Modern Indian History : Advent of Europeans

Advent of Europeans

After Aurangzeb’s death, disintegration of Mughal Empire had accelerated. On the other hand, European nations with their advancements in the field of maritime navigation and their trading ambitions were on the lookout for establishing monopoly on the trade with the ‘East Indies’. India obviously had to be the prime target as it offered maximum scope for trading and profiteering. The first ones to arrive on the scene were the Portuguese.

Portuguese Portugal’s king Henry (1393-1460)

encouraged maritime navigation by opening training and research institutes for the purpose. Portuguese were the first one to have navigated the entire African coast line. In 1497 Vasco da Gama commenced his voyage under the patronage of King Emmanuel and finally Vasco-da-Gama landed at Calicut on 21st may 1498, and the sea route to India was discovered. Thus the Portuguese came to India. Vasco-da-Gama was well-received by the Zamorin of Calicut Mana Vikramma. When Vasco-da-Gama went back he carried with him products of the East. He returned to India two more times. The Government of Portugal established the Portuguese Trading Company to regulate trade and commerce. The company was to function under a Viceroy. Francisco De Almeida became the 1st Portuguese Viceroy in India. He initiated the Blue Water Policy, which aimed at the Portuguese

Mastery of the Sea and confined Portuguese relationship with India only for the purpose of trade & commerce.

Alfonzo-De-Albuquerque (1509-1550) was the greatest Portuguese Viceroy in India. The

Portuguese trading centres which were confined to Calicut & Cochin were now extended to

other places under Albuquerque. He conquered Goa in 1510 from the Sultan of Bijapur. West

Asia in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia in the East were also conquered, Diu & Daman also

became Portuguese trading centres. In Bengal, Hooghly & Balasore became the Portuguese

trading centres. Goa became the Headquarters of the Portuguese in India. Albuquerque thus

made the Portuguese strong in India. He was an efficient administer, he integrated the locals

into the administration. He encouraged the propagation of Christianity & inter-marriage with

the natives. The Viceroys who came after Albuquerque were weak & inefficient. As a result the

Portuguese began to decline in India. In 1661 Portugal was at war with Spain and needed

support from England. This led to the marriage of Princess Catherine of Portugal to Charles II of

England, who imposed a dowry that included the insular and less inhabited areas of southern

Bombay while the Portuguese managed to retain all the mainland territory north of Bandra up

to Thana and Bassein. This was the beginning of the strong English presence in India as well.

Thus Portuguese finally left India in the mid-17th Century A.D. But three of their settlement,

namely Goa, Diu & Daman remained in their hands till 1961.

Causes for Decline of Portuguese:

1. After Albuquerque the Portuguese administration in India became inefficient because his

successor were weak & inefficient.

2. The Portuguese officials were neglected by the home government. Their salaries were low.

Thus they indulged in corruption and malpractice.

3. The Portuguese adopted forced inter-marriage & conversion to the Christian faith which

made the natives hostile.

4. In 1580 Portugal was merged with Spain which neglected the Portuguese interest in India.

5. The Portuguese has to face the stiff competition of the Dutch in India.

6. Portuguese discovered Brazil which diverted their attention from India.

The Impact of Portuguese:

1. The Portuguese began to spread Christianity in the Malabar & the Konkan coast.

Missionaries like St. Francis Xavier, Father Rudolf & Father Monserette played a leading role

in propagating the Christian faith.

2. The Missionaries started schools & colleges along the west coast, where education was

imparted in the native language.

3. The missionaries undertook research on Indian history and culture. Fa Heras has made a

deep study on the Indus Valley Civilization.

4. The Portuguese brought the printing press to India. The Bible came to be printed in the

Kannada & Malayalam language.

5. The Portuguese brought some crops to India like Tobacco, some fruits & vegetables were

also introduced by him potatoes, lady’s finger, chilly, pineapple, sapota, groundnuts, etc.

The Dutch

The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch. The East India Company of Netherlands was

formed in 1592 to trade with East Indies. Cornelius Houtman is the first Dutch to come to India.

The Dutch established trading centres at Nagapatnam in Tamil Nadu, Machalipatnam in Andhra

Pradesh, Chinsora in Bengal & at Mahe on the Malabar Coast. The headquarters of the Dutch in

India was Nagapatnam. The Dutch could not withstand the stiff competition of the Portuguese

and the English and thus left India. The complete monopoly of the Dutch over trade and

commerce of Indonesia was another reason as to why they left India.

The Danes

Denmark was a minor colonial power to set foot in India.The Danish East India Company was

formed in 1616 and they established trading outposts at Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu (1620),a

colony called Fredericknagore, in honor of their ruler King Frederick the Vth


Serampore, West Bengal in 1755. Occupied twice by the English during their war with Denmark,

Fredericknagore failed as a commercial venture. In 1777, after the Danish company went

bankrupt, Seramporebecame a Danish crown colony. However, Serampore's commercial failure

was compensated by its immense success on the cultural front. Since the British banned

missionary activities in their territories, Serampore became a safe haven for missionaries in


In 1799, Reverend William Carey and two fellow Baptist missionaries establisahed a printing

press in in Serampore to print copies of the Bible. In 1819, Carey established the Serampore

College, the first institution to impart western style higher education in Asia. In 1827, a Royal

Charter by the King of Denmark declared it as a university at par with those

in Copenhagen and Kiel. In 1845, Denmark ceded Serampore to Britain, thereby ending the

nearly 150 years of Danish presence in Bengal.

The British

After British victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 the merchants and traders of the country

started thinking in terms of engaging in direct trade with ‘the East Indies’. In 1599 a resolution

was passed under the chairmanship of the Lord Mayor to form an ‘Association’ to trade directly

with India. On 31-December 1600 Queen Elizabeth granted a charter to the governor and

directors of ‘Company of merchants of London trading directly with East Indies’ to ‘traffic and

trade freely into and from the East Indies, in the countries and parts of Asia and Africa and into

and from all islands, ports, havens, cities, creeks, towns and places of Asia, Africa and America

or any of them. The charter was given for 15 years with provision for its termination at 2 years’

notice. Subsequently King James I made it perpetual with clause for termination at 5 years

notice ‘if the monopoly in trade was found to be injurious to the people at large’.

First two voyagesof the company were financed through shares purchased by its members with

promise of proportionate division of profit yielded 500% to 600% profit by trade through the

Spice Islands with a factory at Bantam. The factory had to be shut down because of resistance

from the Dutch. The third voyage under Captain Hawkins headed for Surat in India. From Surat

Captain Hawkins went to the court of Jahangir to secure concessions for the company’s trade.

The concessions were granted but were soon revoked under pressure from vested interests in

the court.

IN 1612 Captain Best defeated the Portuguese fleet in the Battle of Swalley near Surat and got

permission for setting up a factory at Surat.

IN 1615Sir Thomas Roe was sent by King James I to the court of Jahangir who granted trading

concessions to the British despite opposition from his court.

IN 1622 the British consolidated their position by helping Iran to secure possession of Ormuz

from the Portugese. Same year they set up factories at Aramgaon and Masulipatnam.

IN 1633 Factories were set up at Balasore and Hariharpur in Orissa.

IN 1640 Madras was bought and a factory was set up at Fort St George. This was followed by

setting up a factory at Hooghly in 1651 and lease of the island of Bombay from King James II at

a nominal rent of Pound sterling 10.

IN 1688 the British suffered a minor reversal when they fought with Saista Khan the Governor of Bengal and were defeated.They were told to get out of the Mughal territory and also close down their factory at Surat. They immediately made peace and regained their lost position. The peace agreement was followed by permission for another factory near Calcutta and purchase of the three villages of Sutanati, Govindpur and Kalikata which are the centre of present day Kolkata.

IN 1714 John Surman accompanied by William Hamilton a physician who had treated emperor Faruk Shiyar of some undisclosed disease called on the emperor pleading for more concessions. In July 1717 the emperor issued a farman (royal order) whereby the British were allowed duty free trade in Bengal in lieu of Rs. 3000 per annum, a sum of Rs. 10000 as a one-time settlement for all the outstanding dues for the Surat factory and duty free trade without any consideration within the Hyderabad state. The company was also allowed to use their own currency minted at Bombay throughout India.

Internal developments of the company:

Between 1615 and 1686 the company grew from strength to strength. It was allowed to grant commissions to its captains in 1615. In 1625 the Governors and Directors of the company were given judicial powers in civil as well as criminal matters. In 1661 the company was authorised to send ships of war with men and ammunitions for the safety of its possessions overseas. In 1683 it got full powers to declare war and to make peace as also to raise, train and maintain an army. Three years later in 1686 it got the authority to appoint Admirals of its navy and to coin money of all species. Between 1698 and 1702 the company suffered some reverses when the government of Great Britain was in need of2 million pounds sterling which the company was unable to make available. A parallel company emerged who was granted license for monopoly trade and the old company was given notice to wind up its operations in 2 years. A compromise was worked out under which the two companies operated together for seven years after which the old company surrendered its charter in 1709 to queen Anne and the new company stepped into its shoes as ‘united company of merchants of England trading to the east indies’.

The French

License for trading with India and the East indies was first granted by King Louis XII in 1611 but was not followed up seriously. In 1664 King Louis XIV granted another license under the governorship of Colbert. The company was to concentrate on India with Madagascar as the half-way house. In 1667 first French factory was set up at Surat with Francis Caron as its Director-General. A factory at Masulipatnam was also established in 1669. Caron was replaced in 1672 by Francis Martin who founded Pondicherry in 1673 under a grant from the king of Bijapur Sher Khan Lodhi. In1693 the Dutch snatched Pondicherry but it was restored to the French under the treaty of Reswick. Between 1697 and 1739, the French consolidated their position by adding Chandernogor, Balasore and Kasimbazaar in their possessions. They got Mahe and Karaikal as reward for helping the winning party in the first Carnatic war (Anglo-French war). The real trouble between the French and the English men started when the French won control of Tanjore which the British considered vital for their trade security.