The coming of Europeans to India

Commercial contacts between India and Europeans were very old via the land route but there were various shortcomings of Land-based routes like multiple taxations, theft, conflicts with tribes/kingdoms etc. Therefore in 1494, Columbus of Spain started for India in search of a Sea Route and discovered America instead. In 1498, Vasco da Gama of Portugal discovered a new sea route from Europe to India. He reached Calicut by sailing around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. This was the first arrival of European in India by Sea route.

Europeans in India

Sequence of an establishment of European Companies

1. Portuguese (1498)

2. English East India Company (1600)

3. Dutch East India Company (1602)

4. Danish East India Company (1616)

5. French East India Company (1664)

Why Europeans came to India?

  • Trade in Agro-based product like Cotton and handicrafts was the major reason which led to the advent of Europeans.
  • India was the major source of the spices. Some spices have antibiotic properties and they were also used to preserve the food.
  • Sea routes were discovered in order to reduce conflicts, taxation etc. which were generally faced during land-based journey.

1. Portuguese in India

  • The Portuguese came to India to Trade and they wanted to take away the spice trade from the Arab traders. They even resorted to piracy in order to capture the spice trade.
  • Francis de Almeida was the first governor of the Portuguese in India. Later, in 1509 Albuquerque became the governor.
  • Albuquerque captured Goa from the ruler of Bijapur in 1510. Subsequently, Goa became the capital of the Portuguese settlements in India.
  • Portuguese influence declined in India by the end of the 16th century as naval and commercial powers of the France, English and Dutch had given a strong competition to Portuguese and Spanish trade monopoly.
  • Around 17th century they had lost all their possessions in India except Goa, Diu and Daman as the Marathas captured Salsette and Bassein in 1739.
  • Portuguese lived for temporary periods in the settlements and then returned to Portugal.
  • Portuguese were intolerant of the existing religions of India and tried to force people to become Christian.

Causes of decline of Portuguese Power in India

  • Rise of other trading powers i.e. English, French, Dutch.
  • Spain won Portugal in 1580 A.D. Phillip II of Spain neglected Portugese dominions in India.
  • The Portuguese administration had become corrupt.
  • The religious policy backfired them.
  • In the 17th century, the Dutch also expelled the Portuguese from most parts of India.

2. British East India Company

  • The British East India Company sometimes also called John Company , was a Joint- Stock Company established in 1600, as The Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies.
  • William Hawkins stayed at the Court of Jahangir from 1608 to 1611.
  • The British Company gained foothold in India in 1612 when Mughal emperor Jahangir granted the rights to establish a factory in Surat to Sir Thomas Roe.
  • The Court of directors was the supreme authority in framing policies for the company.

Move towards colonization

  • In the first 50 years of its arrival, British East India Company, had no interest in the development of colonies, it preferred to engage in trade only.
  • This policy saw a change by 1650 when the power of the old guard British royalist merchants was broken, and a new class of merchants wrested control of the Company.
  • Later, they tried to establish the political power so that they can compel the Mughals to allow them a free hand in trade and keep the rival European out.
  • In 1686 hostilities between English and Mughal emperor broke out, when English had declared war on Emperor. English lost the war and apologized for the same.
  • In 1717 Farrukh Siyar confirmed the privileges granted in 1691 Farman and extended them to Deccan and Gujarat.

3. The Dutch East India Company

  • The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602.
  • Dutch established their settlements at Masulipattinam, Karaikal, Nagapattinam, Pulicat, Surat, Chinsura and Kasimbazar.
  • Dutch exported indigo, cotton textiles, saltpetre, raw silk, and opium from India.
  • It was the first company to issue stock.
  • In the 17th century before the prominence of British they emerged as the most dominant power in European trade in the East.
  • Main centre of Dutch in India was Pulicat and later it was replaced by Nagapattinam.
  • Indonesian Islands of Java, Sumatra, and the Spice Islands where spices were produced, were the main interest of the Dutch.
  • In 1667, Dutch agreed to leave alone English settlements in India, while English gave up all claims to Indonesia.
  • Dutch commercial activities started to decline by the beginning of 18th century and with the Battle of Bedera with the English in 1759 it came to an end.
  • Short sited commercial policy which was mostly based on trade in spices was also a major cause of decline of Dutch Power.

4. The Danish East India Company

  • The Danish formed an East India Company and arrived in India in 1616.
  • Important Danish settlement in India was Serampore in Bengal, it was also their headquarters in India.
  • They could not establish their position in India and finally sold all their Indian settlements to the English in 1845.
  • They were more concerned with missionary activities.

5. French East India Company

  • French East India Company was established in 1664.
  • The first French factory in India was established at Surat.
  • The French company was created, financed and controlled by the State and it differed from the English company which was a private commercial venture.
  • Duplex was an important French governor in India (1742).
  • Duplex began the policy of extending territorial empire in India and started political occupations, leading to series of conflicts with English in form of Carnatic Wars.
  • Battle at Wandiwash against the East India Company in 1760 was the decisive battle for the French existence in India through which they lost almost all their possessions in India.

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