East India Company

The East India Company (EIC)[lower-alpha 1] was an English, and later British, joint-stock company founded in 1600[lower-alpha 2] and dissolved in 1874.[4] It was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with the East Indies (the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia), and later with East Asia. The company seized control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonised parts of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. At its peak, the company was the largest corporation in the world. The EIC had its own armed forces in the form of the company's three Presidency armies, totalling about 260,000 soldiers, twice the size of the British army at the time.[5][6] The operations of the company had a profound effect on the global balance of trade, almost single-handedly[7] reversing the trend of eastward drain of Western bullion, seen since Roman times.[8]

East India Company
TypePublic
Partially State-owned enterprise[1]
IndustryInternational trade
Founded31 December 1600; 421 years ago (1600-12-31)
Founders
Defunct1 June 1874; 148 years ago (1874-06-01)
FateNationalised:
HeadquartersEast India House, ,
ProductsCotton, silk, indigo dye, sugar, salt, spices, saltpetre, tea, slave trade and opium

Originally chartered as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East-Indies",[9][10] the company rose to account for half of the world's trade during the mid-1700s and early 1800s,[11] particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, indigo dye, sugar, salt, spices, saltpetre, tea, and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.[11][12]

The company eventually came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858 when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj.

Despite frequent government intervention, the company had recurring problems with its finances. The company was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act enacted one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had by then rendered it vestigial, powerless, and obsolete. The official government machinery of the British Raj had assumed its governmental functions and absorbed its armies.


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