How British established their factories in India?

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Title: Establishment of British Factories in India: A Historical Overview for UPSC Aspirants

For those preparing for UPSC examinations, understanding the timeline of colonial history, particularly how the British established their factories in India, is crucial. This article provides detailed insight into this significant historical event, with a keen emphasis on important dates, personalities, and places associated with the establishment of British factories in India.

The British era in India began with the establishment of the first factory in 1612 by the British East Indian Company (EIC). Here is a detailed outline of how it progressed:

1. Establishment of British East India Company:

Firstly, let’s understand the role of the British East India Company. On December 31, 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted over 200 English merchants the right to trade in the East Indies, resulting in the formation of ‘The Company of Merchants of London, trading into the East Indies’, or ‘The British East India Company’ as it is commonly known.

2. Surat – The First Moves:

The first attempt of British to establish a factory in India was made in 1601, in the port city of Surat in Gujarat. Captain James Lancaster led the voyage. However, it wasn’t until 1612, after the EIC’s victory in the Battle of Swally against the Portuguese, when they established a factory following a charter granted by Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who afforded the British the right to establish a permanent factory and trading operations.

3. Setting Foothold in Madras:

In 1639, the British established Madras’s factory with permission from the local ruler. Francis Day, a member of the East India Company, obtained a piece of land from the ruler, and a fortified factory, known as Fort St. George, was built. The locality around the fort eventually grew into the city of Madras, now known as Chennai.

4. Expansion to Hugli:

By 1640, the British had managed to expand their influence to Bengal and set up factories at Hugli, Balasore and Cossimbazar, exploiting the political instability in the region.

5. Era of Fort William:

In 1698, the British East India Company obtained from Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb a land grant, where they established Fort William. This new base allowed the British to consolidate their holdings and extend their influence in Bengal.

6. Stronghold in Bombay:

The island of Bombay was ceded to Britain in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II. The King later transferred it to the East India company in 1668 for an annual rent of 10 pounds. The city served as the Company’s headquarters on the West Coast, and a factory was swiftly set up.

7. Conquest of Calcutta:

In 1757, following the Battle of Plassey, the British seized control of Bengal from the last independent Nawab, Siraj ud-Daulah, marking the beginning of the British Colonial rule.

In conclusion, it’s significant to comprehend that the establishment of these factories was not merely about trade and commerce. It marked the beginning of an era of strategic political control and economic exploitation that had profound implications on India’s fate. As a UPSC aspirant, the understanding of this crucial phase of India’s colonial past can provide an analytical perspective to the country’s current socio-political landscape.

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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