Advent of Europeans

     The close of 15th century, when the Portuguese under the leadership of Vascodagama landed at Calicut (May 17,1498) is a landmark in the history of India’s maritime trade. The arrival of Portuguese was followed by the advent of other European communities and soon India’s coastal and maritime trade was monopolised by the Europeans. The earlier foreign merchants had more commercial motives and had very little or no support from their native governments.  But the European merchants who came to India during this period had the political and military support of their respective governments. Moreover, they were not individual merchants but represented their respective governments (nations) and tried to establish and safeguard their maritime trade on the strength of their superior naval power. Military superiority was the backbone of their commercial enterprise.

     From the very beginning, the European leading companies began to establish their fortified trading settlements called ‘Factorials’ on the coastal parts of India, immune from the administrative control of the local powers. In course of time, the commercial motive turned into territorial ambitions which pushed India into the jaws of the colonial dragon.


     The cape route was discovered by Vascodagama. He reached the port of Calicut on 17th May 1498. The second trip of Vascodagama in 1502 led to the establishment of trading stations at Calicut, Cochin and Cannore. The first Governor of Portuguese in India was Francisco Almeida(1505-1509). The second Governor Alfonso-de-Albuqurque (1509-1515) captured Goa from ruler of Bijapur in 1510.  Nino-de-cunha transferred the Portuguese capital in India from Cochin to Goa in 1530 and acquired Diu and Bassien from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. 

     Portuguese lost Hoogli in 1631 during the reign of Shajahan. In 1661, the Portuguese king gave Bombay to Charles-II of England for marrying his sister.  The Marathas captured Salsatte and Bassien in 1739. Goa and Daman were freed in 1661. The causes for the decline of Portuguese were their religious intolerance, piracy and clandestine practices in trade and discovery of Brazil. 


     In March 1602, the Dutch East India Company was farmed. The name of the company was ‘Vereenidge Oostindische Companie (VOC). The Dutch set up their first factory at Masulipattam in 1605. The other Dutch factories were at Pulicat, Chinsura, Kasimbazar, Patna, Balasore, Nagapattinam and Cochin. The final collapse of the Dutch came with their defeat by English in  the Battle of Bedara 1n 1759.


     The English East India Company was formed by a group of merchants known as ‘The Merchant Adventurers’ in 1599. Captain Hawkins arrived at Jahangir’s court in 1609 and was given a mansab of 400.  Sir Thomas Roe was an ambassador of James-I to Jahangir’s court. He got the firman to trade and erect factories in different parts of the empire.

     The company acquired Bombay from Charles-II on lease at an annual rental of £10 in 1668. Bombay became the headquarters of the company on west coast. In 1639, Francis Day obtained the site of Madras from Raja of Chandragiri, which was named ‘Fort St. George’. Madras soon replaced Masulipattam as the headquarters of the English on the coromondal coast.  In 1690, a factory was established at Sutanati by Job Charnock and the zamindari of three villages of Sutanati, Kalikota and Govindpur was acquired in 1698. These villages later grew into the city of Calcutta. The fortified settlement of Sutanati was named ‘Fort William’.  In 1715, John Surman (Governor of Calcutta) and William Hamilton cured Farrukhsiyar of a disease and gained a firman in 1717, called the Magnacarta of the company.


     Colbert, the minister of Louis XIV created the ‘compangnile des indes orientales‘ in 1664. Francis Caron set up first French factory at Surat in 1668. The second one was set up at Masulipattinam in 1669 by Maacara. First Governor of Pondiceherry was Francois Martin. Chandranagore in Bengal was acquired from Shaista Khan (Mughal Governor) in 1690. The arrival of Dupleix as French Governor in India in 1742 saw the beginning of Anglo-French Conflict (Carnatic wars) resulting in their final defeat in India.


     The Danes formed an East India company in 1616. They established settlement at Tranquebar (Tamil Nadu) in 1620 and at Serampore (Bengal) in 1676. Serampore was their headquarters in India. They were forced to sell all their settlements, in India to the British in 1845. 

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