East India Company (1600-1874)
On December 31, 1600, Queen Elizabeth I signed a royal charter giving
a group of London merchants the exclusive right to trade in the Indies.
With 30,133 pounds in hand, five sailing ships left England in February
1601, arriving on the western shores of India in June 1602. Fifteen months
later, they returned home with silks, spices, and indigo. In its first
fifteen years, the Company's profits averaged 200%, attracting more
investors with assurances of handsome returns to its shareholders. Britain's
prominence in the Indian peninsula continued through the mid-19th century.
Then, in 1857, a massive rebellion ensued in which many different segments
of the Indian population, civilians and military, joined forces against
their British officers. After a year and a half, the battle subsided,
and on November 1, 1858, Her Majesty Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress
of India. The British crown assumed all governmental responsibilities
in its newly acquired colony, incorporated the Company's soldiers into
the British Army, and finally dissolved the East India Company in 1874.
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