The Advent of Europeans in India- The Portuguese, the Dutch and the Danes

India has been a major trading destination for many European countries in the Ancient and Medieval Era. Britishers were not the only Europeans who came and settled but the Portuguese with their developments in navigation first found the sea route to India. In this article, read about the advent of Europeans in India
Created On: Nov 11, 2020 10:37 IST
Modified On: Nov 11, 2020 10:37 IST
 The Advent of Europeans in India- The Portuguese, the Dutch and the Danes
The Advent of Europeans in India- The Portuguese, the Dutch and the Danes

The European Age of Discovery started with the Portuguese navigators, where Prince Henry the Navigator started a maritime school in Portugal. The resulting of this technical and scientific discoveries led Portugal to develop the most advanced ships, including the Caravel, the Carrack, and the Galleon, where for the first time in history maritime navigation was possible. The Portuguese Empire led the Portuguese Kingdom to discover and map most of the Globe, and find seas routes as far as the East and West, such as the remarkable voyage to find the sea route to India via the Cape of Good Hope. Here, we are giving brief accounts on the arrival of Europeans in India.

Advent of Europeans

Arrival of Portuguese in India

It was the Portuguese who first discovered a direct sea route to India. Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut an important seaport located in South-West India on May 20, 1498 AD. King Zamorin, the local rule received him and bestowed on him certain privileges. After staying in India for a period of three months Vasco da Gama returned with a rich cargo which he sold in the European market at an exorbitant price- 60 times the cost of his voyage.

But soon Vasco da Gama came back to India for the second time in 1501 AD. He set up a trading factory at Cannanore. With the establishment of trade links, Calicut, Cannanore, and Cochin emerged the significant Portuguese centers in India. Arab traders became jealous of the rise and success of the Portuguese and hence caused enmity bred between the Portuguese and the local king Zamorin. The hostilities grew and led to a full-fledged military face-off between them. King Zamorin was defeated by the Portuguese. With the victory over Zamorin, the military superiority of the Portuguese was established.

Rise of Portuguese Power In India

In 1505 AD, Francisco de Almeida was appointed as the first Portuguese governor in India. His policy being centric on controlling the Indian Ocean was known as the Blue Water Policy. Alfonso de Albuquerque who replaced Almeida as the governor in 1509 AD, and captured Goa from the Sultan of Bijapur in 1510 AD is considered the real founder of the Portuguese power in India. Goa subsequently became the headquarters of the Portuguese settlements in India. Portuguese hold over the coastal areas and superiority in naval power helped them significantly. By the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese captured not only Goa, Daman, Diu, and Salsette but also vast stretches along the Indian coast.

Decline of Portuguese Power

The Portuguese rise in Indian had a short life as the new rival trading communities from Europe posed a big challenge to them. Struggle among various rival trading blocs ensued in which Portuguese had to give way to the more powerful and enterprising competitors gradually rendering them an atrophied entity.

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Arrival of the British
Arrival of the British and the establishment of British East India Company was the outcome of the Portuguese traders who earn enormous profit by selling their merchandise in India. Being motivated by the successful business stories of the Portuguese a group of English merchants -‘Merchant Adventurers’ formed a company- the East India Company in 1599 AD. The Company received a royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600 AD authorizing it to trade in the East. Queen was herself a shareholder in the East India Company.
Expansion in West and the South

Subsequently, in 1608 AD, the East India Company sent Captain William Hawkins to the court of the Mughal emperor Jahangir to secure royal patronage. He succeeded in getting a royal permit for the Company to establish its factories at various places on the Western coast of India. Then in 1615 AD, Sir Thomas Roe was sent by Emperor James I of England to Jahangir’s court, with a plea for more concession for the Company. Roe was very diplomatic and thus successfully secured a royal charter giving the Company freedom to trade in the whole of the Mughal territory.

Expansion in the East

After establishing its factories in the south and west India, the company started to focus on east India particularly Bengal a significant province Mughal empire. The governor of Bengal Sujauddaula in 1651 AD, allowed the English Company to carry out its trade activities in Bengal. A factory in Hugli was established and three villages -Sutanati, Govindapur and Kolkata- were purchased in 1698 AD by the Company to build a factory over there. Subsequently Fort William was raised in order to provide protection around the factory.

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Arrival of the Dutch

The people of Holland (present Netherlands) are called the Dutch. Next to the Portuguese, the Dutch set their feet in India. Historically the Dutch have been experts in sea trade. In 1602, the United East India Company of the Netherlands was formed and given permission by the Dutch government to trade in the East Indies including India.

Rise of the Dutch

The Dutch founded their first factory in Masaulipatam in Andhra Pradesh in 1605. Subsequently they also established trading centres in various parts of India. Dutch Suratte and Dutch Bengal were established in 1616 AD and 1627 AD respectively. The Dutch conquered Ceylon from the Portuguese in 1656 AD. They also took the Portuguese forts on the Malabar coast in 1671 AD. The Dutch gradually became a potent force capturing Nagapatam near Madras (Chennai) from the Portuguese thereby establishing their foothold in South India. In economic terms, they earned huge profit through business monopolizing in black pepper and spices. The major Indian commodities traded by the Dutch were cotton, indigo, silk, rice and opium.

Dutch Coinage

The Dutch, during their stay in India, tried their hands on the minting of coinages. As their trade flourished they established mints at Cochin, Masulipattam, Nagapatam Pondicherry and Pulicat. Even more, Gold pagoda with an image of Lord Venkateswara, (god Vishnu) was issued at Pulicat mint. The coins issued by the Dutch were all modelled on the local coinages.

Decline of Dutch Power

Dutch presence on the Indian subcontinent lasted from 1605 AD to 1825 AD. The rise of the British power in the Eastern trade posed serious challenge to the commercial interest of the Dutch leading to  bloody warfare between them in which Britishers were the clear winners owing to huge resources at their disposal. The brutal killing of some English traders by the Dutch in Amboyna in 1623 further aggravated the situation. The Britishers one after another captured Dutch strongholds.

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Arrival of the French
The last European people to arrive in India were the French. The French East India Company was formed in 1664 AD during the reign of King Louis XIV to trade with India. In 1668 AD the French established their first factory at Surat and in 1669 AD established another French factory at Masaulipatam. In 1673 AD the Mughal Subedar of Bengal allowed the French to set up a township at Chandernagore.

Pondicherry and French Commercial Growth

In 1674 AD, the French obtained a village called Pondicherry from the Sultan of Bijapur and founded a thriving city on it which later became the main stronghold of the French in India. The French East India Company with the passage of time developed its trade bastians at Mahe, Karaikal, Balasor, and Qasim Bazar. The French came to India mainly with a purpose of trade and commerce. From their arrival until 1741 AD, the objectives of the French, like those of the British, were purely commercial. The French East India Company took hold of Yanam in 1723 AD, Mahe on Malabar Coast in 1725 AD and Karaikal in 1739 AD.

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