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They weren't just large and magnificent ships, they were also armed as warships not only for protection against pirates, which were rife in the Malay States, but so that they could hold their own against the similarly armed merchantmen of the Dutch, Portuguese and French companies. The Honourable East India Company was successful from its inception so much so that, during the reign of Charles II, its charter was enlarged to enable the company to acquire territory, exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction, command armies, wage war, make treaties and issue its own money. By this time the company was well established in India with three presidencies in Bombay, Madras and Bengal and it wasn't long before the entire country was subdued and the various native rulers brought under the control of the company. In 1757 Robert Clive won the battle of Plassey which made the company all powerful in India and the English government looked again at the charter and was forced to concede that it had to take some responsibility for the territory. Consequently, the British government insisted that all top company appointments were approved by them and gradually political, financial and military control passed from the company to the government in London. In 1813 trade with India was thrown open to the public, the company losing its monopoly although it was allowed to retain sole rights to the trade with China but only until 1833 when that too was opened to anybody who was prepared to compete. The loss of these valuable monopolies spelt out the beginning of the end of the Honourable East India Company and as other companies' ships, especially those of P & O, began to compete for the eastern trade routes their ships gradually disappeared from those waters. However, the company still had the machinery of government in place in India and as a matter of convenience the British government left the civil administration entirely in the hands of the company. This arrangement continued up until 1857 and the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny at Meerut but the excesses of the mutiny and the severe punishments imposed by the company forced the British government to assume responsibility for the internal government of India, replacing many of the company's officials. The Honourable East India Company was then formally dissolved in 1858.

Here is a chronicle of the most powerful corporation in world history, beautifully illustrated with full-colour paintings, photographs and maps. This is the story of the Honourable East India Company by Antony Wild, an undisputed authority on the company and its history. Read about how the company ruled India, raised its own army, minted its own currency but also trafficked in opium, greed and brutal oppression. Read, through the colourful figures of Captain James Skinner and John Nicholson, how the company's opulent life style eventually led to its downfall.
East India Company

William Adams (d. 1620) was an English navigator who, after serving in the Royal Navy for a short time, worked for the Company of Barbary Merchants as a pilot and navigator. Attracted by the Dutch trade to India, in 1598 he sailed with a squadron of five ships for India via the Straits of Magellan at the southernmost point of South America. The squadron suffered badly and of the five ships only Adams in the "Charity" survived to eventually reach Kyushu in Japan with a crew of sick and dying men. His extensive knowledge of ships, shipbuilding and pilotage meant that he was a valuable asset for the Japanese rulers and they refused him permission to return to England. They did however present him with an estate near Yokosuka and a local girl for a wife. In 1612 an English trading station was established near Bantam and Adams got to hear of it and made contact. A year later the "Clove" an English ship commanded by Captain John Saris visited Adams who was able to help Saris obtain valuable trading concessions from the Shogun of Japan in favour of the The Honourable East India Company. Adams went on to play a leading role in establishing the East India Company's branch in the Far East and eventually obtained permission to leave Japan. He made many voyages to Siam (Thailand) and Cochin China on be half of the company but always returned to Japan where he died.

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