In 1600, the English East India Company was established through a charter signed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. The charter granted the company the permission to trade with India. In 1608, Captain Hawkins visited the court of Jahangir but he was denied any trading rights. However, in 1619, when Sir Thomas Roe visited the court, they were allowed to set up their first factory in Surat(authorised factory). Gradually, the company was successful in setting up its factories at other places also such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.’
The agents of the English Company soon became familiar with Indian customs and languages. They learnt Persian, the official language of the Mughals. The English agents of this period lived like Indians, intermarried Indians, and most of them settled here permanently. All this gave the English an edge over their other European rivals.
The English set up their factories in Masulipatnam (1611), Agra, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Broach (1619), Armagaon near Pulicat (1626), Hariharpur and Balasore (1633), Patna, Dakha, Kasimbazar (1835), Fort St George in Chennai (1639), Hoogli (1651), settlements in Bihar, Bengal and Orissa (1658), Mumbai (1668) and Sutanuti (1690), Kalikota and Govindpur (1698). Later they founded the city of Kolkata which included the regions of Sutanuti, Kalikota and Govindpur. In 1700, they fortified the factory at Sutanati and named it Fort William. In 1686, the English fought the war against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. They lost all their control over the settlements and factories in India to the Mughals. They were pardoned when they surrendered in 1690. In 1691, they were granted a Farman by the Mughal emperor. They exempted from paying customs duties in Bengal through this Farman.
In 1717, the Mughal emperor, Farukhsiyar (1713 – 1719), granted the British another Farman, thus extending the privilege to British in Gujarat and Deccan – who by then had already established themselves in the south and the west – a grant of 38 villages near Kolkata, acknowledging their importance to the continuity of international trade in the Bengal economy. As the Dutch and the French, the British also brought silver bullion and copper to pay for transactions, helping the smooth functioning of the Mughal revenue system and increasing the benefits of local artisans and traders. The fortified warehouses of the British brought extraterritorial status, which enabled them to administer their own civil and criminal laws and offered numerous employment opportunities as well as an asylum to foreigners and Indians. The British factories successfully competed with their rivals as their size and population grew. The original clusters of fishing villages (Chennai and Kolkata) and the series of islands (Mumbai) became the headquarters of the British administrative zones or presidencies as they generally came to be known. The factories and their immediate environs, known as the white town, represented the actual and symbolic pre-eminence of the British is terms of their political power as well as their cultural values and social practices. Meanwhile, their Indian collaborators lived in the ‘black town’ separated from the factories by several kilometres.
Spread of British on East and West Coast of India during the seventeenth century
Anglo-Dutch hostilities from 1652 to 1654 drew the English and the Portuguese closer on the western coast of India.
According to a secret article in the marriage treaty of 1661 with Portugal, the Portuguese possessions in the East were guaranteed by England against the Dutch, and the island of Mumbai was included as a part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, the new queen of Charles II. In 1668, Charles II transferred Mumbai to the East India Company on an annual payment of 10 pounds. Mumbai gradually rose to prosperity during the administration of sir George Oxenden (1662 – 1669), Gerald Aungier (1669 – 1677), and Sir John Child (1682 – 1690). In 1687, the seat of the western Presidency was shifted from Surat to Mumbai. In 1611, the English started a factory in the south-east at Masulipatnam. In 1632, they obtained Golden Farman from Sultan of Golconda and in 1639 were permitted to build a fortified factory in Chennai, known as Fort St George, which later superseded Masulipatnam as the headquarters of the English in the East coast.
In, 1608, First British ship Hector reached India
In 1611, Captain Middleton was able to get permission to start a factory in Surat from the local Mughal governors. But he needed to fight a battle with the Portuguese. Under him, the British defeated Portuguese in 1611 in the Battle of Bombay.
First English factory in Bengal was established at Hoogly 1651, with the permission of Shahsuja and they were also granted Privileges of free trade for a payment of Rs 3000
The French commercial interest – Compagnie des Indes Orientales (East India Company, founded in 1664) – came late but the French also established themselves in India, emulating the precedents set by their competitors, as they founded their enclave at Pondicherry (Puducherry) on the Coromandel Coast. In 1664, they set up centres near Chennai and Chandernagore on the Hoogly to trade with India. They also established naval bases in the islands of Bourbon and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Initially, they flourished till 1706 but afterwards declined until 1720. After 1720, it was because of Governors Lenoir and Dumas that the French regrouped in India. However, during 1742, the French Governor Dupleix started repulsing English power, which resulted in the Carnatic wars and eventually the defeat of the French.
THE DANISH AND THE AUSTRIANS
Besides the presence of the Portuguese, Dutch, British and French, there were two lesser but noteworthy colonial groups. In 1616, the East India Company of Denmark reached Indian coasts and established settlements in Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu (1620) and Serampore in Bengal (1676). Danish entrepreneurs established themselves at several ports on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts, in the vicinity of Kolkata and inland at Patna, between 1695 and 1740. Austrian enterprises were set up in the 1720s in the vicinity of Surat, in southeastern Gujarat. As with the other non-British enterprises, the Danish and Austrian enclaves were taken over by the British between 1765 and 1815.