East India Company Chartered
The 31st of December 1600 AD
The East India Company began its official life as The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading with the East Indies, chartered by Elizabeth I on December 31 1600. They were not the first Englishmen to arrange trading voyages to the Far East, but the 216 merchants headed by George Earl of Cumberland (George Clifford, nobleman, buccaneer and father of Lady Anne Clifford) represented a determined effort to secure a portion of the rich pickings to be had from the East for the country.
Elizabeth granted the company a monopoly on trade in the East Indies for 15 years, but in spite of Cromwell ’s brief removal of its powers, and competition in the 18th century from a rival English body (with which it cleverly merged), the East India Company survived as a major force until the Indian Mutiny, and still exists today in a somewhat different guise.
The group raised the considerable capital of £68000 to finance its first voyage, in 1601, headed by Sir James Lancaster, which established a trading post at Bantam. Lancaster had John Davis, the first Englishman to sight the Falklands, as his navigator.
At one point the East India Company controlled 50 per cent of world trade; founded Hong Kong and Singapore as trading centres; won the Battle of Plassey in 1757 thus ensuring British rule of India; and in essence created the British Empire from its base in Leadenhall Street in London .
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