated over a quarter of the world’s entire trade.

In the 19th century, the Company had become deeply embroiled in scandals, diplomatic crises, uprisings and wars but had come to dominate the valuable trade in tea and opium with China. The Indian Uprising of 1857 was the death knell for the Company, which was sidelined in 1858 and replaced by direct governance of India by the British Raj, continuing until independence in 1947.

MODULE I: Trade Governance and Empire, 1600-1947
Module I consists of the most important executive papers of the East India Company and later the India Office, covering the entire period of British rule in India and the expansion of the British Empire over several centuries. Charters, treaties, minutes and correspondence shed light on the foundation, development and demise of the East India Company and, later, the work of the Council of India in overseeing the British Raj. 

This module offers comprehensive digitisation of the following core classes:

  • The East India Company’s charters, deeds, statutes and treaties (IOR/A), with related documents, 1600-1947. 
  • The minutes of the meetings of the East India Company’s Courts of Directors and Proprietors (IOR/B), 1599-1858.
  • The minutes and memoranda of the Council of India (IOR/C), 1858-1947.
  • The minutes and memoranda of the general committees and offices of the East India Company (IOR/D), 1700-1858.

MODULES II AND III: Factory Records for South Asia, South-East Asia, China, Japan and the Middle East (1595-1870)
The East India Company Factory Records (IOR/G) reveal the role of individual trading posts (‘factories’) and are some of the richest sources in the India Office Records for the study of trade networks, daily life for those living and working in the British Empire, and the interaction between Western traders and Asian societies. The material consists of letters sent and received between the factories and London, official trading diaries, accounts of Company embassies to rulers, proceedings of provincial councils and revenue boards, military documents and account books.

 

SOURCE ARCHIVE

  • British Library

EDITORIAL BOARD

Crispin Bates
University of Edinburgh

Kate Boehme
University of Sussex

Huw Bowen
Swansea University

Jagjeet Lally
University College London

Andrea Major

University of Leeds

Margaret Makepeace
British Library

Philip Stern
Duke University

Highlights

Topics covered include:

  • Early expeditions to India, the Spice Islands (Indonesia) and Japan
  • Wars in India, against Indian states and France
  • Expeditions against pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries
  • Accusations of corruption against Governor-General Warren
  • Hastings, and his impeachment and acquittal
  • Earl Macartney’s embassy to China
  • Sir Stamford Raffles and the rise of Singapore
  • The Opium Wars between the United Kingdom and China
  • The Indian Uprising of 1857-1859
  • The transfer of rule from the Company to the Crown
  • Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian independence movement
  • The Indian National Congress and the Muslim League
  • Trade in commodities such as tea, textiles, metals and opium

NATURE OF MATERIAL

The digitised primary source material includes:

  • Minutes of council meetings (Court of Directors, Court of Proprietors and Council of India)
  • Memoranda and papers laid before councils
  • Council resolutions
  • Proceedings of revenue boards
  • Charters
  • Texts of legislation
  • Printed books
  • Correspondence
  • Lists of administrative, military and ecclesiastical personnel
  • Trading diaries
  • Patronage books
  • Account books and other financial documents

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

  • Split-screen image viewer allowing users to view documents and their indexes simultaneously for enhanced browsing and discoverability.
  • Interactive map and data visualisation tools, allowing users to analyse data sets on the East India Company’s trade in 13 commodities, with information on ports of origin and destination, import/export prices and quantities.
  • Government structure chart illustrating the hierarchy and sequence of office-holders in British India, including dates of office and short biographies.
  • Interactive chronology providing a primary access point into the documents. Users can discover material related to their area and period of interest by searching across events in India and the Asian trading world from 1600 to 1948.
  • Scholarly essays from leading academics contextualising and exploring the archive material.