Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rise and Expansion of East India Company

Trade posts of British East India Company since 1610.

The modern Indian Army dates back to the early seventeenth century when Europeans, like the French, Dutch, Portuguese, and British, settled in India as traders.In 1600 the East India Company was formed to coordinate all British trading activities. The Mughal Empire, being at its Zenith, did not consider these locally recruited and foreign military units to be any threat to its political, military and economic power.   
The Royal charter of East India Company was, ostensibly,to trade with India. The British saw India as a vast and unending source of fabulous treasures, and encouraged the company to enlarge and diversity its operations while tightening its stranglehold on a tottering and decadent Mughal Empire. Since its trading interests needed to be protected, the company decided raise local levies to protect their trading posts along the coast.These were soon raised on a war footing while European units sailed into India to oversee safety of their expanding trade and allied assets.
During the second half of the seventeenth century the  Mughal Empire declined rapidly. It was hastened by Nadir Shah's successful invasion and by the steady advance of Marathas from Deccan into Northern India. The Marathas under Shivaji rose against the Muslim principality of Bijapur and established an independent  principality there. In 1664 Shivaji captured the important Mughal port of Surat, made temporary peace with the Mughal but, after his subsequent arrest and dramatic escape from Aurangazeb's prison, Shivaji renewed war and kept the Mughals at bay.
By 1674 he established an independent Maratha kingdom and expanded it for thirty years by restoring to Guerrilla warfare. In all his operations Shivaji upheld the Hindu chivalric tradition in his treatment of defeated soldiers and non combatants. By the end of the century there were four major powers - the Maratha Confederacy, the Afghan Empire of Ahmed Shah,  the French and the British, all competing to take over the nearly extinct Mughal Empire.
In 1640 AD the British East India Company established its first fortified post - Fort Saint George near Madras which soon became its headquarters. Eleven years later, in 1651, they set up another post in Calcutta on the bank of River Hooghly which they later fortified and named it Fort William. In 1662 the British received Bombay from the Portuguese, British troops arrived in Bombay in 1665, but it was only in 1668 when Bombay was formally handed over to the Company. Soon Bombay Garrison was converted into a strong commercial and military base comprising cavalry, artillery and infantry elements, which later became the Bombay European Regiment. However, local troops were raised as and when required.