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Trade that the British East India Company was involved in, 1814-35
(Figures from Parliamentary papers for 1840)
  • These figures come from information given to Parliament about the different types of trade that the British East India Company was involved in the first half of the 19th century.
  • The East India Company was founded in the early 1600s. It had approval from King James I. The Company was funded by wealthy men who paid for ships and goods to be traded in the East so that the ships could return with valuable goods like tea, spices and silk. These could be sold for large profits back in Britain.
  • At first, the main aim of the Company was to build links with China. However, the Company also built up trade in the Indian Ocean and the islands that make up present day Indonesia and the Philippines. From this base Company merchants built up their trade in India as well.
  • The figures show the impact of British rule on the Indian textile industry. In the 1700s India had a thriving textile trade. Like Britain's textile trade, it was based in the home. People spun wool or cotton and made it into cloth in their own homes. At this time India exported cloth to Britain.
  • However, at the same time as Britain took control of India the British cloth industry began to change towards making cloth in factories. By the early 1800s cloth made in British factories was cheaper than cloth made in India. The Indian cloth industry was gradually destroyed.
  • British rule did not destroy all Indian industries. British rule also brought many job opportunities (though not usually senior jobs) for educated Indians in the government. In the later 1800s and early 1900s British investors put a lot of money into developing industries in India, especially coal.
  • However, there is little doubt that Britain gained more from India than India gained from Britain.
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