Collection of Records of the East India Company

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The records consist of: A prospect for a Navigation and Writing School by the East India Company of Scotland, 1696; and, letters and papers illustrating relations between the East India Company and the State of Bengal, 1750-1760.

Administrative / Biographical History

The East India Company was an English trading company incorporated by royal charter on 31 December 1600 to exploit trade with the Far East and India, and more particularly to share in the East Indian spice trade. The company was also known as the English East India Company or more formally Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, or the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies. Although it had started as a trading company it became involved in politics and by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had become the agent of British imperial ambition in India.

In the sixteenth century Spain and Portugal controlled the spice trade, but by 1588 Spanish weaknesses had become exposed and the Portuguese and Dutch formed the principal opposition met by the company. Their defeat of the Portuguese in 1612 brought trading concessions from the Mughal Empire. The company then expanded its activities to the Persian Gulf, South East Asia and East Asia. In the middle of the eighteenth century the company had become involved in the Chinese tea trade. In 1757 the East India Company acquired control of Bengal.

The company naturally faced opposition to its trading monopolies and a rival firm was set up. Later, the two were fused together.

The Regulating Act of 1773 and the India Act of 1784 both established British government control in India and the East India Company gradually lost its commercial and political control. By 1813 the company's commercial monopoly was broken, and from 1834 it was merely an agency for Britain's government of India. After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, it was deprived even of this status. The company ceased to exist in 1873.

Arrangement

Manuscript material is contained in a volume of Gregory MSS, and a volume of Campbell MSS.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) The new encyclopaedia Britannica. Vol. 4. Micropaedia. Ready reference. 15th edition. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1991.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Accruals

Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show references to East India Co. related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): an account of the Company's affairs in Bengal and the Coromandel Coast, 1765-1770, written by an officer of the Company, at La.II.77; and, letters concerning the East India Company, 1775-1784, at La.II.73/112, 124-125, 156-158, 165. There are also receipts for stocks bought by professor J. Black, 1780-1793, at Gen. 874/VII/2, 6, 10, and microfilm copies of extracts from volumes (487-489) from the India Office Library, Home Misc. Series, at Mic.M.1069.

Corporate Names