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IAS Prelims : GS Modern History : Advent of European Powers

Feb 26, 2015 15:45 IST

    Europeans came to India for trade, but in due course of time they gained political and administrative dominance over the country. This ultimately led to Britain ruling over India for more than two century.

    The factors responsible for advent of European powers in India were:

    •    Immense wealth of India
    •    Heavy demand for Indian commodities like spices, calicoes, silk, various precious stones, porcelain, etc
    •    European advancement in the field of ship building and navigation in the 15th century

    Advent of the Portuguese:

    Portuguese were the first Europeans to come to India when in 1498, Vasco da Gama discovered a direct sea route to India. He set up a trading factory at Cannanore. Gradually, Calicut, Cannanore and Cochin became the important trade centers of the Portuguese.

    In 1510, Goa was captured by Alfonso de Albuquerque, governor of the Portuguese possessions in India. They brought Daman, Diu and a vast coastal region under their control by the end of 16th century.

    But their monopoly over trade with India did not last long as they could not compete with more powerful European powers- the Dutch and the British- who came with the same motive as that of Portuguese.

    Advent of the Dutch:

    The Dutch (People of Netherlands), came to India and founded their first factory in Masaulipatam in Andhra in 1605. They not only posed threat to Portuguese possessions in India but also to commercial interests of British who wanted to have trade monopoly over India.

    In 1623, a compromise between the British and the Dutch was reached. Accordingly, The Dutch withdrew their claim on India while the British withdrew their claims on Indonesia.

    Advent of the English:

    In 1600 AD, East India Company, established by a group of English merchants, was authorized by Queen Elizabeth to carry exclusive trade in the East. In 1608, the Company was permitted by Jahangir to establish its factories at various places on the western coast.

    In 1615, the Company was allowed to freely trade all over Mughal Empire. The Company’s commercial activities were spreading rapidly. But its continuous rise was constantly challenged by the Portuguese and the Dutch and later by the French.

    In due course of time the Company gained ground in Western and Southern India and later in Eastern India. Taking advantage of political instability, insecurity of Indian rulers and declining Mughal Empire, East India Company transformed itself into from a commercial entity to a political entity.


    Advent of the French:

    The French were the last to come to India in search of trade opportunities. In 1668, French East India Company established their first factory in Surat, Gujarat. Gradually, The French Company established its factories in different parts of India, particularly in the coastal regions. Mahe, Karaikal, Balasor, Qasim Bazar etc. were a few important trading centres of the French East India Company.

    Like English, French also started trying to gain political dominance in Southern India. As a result, there was a continuous rivalry between the English East India  Company and the French East India Company.

    The rivalry went on for many years and three long battles had been fought between the British and the French during a period of 20 years (1744-1763) with the aim of attaining commercial as well as territorial control.

    The French dream of political dominance over India came to an end with their defeat in the battle of Wandiwash in 1763. After defeating the French, English East India Company had no rival left in India.

    Reasons behind the success of English East India Company

    The main reasons behind the success of English East India Company over other European rivals were:

    •    It was less controlled by the British government.
    •    Sound financial condition.
    •    Naval supremacy of the British.
    •    They had skilled leaders.

    Important Points

    1.    Europeans came to India for trade, but in due course of time they gained political and administrative dominance over the country.

    2.    Portuguese were the first Europeans to come to India when in 1498, Vasco da Gama discovered a direct sea route to India.

    3.    The Dutch (People of Netherlands), came to India and founded their first factory in Masaulipatam in Andhra in 1605.

    4.    In 1600 AD, East India Company, established by a group of English merchants, was authorized by Queen Elizabeth to carry exclusive trade in the East.

    5.    In 1615, the Company was allowed to freely trade all over Mughal Empire.

    6.    The French were the last to come to India in search of trade opportunities.

    7.     In 1668, French East India Company established their first factory in Surat, Gujarat.

    8.    The French dream of political dominance over India came to an end with their defeat in the battle of Wandiwash in 1763.

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