East India Company

India Office Records from the British Library, 1599-1947

Discover the astonishing history of the East India Company, which at its peak controlled over a quarter of the world’s trade and millions of the global populace.

From 16th century origins as a trading venture to the East Indies, through to its rise as the world’s most powerful company and de facto ruler of India, to its demise amid allegations of greed and corruption – the East India Company was an extraordinary force in global history.

From the Company’s charter in 1600 to Indian independence in 1947, East India Company tells the story of trade with the East; politics; and the rise and fall of the British Empire. It records the challenges of a globalising world and sheds light on many contrasting narratives – from records of powerful political figures, through to the lives of native populations and the individual traders who lived and worked at the edge of Empire. 

This is simply an essential resource for scholarship of British imperial history; maritime trade; global commerce, and the history of the first great multinational corporation.


East India Company offers transformative research possibilities with fully searchable handwritten manuscript documents using Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR).

HTR is a groundbreaking search technology utilising artificial intelligence to deliver document-level full-text search results in manuscript material. The HTR application uses complex algorithms and artificial intelligence to determine possible combinations of characters in handwritten documents. This enables relevant handwritten text to be identified at document level, allowing users to easily navigate between highlighted search results. Read more or watch the demonstration video.

Sections include:

India Office Records, A - D: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947

This first module consists of the India Office Records, covering classes IOR/A, B and D, and comprises the foundational charters of the Company plus the minutes and memoranda of its various central administrative organs. This is material generated by the East India Company’s London headquarters and top-level material sent back by Company servants overseas and pertains to the governance of the Company and its territorial possessions.

Types of material include, minutes of council meetings, memoranda and papers laid before councils, correspondence, lists of administrative, military and ecclesiastical personnel, Patronage books and other financial documents

India Office Records, G: Factory Records for South Asia and South East Asia, 1595 - 1830

The second module of the East India Company collection consists of the records of the East India Company’s ‘factories’ (trading posts) from south and southeast Asia, principally what is now India and Indonesia. These records were returned to London from the factories as evidence of their activities and complement the centrally produced records of classes A to D in module I.

Document types include correspondence, political and military consultations, Ledgers and the Proceedings of governors' councils and courts.

India Office Records, G: Factory Records for China, Japan and the Middle East, 1596 - 1870

Module III consists of the sub-classes of Factory Records which were not published in Module II, covering the Company’s activities in China, Japan, Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, St Helena and South Africa. It includes correspondence relating to Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile to St Helena and Sir Harford Jones, envoy to Persia.

India Office Records, E: Correspondence: Early Voyages, Formation and Conflict

Correspondence between the East India Company, the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, the Company’s various settlements, and European houses of agency.

India Office Records, E: Correspondence: Domestic Life, Governance and Territorial Expansion (Publishing 2022)

The second module from India Office Records E features correspondence with the Bombay and Madras Presidencies and British government departments, interspersed with petitions, memorials and letters from individuals and lobby groups covering a diverse range of subjects

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1599-1947

Source Archive

  • British Library

Material Types

  • 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 

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
  • John McAleer, University of Southampton
  • Douglas Peers, University of Waterloo
  • Philip Stern, Duke University


  • Administrative and ecclesiastical appointments
  • Agriculture
  • Charters and the Company’s relationship to the English/British Crown
  • Courts and legal affairs, including legislation
  • Diplomacy, treaties and ambassadorial expeditions
  • Finance and debt
  • The machinery of government
  • Pay and pensions for Company servants and their families
  • Railways
  • Trade
  • Warfare and military matters

Key Features

  • Handwritten Text Recognition enables full text searching across handwritten manuscript documents, view demo.
  • Split-screen image viewer.
  • Interactive chronology of events in India and the Asian trading world spanning the dates of the material, allows users to browse these largely manuscript documents based on their dates of interest.
  • Data visualisation, with interactive maps and graphs, of the EIC’s trade statistics.


Highly recommended. Undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers.

An interactive time line-a particularly helpful feature for novice users-not only provides rich historical context but also links to pertinent documents. Under the Documents tab, users can find ......

Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty