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Thread: When Mughals kept bad company.......

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    When Mughals kept bad company.......

    When Mughals kept bad company

    Natasha Shahid 31 Jul 2015
    The company that once ruled the subcontinent is now selling chocolate and jam. Natasha Shahid on how the East India Company colonized India


    Emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, the governor of Bengal, which transferred tax collecting rights in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company

    The Queen’s Stamp of Approval
    It all started on December 31, 1600 AD: after nearly ten years of voyaging, The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading with the East Indies, otherwise known as the English East India Company, received the Queen’s approval to have a monopoly on trade with India. An odd cocktail of Earls, Knights, Alderman and Burgesses were now allowed to trade with India with due support from the Crown.
    Of course, they had come here to “trade”. To buy spices and silk, cotton and dyes. As Scottish historian Niall Ferguson puts it in Empire, the documentary:
    “In the early 1700s there was only one place that could satisfy the English appetite for glad rags; it was the biggest economy in the world with total output nearly ten times the size of England’s – India. The fabrics, designs, workmanship and technology there, was in a league of its own.”
    Native troops in East India Company’s service

    What made this peaceful trade spiral out of control?
    So, what made this peaceful trade spiral out of control and ended up establishing company rule in India?
    The Mughals’ Naïveté
    After the acquiring the Queen’s Royal Charter, the second most important achievement of the Company was securing the permission of the Mughal Emperor. Once the Company managed to subdue the dominant Portuguese forces in 1612, pleasing the Mughal Emperor was not a very hard task. By 1615, Thomas Roe managed to obtain the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s permission to trade. Jahangir’s letter of permission is a masterpiece of both naiveté and selfishness:
    “Upon which assurance of your royal love I have given my general command to all the kingdoms and ports of my dominions to receive all the merchants of the English nation as the subjects of my friend; that in what place soever they choose to live, they may have free liberty without any restraint; and at what port soever they shall arrive, that neither Portugal nor any other shall dare to molest their quiet; and in what city soever they shall have residence, I have commanded all my governors and captains to give them freedom answerable to their own desires; to sell, buy, and to transport into their country at their pleasure.
    Coin issued by the East India Company

    “For confirmation of our love and friendship, I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace; and that you be pleased to send me your royal letters by every opportunity, that I may rejoice in your health and prosperous affairs; that our friendship may be interchanged and eternal.” (As quoted in Sir George Birdwood’s The Register of Letters &c. of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies. 1600-1617)
    So while the likes of British Dr Boughton asked for tax-free trade for the English East India Company in return for curing Shah Jahan’s daughter, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir awarded open trade and establishment of factories to the English in return for “rarities and rich goods fit for my palace”. Patriotism never really was our forte.
    Jahangir’s letter of permission is a masterpiece of both naiveté and selfishness
    The East India Company Gets Armed
    Decades of trade between the East India Company and the Mughal Empire seemed to pass by swiftly and peacefully, until Aurangzeb Alamgir assumed control of the Mughal throne in 1658. With Aurangzeb came his iron fisted rule and provincial governors who were not as lenient as they had been during Shah Jehan’s reign. Especially important was the post of the Governor of Bengal, the province where the English had entrenched their roots the deepest.
    Mir Jumla, the first one to administer Bengal under Aurangzeb, had at one point blocked all trade with the East India Company when the latter had seized one of his ships in the Indian Ocean. The move was reversed only after the Company showed him some gold, but this did not undo the fact that the English had already started to show aggression – and aggression is not possible without arms.
    For long the English had been attempting to build a garrison in the guise of an apparatus for self-defence. The Company argued that it needed an armed force and fortified warehouses in order to protect its products from looters. It must have occurred to it soon enough that protecting its trade items was not enough of a task for the dozens of foot soldiers it had employed.
    Cont on page 2....

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    cont from page 1....
    its trade items was not enough of a task for the dozens of foot soldiers it had employed.
    East India Company Strawberry & Pepper Jam

    In 1690 Aurangzeb Alamgir succumbed to John Child’s requests
    After Mir Jumla came Shaista Khan, who served as the subahdar of Bengal from 1664 to 1668. Shaista Khan was perhaps the first one to notice the East India Company’s bulging garrisons, which according to James Lawford were big enough to produce two companies. Keeping this in view, Shaista Khan declined the Company’s request to fortify their settlement in Hooghly. As a reaction to this denial, in 1681, the English attempted to instate their own governor in the province, for which they were punished by levying duties heavy enough to put an end to their trading activities in the province. But the English were not ones to give up – they were ones to keep fighting even if it was utterly foolish to do so.
    In 1688 King James the Second of England sent a fleet of ten ships to help the East India Company in its fight against the subahdar of Bengal. Needless to say, the Mughal governor served a humiliating defeat to the small band of Englishmen. The King’s reckless move resulted in the English being ousted from Bombay, too, and were en route being banned from practicing trade in India – but the lure of gold saved them.
    In 1690, Aurangzeb Alamgir, the famed iron fisted, lethal Mughal ruler, succumbed to John Child’s – the Company’s Agent of Surat and later Bombay, too – requests and allowed the English East India Company to continue its trade with India – in return for 150,000 rupees per annum. Needless to say, the English took the offer, and made India pay a much heavier price in the years to come.
    Emperor Jahangir

    One can only wonder how a trading company managed to gather enough artillery and soldiers
    Taking the Indian Bull by the Horns – and Hurling it to the Ground
    After Aurangzeb was gone – in 1707 – the Mughal Empire was reduced to nothing but a puppet show orchestrated by the Empire’s nobility. The fading power of the throne granted India’s foreign settlers a chance to expand their trade and garrisons unchecked. It is said that by the mid-1700s, the English East India Company’s garrisons held enough guns to provide two guns for one soldier – a generous amount of arms for a “trade organization”.
    It was only a matter of time, then, that the English – who had been silently fuelling their arsenal with weapons and soldiers with the help of their navy – gained supremacy, first over Bengal after emerging victorious in 1757’s Battle of Plassey, and then over northern India as a whole, after defeating the combined forces of Shah Alam II, Mir Qasim and Shuja-ud-Daulah in 1764’s Battle of Buxar.
    One can only wonder how a trading company managed to gather enough artillery and soldiers in its handful of trading outposts to defeat the forces of an Empire quite a few times bigger than the country it came from. Much of the credit for this goes to the Company’s (essentially, the British) navy, which was one of the best in the world at the time. And the rest of it, with the stupidity and greed of the Mughal rulers and nobility – including that of the “ironman” Aurangzeb Alamgir, who could not sniff out the snake in the grass even after being bitten twice.

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