The East India Co was world's most violent, ,corrupt and manipulative ''Corporate Raider'' ever existed!!

East India Co, colonial trading co.

East India Co's HQ. London  /

The East India Company, a British Corporate private company  was started by a group of London based English merchants  with a Royal Charter granted by  Queen Elizabeth I on the last day of 1600 (Dec. 31,) CE. The Royal Charter bestowed the humble company  exclusive overseas trading rights with the East Indies, a massive area  extending from Africa’s Cape of Good Hope eastward to Cape Horn in South America. It also  recognized its monopoly in those lands and  no other British subjects or companies  could legally trade there. Yet another provision allowed  the company to maintain an army  to protect British interests and raids by competitors. This special provision helped the English Co to firmly establish its monopoly in these regions over others from the UK.

No body would ever thought what stated out as a small London based private company with a nominal working capital  would become an unusual  brutal behemoth  and establish its hegemony over scattered lands covering almost every continent across the globe despite acute  competition from the Dutch, French  and Portuguese companies operating in those areas.

 Diligently employing right strategies and careful planning blended with wheeling and dealing, violence and unethical methods, it became a giant overseas militarized corporate  and global player focusing only on profit-making;  it was the first ever  brutal raider on legitimate Indian kingdoms headed by rich Maharajahs and Nawabs . Its corporate violence and killings were far worse than the present day Drug Cartels of South America that are known for all forms of violence. Its activities were a source of shame for Britain dominated by  institutionalized  exploitation of colonial resources through over-taxation and the slow drain of wealth which affected the Indian society and the rural economy. The opium farmers were exploited to the maximum

 In the next  two centuries  the company's unpredictable moves and actions  affected the quality of  lives of millions of people across the globe, constituting British colonies including the Americas.  The positive impact of this company on  Britain was its  enormous revenues  that had  improved the British economy, silver, gold reserve, quality of  life and financed the Industrial revolution and infrastructure developments in the home land.  Britain's GDP was  just below 4 % whereas India and China had GDP more than 23%. 

The company's future fortune  began in 1620 in the town of Surat (now  a big city with a world class diamond center in Gujarat state)  with Thomas Roe securing permit from the Mogul Emperor to build a factory and settlement for the English company.  Since then the company's growth had been  rapid and there was no turning back. Subsequently, it established settlements in Masulipatnam (AP), Madras (Chennai, TN) and Calcutta. 

The EIC's move to establish a settlement and factory in Hooghly, Calcutta,  Bengal in the mid 1750s was a turning point, the province  was a huge fertile one  with lots of natural resources that could be exploited commercially. Using the settlement  as its springboard, the English company, driven by greed and motivation to make hefty profits, unethically took over Bengal and other  the provinces one by one from the  Indian rulers,  subjugating the natives, plundering natural resources and looting valuable treasures from across the land. With diabolical strategy it laid the foundation for the most powerful multinational corporation upon which the British Empire was built by the British Crown. The annexation of Bengal province (including part of Bihar and Assam)  in early 1760s after three major decisive wars with the local ruler was a trump card. 

Robert Clive’s victory gave the English Co the rights to collect   revenue (Diwani rights) and introduce  broad taxation powers in Bengal.  Robert Clive (known as Clive of India) illegally seized £2.5million from the defeated rulers of Bengal and he  pocketed a personal fortune   then valued at £234,000  This made him the richest self-made man –British Nabob in Europe. Thus he became the father of corruption in India which the politicians followed suite across the globe .  Clive did much of his plundering in Bengal and shipped a vast collection of artifacts, jewelry, etc.,  back to London. Thus using the company Clive and his cronies introduced  and institutionalized  corruption, collection of commission on the sidelines and abuse of power in the administration.  Bribes were routinely handed out and officials without any shame often stole valuable stuff from the people they ruled

In the subsequent years the business model of the company  changed from the traditional ones -  trading in spices, textiles, etc., to that of collection of taxes from the revenue lands, Indigo and Opium exports, etc.

EIC, violent Indian land raider.

 Mind you it was not the British government under the Crown that  captured  India, but a private company, run by London based  directors. It is the the largest and longest-lasting joint stock company with limited liability  of its day,  raised capital by selling shares to the public. It was governed by a president, but also a “board of control” or “board of officers.” The stock -holders also had the rights to question   the company's business activities.

The employees of the company worked in tropical India with unfavorable hot weather in the summer. The mortality rate for the Europeans  was shockingly 30%. Reason:  Diseases like Malaria and small pox were common, so were the wild animal attacks and snake bites in the wooded areas. The company gave them additional   incentives like  to trade for their own private interest overseas  The  opportunities to make extra bucks on the sides were enormous with  cheating, smuggling, etc. The company won't question them. 

The board in London  recruited qualified men from the elite group to run  the subcontinent according to their dictates. . Later the company became a proxy for the Crown administration as the revenue was enormous. With the introduction of  “India Act,” in 1784 -  the British government would control the lands in India  held by the company. This move cut down its trading / governing power, but marked the  beginning of the British Empire. 

EIC was a model of corporate violence marked by military conquest, plundering and subjugation, administrate skill with limited manpower and military power.  The company introduced many administrative reforms to manage the lands by dividing them  under the presidency into Districts headed by District Collector for proper collection of taxes from fertile lands, etc.  

The Subsidiary allowance was a money spinning strategy. The profitable services included  managing the Princely ruler's kingdom and  providing military services against enemy attacks  for an annual fee plus maintenance of the British army stationed in the kingdom. that could be hiked at will. The corporate created more than 500 princely states across India that were not a part of the British Empire officially. These 500 princely states covered 48 per cent of the Pre-Independent Indian area. If the  annual allowances were not paid, the company would  take over the kingdom and its revenue. If the Hindu ruler does not have a legal heir the company will capture the kingdom under the Doctrine of Lapse. 

In its early stages the company with limited resources protected the settlement from the  enemy attacks by fortifying them. The company improved the infrastructures like the Railways, harbors, highways, etc.,  to make their export operations easy. To elance the income, in the 19th century, they developed tea, coffee plantations in places like Assam, Bengal and Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu.  

EIC got the bad reputation of turning a large section of Chinese into Opium dependent. The illegal export of Opium through their agents to China  in the 18th and 19th  centuries gave a big boost to the company and the Crown after 1858 continued it for some time. The income was so vast  more than 2000 clerks manned the Opium Agency in 100 office in the northern states to procure and process the harvested opium. The company earned additional income using their cargo ships from India to China and from their to England. Anthropologist Nicholas Saunders in his book  ''The Poppy: A Cultural History from Ancient Egypt to Flanders Fields to Afghanistan (2013''). mentioned, “The two Opium Wars and the vast wealth in silver it generated for the British government and traders probably gave rise to a lot of London’s great institutions and architecture,”. The lure of profits took them  to a different direction Author Thomas Manuel in his book Opium Inc (2021) noted  “The British were enabling the longest running drug deal in the history of the world,”  They were getting  huge profit at the cost of spoiling the lives of million of people in China despite the ban on the narcotic drug''.

In order to be in the good book of  Queen Victoria, EIC pleased her then and there with  gifts from the spoils of war-  example: Koh-I-Noor diamond, Largest red Spinel, Nadir Shah's Sword, etc.
The company's atrocities peaked in the 1850s  with a large army of more than 200000  soldiers backed by  powerful artilleries, On account of exploitation of Opium farmers, racism and illegal take over of many kingdoms with military force it led to  1857-58 Great rebellion by the revolting  soldiers against EIC. The Independence war witnessed killing of tens of thousands of people which  culminated in the take over of the subcontinent by the direct crown administration. In the later years the company was dissolved by the British government. EIC involvement in slavery, colonial  loot and violence exploitation are deeply embedded in everyday life in England and no doubt they entwined with Britain's  modern prosperity.