India has been a country of rich resources which has attracted foreigners to trade with India. Their trade intent was lately escalated to imperialist intent. Imperialism is a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means.
Normally when we think of foreign Europeans’ rule in India, usually Britishers come in mind. However, besides Britishers, India has experienced the arrival of Portuguese, Dutch, British, Danish and French. Chronologically, these all came in order like 1948 (Portuguese), 1605 (Dutch), 1608 (British), 1620 (Danish) and 1668 (Fench).
These countries established trading companies in their respective countries for doing trade in Eastern part of the world. The forerunner in its was Portuguese which established Portuguese Estado da India in 1505, British had established East India Company in Britain in 1600, Dutch came up with Dutch East India Company in 1602, Danish established Danish East India Company in 1616. French established their French East India Company namely Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales in 1664.
Portuguese first established their fort in Kochin of Kerala in the year 1503. Dutch established their first centre in 1605 at Masulipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Britishers’ first trade centre was established in 1608 in Masulipatnam too in Andra Pradesh and the second centre of the Britishers was at Surat, Gujarat in 1613. This was followed by Danish who set up their first trading centre at Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu in 1620. At last, French had their first centre at Surat, Gujarat, which was established in the year 1668. Among all these, it was Portuguese who stayed for the longest time in India that is from 1498 to 1961.
In order to understand the reasons of such foreign arrivals in India we need to look for the kind of developments happening in the western part of the world. In the erstwhile time of these arrivals there was going Renaissance in Europe giving way for Humanism, Religious Reforms and Scientific Inventions. By the scientific inventions they were discovering new sea routes. For instance, in 1492, America was discovered by Columbus of Spain, India was discovered by Vasco-de-gama of Portugal in 1498, Australia by Captain Cook of Britain and Newzealand by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. This time of navigational explorations is known as the Age of Discovery ranging approximately from the early fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century.
Behind these discoveries, exploring the Spice trade was one of the main motivations. These European countries were already aware of the spice resources in the eastern part of the world through Arabs. Arabs were already in trade with eastern countries including India. The Arabs traded the spices of the eastern countries with European countries via Turkey. Europe was always inquisitive about the places from where these spices were coming. Europe also wanted to overcome the dominance of the Arabs in the spice trade. Thus the spices became one of the reasons to explore other parts of the world through navigational routes.
The main contributions of Portuguese to India were Press which first came in Goa in 1556, and Ship building art. They brought with them Christianity in India. The first church in India was Saint Thomas Churuch of Kerala which was built in 1510. Portuguese introduced Gothic architecture in India. The free independent India under operation Vijay liberated itself from Portuguese rule in 1961 in Goa. 19th December 1961 is celebrated as Goa liberation day as on this day Goa and Daman merged with India.
Dutch from Netherland, known as Holland earlier, came in India in 1605 to establish their first centre of their joint venture company at Masulipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. They made India the centre of textile trade. Uptill 1759, Dutch continued their trade in India. However, as Britishers had established their trade in India in 1608 with their first centre at Masulipatnam too, Dutch and Britishers were in imperialistic competition with each other. These both powers were in battle with each other in 1759 called as the Karnatka battle where the Dutch got defeated by the British Governor Robert Clive.
British East India Company is the popular name of the trading company. Its actual name was Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies. In the time of creation of this company in 1600, the then Queen Elizabeth-I granted 15 years of commercial monopoly charter. Seeing the huge profits coming from this company, later, the King James in 1609 gave indefinite monopoly to East India Company for trade. Though the company was private company, the royal family had major chunk of share involved.
A British captain William Hawkins was proficient in Turkish language. He arrived in India to meet the then Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Jahangir was so much impressed with the Turkish speaking white man that he gave him 400 Mansab and permission to open first factory at Masullipatnam at Andhrapradesh. Hawkins was given the title of English Khan.
Later the second factory of Britishers was opened at Surat in Gujarat in 1613. Gradually the trade of Britishers kept increasing. They were into trading the rich resources from India. After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the golden time of Britishers started as the centralized power of Mughal started diminishing and disintegrating due to the unworthy heirs. The Royal decrees (Shahi furmans) issued by the later Mughals in post Aurangzeb period gave opportunities to British East India Company to spread its tentacles in India. Beside these Shahi furmans, the other reasons include the socio-political situation of the then India. There were significant incidences behind expansion of British East India Company like gifting of Bombay to Britain by Portugals, Battle of Plassey (1757), battle of Buxar (1764), Anglo- Mysore battles (1768-1769; 1780-1784;1790-1792;1799), Anglo -Maratha battles ( 1775-1782’1803-05;1817-19) , Anglo – Sikh battles (1845-1846; 1848-1849), Sind battle (1843) and Awadh battle (1856). These battles had significantly expanded the British territories and British East India Company started ruling most of the India. In 1857, the first military revolt took place which shook the Britishers and consequently, the East India Company was disbanded in India and the power was shifted to British Crown under Queen Victoria through the Government of India Act 1858.
The Danish East India Company of Denmark opened its first centre in India in 1620 at Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu. In 1845 Danish sold all their assets to Britishers and left India.
French came last in India in 1668. The first factory was opened in Surat in 1668 and second factory in Masullipatnam in 1674. French people were involved in trade only uptill 1742. However, the imperialistic hunger grew in later years under the French Governor Joseph Francois Duplex. He was the first to initiate the policy of subsidiary alliance for empire expansion. French were in direct competition with Britishers in empire expansion. They were in battles with British which are popular as Karnatak battles. There were three Karnatak battles (1746-1748; 1749-1754; 1758-1763)) in which France was finally defeated and Britain was the only foreign country left with the Imperialist aim in India which exploited India to its core ruthlessly. It is pertinent to mention that the East India Company now is being owned by an India Entrepreneur Sanjiv Mehta who purchased the maximum stakes in the company in 2005.
(The author assistant professor, Department of Tourism and Travel Management, Central University of Jammu)