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Emergence of European power in India

Study Material > History
  • The landing of the Portuguese under the leadership of Vasco da Gama at Calicut, by the close of the 15th century (May 21, 1498), is considered to be a landmark in the history of India's Maritime trade. Their arrival on the Indian soil was followed by the advent of other European companies and the resultant monopolization of India's coastal and Maritime trade by the Europeans.

The Portuguese

  • It was in AD 1492, that Christopher Columbus, who wanted to reach India but discovered America instead leading to exploration and colonization of these continents.
  • Prince Henry of Portugal encouraged voyages for the discovery of sea-routes to India following which Bartholomew Diaz reached cape of Good Hop in AD 1498.
  • Vasco da Gama (colonial man) from Lisbon, discovered a new sea route from Europe to Asia via Cape of Good Hope. He was helped by Gujarati navigator Ibn Majid.
  • He landed at Calicut on May 21, 1498. Calicut, then under the Zamorins, enjoyed a high degree of prosperity. The Zamorin was kind to all classes of merchants who came to this kingdom, tolerated all creeds and allowed perfect freedom to all in commercial affairs.
  • He gave the newcomers a friendly reception. Vasco da Gama returned to Portugal in AD 1499.
  • A second expedition, under Pedro Alvarez Cabral and Gama, reached Calicut in AD 1500.
  • Cabral, the founder of Brazil, forced Calicut to submit and persecuted Arabian traders, in India.

Portuguese Trade

  • The Portuguese maritime empire acquired the name of Estado da India which intended to monopolise the pepper and spice trade of the East, but after Cabral’s voyage, she decided to divert to herself all the trade of the east with Europe.
  • It was now realized in Portugal that command over the Eastern trade could not be established by sending an annual fleet and establishing a few isolated factories.
  • Thus a new policy was adopted in 1505, by which a Governor was to be appointed on a three-year term.

Francisco de Almeida (AD 1505-09)

  • First Governor of Portuguese territory who also fortified Fort Manual in Cochin and built a fort at Anjadiva. His policy being centric to controlling the Indian Ocean was known as "Blue water" policy.

Battle with Egypt, Turkey and Gujarat

  • The systematic assault of the Portuguese on the Muslim( mainly Arab) monopoly of trade in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea deprived Egypt and Turkey of the duties on Indian goods passing through the sea route and across Egypt to Alexandria. Similarly, the Sultans of Bijapur and Gujarat feared that the Portuguese would extend their control from the southern (Malabar) ports to the northern ports and encroach upon their interest. This brought about an alliance between Egypt, Turkey and Gujarat against the Portuguese intruders.
  • In a naval battle fought near haul, the combined Muslim fleet won a victory over the Portuguese fleet under Almeida’s son who was killed in the battle. A year later, Almeida defeated the combined Muslim fleet in a naval battle near Diu. This victory provided to Portuguese naval supremacy in Asia and “ turned the Indian Ocean for the next century into a Portuguese sea”.

Alfonso de Albuquerque(AD 1509-15)

  • Albuquerque, the next governor, built up a great territorial power in India.
  • It was Alfonso de Albuquerque who laid the real foundation of Portu­guese power in India. He first came to India in 1503 as the commander of a squadron and was appointed Governor of Portuguese affairs in India in 1509.
  • In November 1510, he captured the rich port of Goa from the Bijapuri ruler with a view to secure a permanent Portuguese population.
  • The conquest of Goa from the Adilshahi Sultan of Bijapur was Albuquerque’s first achievement
  • The conquest of Goa put “ the seal on Portuguese naval supremacy along the south-west coast”.
  • He encouraged his countrymen to marry Indian wives, but one serious drawback of his policy was his bitter persecu­tion of the Muslims.
  • He maintained friendly relations with Vijayanagar and even tried to secure the goodwill of Bijapur. He died at Goa in 1515 leaving the Portuguese as the strongest naval power in India.

Nino da Cunha (1529-38)

  • Nino da Cunha transferred his capital from Cochin to Goa in 1530 and acquired Diu and Bassein (1534) from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat.
  • Gradually almost all of their territories were lost to Marathas, Dutch and English.
  • Only Goa, Diu and Daman remained with them until AD 1961.

Factual aspects associated with Portuguese Control

  • The Portuguese brought to India the cultivation of tobacco.
  • The Portuguese spread Catholicism in certain regions on India’s western and eastern coasts.
  • The institution of inquisition was established at Goa in AD 1560.
  • The first printing press in India was set up by the Portuguese at Goa in AD 1556; the first scientific work on Indian medicinal plants by a European writer was printed at Goa in AD 1563.
  • Cochin was the early capital of the Portuguese in India. Later the capital was transferred to Goa by Nino da Cunha.
  • The first European settlement, in India, was established at Cochin in AD 1503 by Portuguese.
  • Gama visited India three times and was buried at Fort Kochi.
  • Francisco Xavier, a famous saint came to India in the period of Martin Dsousa to spread Christianity in India and Asia.
  • He converted the fisherman tribe on Coromandel coast (Paravars) and on Malabar coast (Mukkuvas) into Christianity.
  • Cartaze System: Under this system, all ships passing through Portuguese territories were forced to buy permits or passes, otherwise ships were captured.

Portuguese settlements in India

  • The successors of Albuquerque established settlements at Diu, Daman, Salsette, Bassein, Chaul and Bombay, San Thome near Madras and Hugli in Bengal. In 1534, the Portuguese secured permission from the Sultan of Bengal to build factories at Satgaon (called Porto Pequeno, little port) and Chittagong (Porto Grande, great port.)

The decline of the Portuguese

  • The Portuguese monopoly of the Indian Ocean remained unbroken till 1595 but gradually lost many of her settlements in India. Shah Jahan captured Hugli in 1632. In 1661, the king of Portugal gave Bombay as dowry to Charles II of England when he married Catherine of Braganza, the sister of Portuguese king.
  • The Marathas captured Salsette and Bassein in 1739. In the end the Portuguese were left only with Goa, Diu and Daman, which they retained till 1961. The decline of Portuguese power in India was due to several internal and external factors.

Following are some of the main causes

  • The Portuguese failed to evolve an efficient system of administration.
  • Their religious intolerance provoked the hostility of the Indian rulers and the people.
  • Their clandestine practices in trade went against them, one of which was the Cartaze system by which every Indian ship sailing to a destination not reserved by the Portuguese for their own trade had to buy passes from the Portuguese Viceroy to avoid seizures and confiscation of its merchandise as contraband.
  • The discovery of Brazil drew the colonising activities of Portugal to the west.
  • The Portuguese failed to compete successfully with the other European companies.
  • Portugal lost effective control of the enclave of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in 1954 and rest of the overseas territories in Dec 1961, after military action. Although Portugal recognized Indian control only in 1975 after the carnation revolution.

The Dutch

  • With a view to get direct access to the spice markets in South-East Asia, the Dutch undertook several voyages from 1596 and eventually formed the Dutch East India Company or the Vereenigde ost-lndische Companies (VOC) in 1602.
  • It was granted an exclusive right to trade with India and East Indies and vested with powers of attack and conquest by the state.
  • Jan Huygen Lischoten: It was Cornelis Houtman, a Dutch who first identified all sea route for them but the real founder of Dutch company in India was Jan Huygen Linschoten, that’s why Dutch company is popularly known as Jan or Van company, also wrote a detailed account of his experience in India in his work Itinerario.
  • The Dutch first came to the islands of Sumatra, Java and the Spice Islands, attracted by the lucrative trade in pepper and spices. What brought them to India in the first instance was rather the requirements of the archipelago than of the European market.
  • The spices of the archipelago were exchanged for cotton goods from Gujarat and the Coromandel Coast.

Dutch Settlements in India

  • In 1605, Admiral Van der Hagen established Dutch Factory at Masulipatam. Another factory was founded at Pettapoli (Niza-mapatanam), Devanampatinam (Tegnapatam, called fort St. David later under the British). In 1610, upon negotiating with the King of Chandragiri, the Dutch were permitted to found another factory at Pulicat which was fortified and named as Fort Geldria.
  • Other commodities exported by the Dutch were indigo, saltpeter and Bengal raw silk.
  • The credit for making Indian textiles the premier export from India goes to the Dutch. Textiles woven according to special patterns sent from Bantam and Batavia constituted the chief export of the Coromandel ports. Indigo was exported from Masulipatam.
  • Apart from spice, the chief articles of import to the Coromandel were pepper and sandal­wood from the archipelago, textiles from China and copper from Japan.
  • In 1617, the chief of Pulicat became the Governor and Pulicat was the headquarters of the Dutch in India below the Governor-General in Batavia.
  • Negapatam on the Tanjore coast acquired from the Portuguese in 1659 super­seded Pulicat as the seat of Governor and as the strategic center of the Coromandel in 1689.
  • In 1616 Pieter Van den Broecke got from the governor the permission to erect a factory at Surat. The director­ate of Surat proved to be one of the most profitable establishments of the Dutch Company.
  • Factories were organised at Broach, Bombay, Ahmedabad, Agra and Burhanpur. Bimlipatam (1641), Karikal (1645), Chinsura (1653) where the Dutch constructed Fort Gustavus, Kasimbazar, Baranagore, Patna, Balasore (1658) and Cochin (1663) were other important Dutch factories in India By supplanting the Portuguese, the Dutch practically maintained a monopoly of the spice trade in the East throughout the 17th Century.
  • Since the pepper trade of Malabar was considered to be less valuable than the Coromandel cloth trade, the Dutch ignored the Malabar Coast.

Anglo-Dutch Rivalry

  • The Dutch rivalry with the English, during the 17th century, was more bitter than that of the Portu­guese. By the beginning of the 18th century, the Dutch power in India began to decline. Their final collapse came with their defeat by the English in the battle of Bedara in 1759. The expulsion of the Dutch from their possessions in India by the British came in 1795.

The Significance of the Dutch Trade

  • The Dutch on the one hand, dislodged the Portuguese from India’s maritime trade, and on the other, they gave a new direction and commodity structure to India’s foreign trade. The credit for making Indian textiles the premier export from India goes to the Dutch. The Dutch Instead of the spices greatly promoted the export of textiles, which they considered more lucrative. Gradually the Indian textiles found wide acceptance in far-flung parts of the world.

The English

  • In 1599, John Mildenhall, a merchant adventurer of London came to India by the overland route and spent seven years in the East. It was on 31st December 1600, that the first important step towards England’s commercial prosperity was taken.
  • On that day Queen Elizabeth granted Charter to “The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies”, later called the East India Company for fifteen years. The company sent Captain Hawkins to Jahangir’s court to seek permission for the English to open a factory at Surat in 1609 which was refused due to the hostile activities of the Portuguese and the opposition of the Surat merchants.
  • However, the victory of English under captain Best over Portuguese fleet at Swally (near Surat) in AD 1612 broke the tradition of Portuguese Naval supremacy and a Farman was issued by Jahangir permitting the English to establish a factory at Surat (AD 1613).
  • Sir Thomas Roe, the royal ambassador of the king of England James I to the Mughal Court succeeded in getting the Emperor’s permission to trade and erect factories in certain places within the empire in 1618.
  • Surat was one of the chief centers of maritime trade and caravans started from it for all the inland parts of India. Indeed, it is from Surat that the English extended their inland trading operation and by 1616 built subordinate factories at Ahmedabad, Baroda, Baroach and Agra.
  • By AD 1630, the trade of Surat had grown to such dimensions, that the directors constituted it into the headquarters of the company on the West Coast.
  • It was finally replaced by Bombay as headquarter of the company on the West coast in AD 1687.
  • Bombay: In AD 1661, the Portuguese gave Bombay as a part of dowry to their princess, Catherine of Braganza, on her marriage with Charles II. The Company acquired Bombay from Charles II on lease at an annual rent of ten pounds in AD 1668.
  • The English secured Bombay at a very crucial moment when Surat was being repeatedly attacked by the Marathas.

Governors of Bombay

  • Gerald Aungier: Gerald Aungier was the second governor of Bombay, was the true founder of Bombay’s greatness. He resolved to make Bombay completely safe for shipping and trade, free from danger on the land-side from the Portuguese and the pirates of the coast.
  • Under Aungier, Bombay became a safe asylum for all merchants and manufacturers. He established vigorous and strict discipline over all the inhabitants of the city and allowed every community to enjoy the free exercise of its religion.
  • During his governorship, the old Panchayat system was revived, so that justice was actually brought to the door of the people even in minor cases. He saved English lives and properties during Shivaji’s second sack of Surat in AD 1670.

John child

  • During this period, interlopers(the individual English merchants independent of the Company’s control) created problem. At the close of the seventeenth century, these interlopers took to open piracy.
  • In AD 1686, two pirate ships captured several Mughal vessels in the Red Sea, upon which the Mughal Governor of Surat violently reacted against the English, particularly at Sir John Child, President of Surat and Governor of Bombay.
  • Though John Child punished the interlopers savagely whenever they were caught, the evil grew more rampant. These pirates and interlopers were the principle cause of the disastrous war which the English subsequently waged with the Mughal’s.

English settlements in Eastern Coast

  • On the south-eastern coast, the English established a factory at Masulipatam in 1611 and Armagaon near Pulicat in 1626. The Sultan of Golconda granted the English the “Golden Fireman” in 1632 by which they were allowed to trade freely in their kingdom ports on payment of duties worth 500 pagodas per annum.
  • In 1639, Francis Day obtained the lease of Madras from the ruler of Chandragiri and built there a fortified factory which came to be known as Fort St. George, which soon superseded Masulipatam as headquarters of the English settlements on the Coromandel Coast.
  • It was only with the foundation of Madras by the English in 1639, their arrival at Hughli in AD 1650 and their establishment of a factory at Balasore in north Orissa that the position of the English on the eastern coast became strong and permanent. Madras soon replaced Masulipatnam as the headquarters of the English on the Coromandel Coast and in Ad 1641 all the English settlements in eastern India (Bengal, Bihar and Orissa) and the Coromandel were placed under the control of the President and Council of Fort St George.
  • Masulipatnam was the chief seaport of the great inland kingdom of Golconda and largely traded in diamonds, rubies and textiles of that region.

English settlements in Bengal

  • In England, there was a growing demand for Bengal goods, especially for silk and saltpeter and the trade of the Bengal factories consequently increase-ed.
  • In 1667, Aurangzeb gave the English a fireman for trade in Bengal and in 1672 the Mughal Governor Shaista Khan issued an order confirming all the privileges already acquired by the English.
  • In AD 1696, a serious rebellion occurred in Bengal under an Afghan named Rahim Khan who plundered the whole country along the Hughli.
  • Alarmed by rebellion and the inability of the Mughal viceroy to put it down, the English at Calcutta as well as Dutch at Chinasur asked permission to fortify their factories and to raise troops. So the English began to build walls and bastions round their factory. This was the Origin of Fort William, named after King William III.
  • They were permitted by Azimush Shah Governor of Bengal, to purchase the Zamindari of the three villages of Sutanati, Kalikata and Govindpur on payment of Rupees 1200/-. This marked the foundation of Calcutta, which was destined to develop as one of the greatest Indian cities.
  • In the subsequent years, the English East India Company began to extend its territorial claims it defeated Dutch ( Battle of Bedara) and French (Battle of Wandiwash) and by the end of the eighteenth century, it succeeded in establishing its Paramountcy.

The Danes

  • The Danes formed an East India Company and arrived in India in 1616. The Danish settlements were established at Tranquebar (in Tamilnadu) in 1620 and at Serampore (in Bengal) in 1676 which was the headquarters of Danes in India.
  • They failed to strengthen themselves in India and in 1845 were forced to sell all their Indian settlements to the British.

The French

  • Colbert, minister of Louis XIV, created the Compagnie des Indes Orientales popularly known as French East India Company in 1664 financed by the state. The first French factory in India was established by Francois Caron at Surat in 1668 and Maracara succeeded in establishing another French factory at Masulipatam in 1669 by obtaining permission from the Sultan of Golconda.
  • In 1672, De la Haye seized San Thome but had to surrender it to the Dutch after his defeat by a combined force of the Sultan of Golconda and the Dutch. In 1673, Francois Martin and Bellangerde Lespinay obtained from Sher Khan Lodi, Governor of Valikondapuram, a site for a factory. Thus the foundation of Pondicherry was laid in a modest manner. Francois Martin developed it into an important place.
  • In Bengal, Nawab Shaista Khan granted a site to the French in 1674, on which they built the famous French factory of Chandernagore in 1690-92.
  • In marked contrast with the prosperity of Pondicherry, the French lost their influence in other places. The French in India declined between 1706 and 1720 which led to the reconstitution of the Company in 1720, as the “Perpetual Company of the Indies.”
  • The French power in India was revived under the Governorship of Lenoir and Dumas between 1720 and 1742. The French occupied Mahe and Yanam both in 1725 and Karikal in 1739. The objects of the French, during this period, were however, purely commercial.
  • After 1742 political motives began to overshadow the desire for commercial gain with the arrival of Dulpleix as French governor in India (1742). It resulted in the beginning of Anglo-French conflict by which the French were defeated.
  • First European Company in India = Portuguese
    1. First factory of Portuguese Company =  Cochin
    2. First factory of Dutch Company= Masulipatnam
    3. First factory of English Company = Masulipatnam
    4. First factory of Danes Company = Tranqueber
    5. First factory of French Company = Surat 

Difference between earlier Foreign Merchants and Europeans.

  • India had maintained its trade relations with the foreign merchants even during the earlier centuries. But there was a great difference between the foreign merchants who had earlier settled in and conducted brisk trade from India and the Europeans who came to India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
  • The earlier foreign merchants had mere commercial motives and had very little or no support from their native governments.
  • But the European merchants who came to India during this period had the political and military support of their respective governments.
  • They were not individual merchants but represented their respective nations and tried to establish and safeguard their maritime trade on the strength of their superior naval power.
  • Military superiority was the backbone of their commercial enterprise and they established their fortified trading settlements, called factories, on the coastal parts of India, immune from the administrative control of the local power.

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