Eighteenth Century London: The East India Company

Eighteenth Century London: The East India Company

The East India Company

Basic facts:

  • founded in 1600 , when a corporation of merchants was granted a royal charter for trading with the East Indies
  • trading with the East Indies
  • consisted of numerous stockholders (Court of Proprietors) who met regularly and appointed a Court of Directors
  • after initial problems, the Company settled and expanded in India and East Asia and held trade monopolies
  • the East India Company engaged in local ruling and warfare
  • after 1773 , several Acts of Parliament sought to regulate and control the East India Company
  • the Company was dissolved in 1874

Traded goods

In the Eighteenth Century, the East India Company mainly traded in commodities such as:
  • spices: pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger etc. (from the "spice islands")
  • tea: (mainly from China)
  • (dyed) cotton, silk (India, China)
  • porcelain, furniture (China, Japan)

The East India Company and London

The East India Trade was virtually omnipresent in eighteenth-century London:
  • East India House in Leadenhal Street
  • the East India Docks in Deptford and Blackwall
  • storage buildings in the City of London
  • goods sold everywhere in shops and at auctions
  • increasing numbers of coffee- and tea houses
  • daily news and advertisements in the numerous newspapers

Main theses

  • the East India Trade was a key institution in the transformation of the economic system that took place in the eighteenth century
  • many of the things that are considered characteristic for Britain and British lifestyle today go back to the East India trade


  • Bowen, H.V.: Revenue and Reform. The Indian problem in British politics 1757-1773. (Cambridge: 1991).
  • Lawson, Philip: The East India Company. A History. (Harlow/New York: 1993).
  • Osborn, Jeremy: India and the East India Company in the public sphere of Eighteenth-Century Britain. In: H.V. Bowen, M. Lincoln, N. Rigby (eds.). The worlds of the East India Company (Woodbridge/Rochester: 2002).
  • Wild, Antony: The East India Company. Trade and Conquest from 1600 (London: 2000).
  • McNeil, Peter: "That Doubtful Gender": Macaroni Dress and Male Sexualities. In: Fashion Theory, volume 3, issue 4. (Berg, 1999).
  • 17th - 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers (online, sh. Linkliste zum Seminar)