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The geographical discoveries of the last quarter of the 15th century produced momentous consequences in world history. The spirit of enterprise and adventure generated by these led to the discovery of new areas and new routes to distant lands bringing them into commercial relations with one another.

 Vasco da Gama discovered a new sea route to India and reached near the famous port of Calicut on May 17, A.D. 1498, with three vessels. The opening of the sea route to India. The Portuguese were the first among the European nations on adventures in the East.

The King of Portugal wanted to assume at this time the title of “Lord of the Navigation“. A well-equipped fleet was organised under the command of Vasco da Gama for trade and conquests  he arrived at Calicut in October A.D. 1502. 

His relations with the Zamorin were far from friendly. In their ambition to gain exclusive commerical supremacy in the Eastern seas . On November 3, Vasco da Gama sailed for Cochin and established a factory there. 

The year A.D 1505 saw the beginning of a new era in the history of Portuguese India. In order to consolidate the position of the Portuguese in India and to destroy Muslim trade by seizing Gulf Aden, Gulf of Ormuz and Strait of Malacca.

The King of Portugal decided to appoint a governor in India for a three year term, with a sufficient force to protect the Portuguese settlements there. Franeisco de Almeida was appointed to this post with special instructions to erect fortresse at Kilwa, Anjadiva, Kannanur and Cochin, and he reached India in September A.D. 1505.

On November 5, A.D. 1509 Almeida was succeeded by Affonso de Albuquerque, who is regarded as the real founder of Portuguese power in India. 

Albuquerque had first come to this country in A.D. 1503 as a naval commander. He wanted to make Goa the headquarters of the Portuguese in India.

 “….My determination now is to prevent any Moor entering Goa, to leave a sufficient force of men and ships in the place, then with another fleet visit the Red sea and Ormuz…”


Bitter persecution of Muslims was one serious drawback of Albuquerque’s policy. This could have been due to his resolve to further the interests of his countrymen by complete extinction of Muslim commercial interests in the East. 

In order to secure a permanent Portuguese population in India he encouraged his men to take Indian wives. 

Albuquerque’s activities extended outside India as well. He brought St of Malacca and St of Ormuz under his control. Having contributed much to the establishment of Portuguese influence in the East, he died at the age of seventy-three (December 16, A.D. 1515).


Nino da Cunha who reached India in November A.D. 1529, Early in the following year he shifted the headquarters of his government from Cochin to Goa. 

When Humayun came into conflict with Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, the latter enlisted Portuguese support by ceding to them in A.D. 1534 the island of Bassein with its dependenceies and revenues, and also promised to allow them a footing at Diu. But after Humayun’s withdrawal (A.D. 1536) the relations between Bahadur Shah and the Portuguese ceased to be friendly. 

Garcia de Noronha succeeded Nino da Cunha as the Portuguese governor in India (September A.D. 1538). In March A.D. 1539, Noronha entered into a treaty with Bahadur Shah’s successor under which the Portuguese were allowed to retain Diu along with a third of the custom receipts from the fort. A treaty was concluded also with the Zamorin of Calicut, the Portuguese securing some important privileges (January A.D. 1540) this lasted for thirty years.


The Portuguese established other important settlements in India. Daman, Satsette, Chaul and Bombay, St. Thome (Mylapore) near Madras and Hooghly in Bengal. They also extended their authority over the greater part of Ceylon. 

The arrival in India of the famous Jesuit saint Francisco Xavier in the company of the Portuguese governor Martim Affonso de Sousa in A.D. 1542, was an event of great significance, since in marked the beginning of ‘supremacy’ in Portuguese India.


By the 18th century the Portuguese in India lost their commercial influence, though some of the still carried on trade in their individual capacity and many took to piracy and robbery. 

This decline was brought about by Several Factors. 

  1. The religious intolerance of the Portuguese caused resentment Goa became the centre of an immense propaganda. 
  2. The discovery of Brazil diverted colonizing activities of Portugal to the West. 
  3. The union of the two kingdoms of Spain and Portugal in A.D. 1581, badly affected Portuguese monopoly of trade in India. 
  4. The Portuguese failed to compete successfully with the other European trading compaines who came to India after them.


Commercial enterprise led the Dutch also so undertake voyage to the East. Cornelis de Houtman was the first Dutchman who, after doubling the Cape of Good Hope, reached Sumatra and Bantam in A.D. 1596. 

This gave the Dutch much encouragement for further enterprises, and in course of the next few years new companies for the Indian trade were formed. 

Decline of Portuguese influence, the Dutch gained monopoly of the Spice Trade in the East throughout the 17th century. They carried from India to the islands of the Far East various articles such as indigo manufactured in the Yamuna valley and Central India, Textiles And Silk from Bengal, Gujarat and Coromandal, Saltpetre from Bihar and Opium And Rice from the Ganga valley.

The 17th century was also marked by protracted and bitter commercial rivalry between the English and the Dutch.

In the Third Anglo-Dutch War (A.D. 1672-74) communications between Surat and the new English settlement of Bombay were captured in the Bay of Bengal. 

England’s spectacular victory over the Spanish Armada were outstanding events in British history , they generated in the British mind a new enthusiasm and spirit of enterprise and encouraged sea captains to make voyages to the Eastern waters.

It was on December 31, A.D. 1600, that the first, momentous step was taken in respect of England’s trade in the East by India Company under its first title of “The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies.” Monopoly of trade in the East was granted to it for fifteen years. A fresh Charter was granted to the East India Company in May A.D. 1609, and its privileges were extended indefinitely.

The Company had to face opposition of their commercial rivals, the Portuguese and the dutch in A.D. 1611 the Portuguese turned back three English ships under the command of Sir Henry Middleton who tried to make a landing at Surat. 

The English also captured Ormuz in the Persian Gulf (A.D. 1622). In A.D. 1654 Cromwell forced Portugal to acknowledge formally England’s right to trade in the Eastern seas.


The first definite attempt on the aprt of the English to establish a factory in India was made, with the arrival of Captin Hawkins at the court of Jahangir in April A.D. 1609.  But the mission did not bear fruit because of the hostile activities of the Portuguese and Captain Hawkins left Agra in November A.D. 1611. 

In 1613 A.D , Jahangir issued a farman early  permitting the English to establish a factory at Surat under Thomas Aldworth. 

In 1615 A.D   Sir Thomas Roe visited the mughal court as an accredited ambassador of James I  ( KING OF ENGLAND FOR UR REF )and stayed in India till February A.D. 1619. He secured certain privileges for the Company, including permission to establish factories at different places within the Mughal empire. He  had setup factories at Agra, Surat. Ahmadabad and Broach


On the south-east coast of India the English had started a factory in A.D. 1611 at Masulipatam. In A.D. 1639 Francis Day, a British merchant and member of the Masulipatam Council, who was responsible for opening the factory at Armagon, obtained from the ruler of Chandragiri a representative of the decayed Vijayanagar empire, permission to build a fortified factory at Madras, known as Fort St. George.

Two years later Fort St. George superseded Masulipatam as the headquarters of the English settlements on the east coast.

English had extended their trading activities.,

  1. In Bengal, factories were established at hooghly (A.D. 1651) and other places like Patna, Kasimbazar and Rajmahal.
  2.  In A.D. 1661 all the English settlements in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and on the Coromandel Coast were reorganized and made subordinate to Fort St. George.

On February 10, 1690 ,Job Charnock came to Bengal ,where he established an English factory. An imperial order was issued permitting the English “to contentedly continue their trade: in Bengal on payment of Rs. 3,000 a year in lieu of all dues. This marked the foundation of Calcutta, which was destined to develop as one of the greatest cities of the world

In A.D. 1696, ‘Azimush-Shan”, Governor Of Bengal , Permitted East India Company (E.I.C)  to purchase the Zamindari of the three villages of Sutanuti, Kalikata and Govindpur  on payment of Rs. 1,200 to the old proprietors. 

In 1700 the fortified settlement was named Fort William and became the seat of a Presidencyl Sir Charles Eyre was its first President.


The most important event in the history of the Company during these years was the diplomatic mission led by John Surman in 1715 to the court of the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar, resulting in the grant of three famous farmans addressed to officials in Bengal, Hyderabad and Gujarat.

  1. It exempted the Company’s imports and exports from additional customs duties .
  2. In Hyderabad, the  Company’s old privilege of freedom from dues in trade was retained .
  3. At Surat, the Company was exempted from the levy of all duties for its exports and imports in lieu of an annual payment of Rs. 10,000 and the coins of the Company minted at Bombay were to have currency throughout the Mughal empire.

In Madras, Thomas Pitt, governor of Madras from A.D. 1698 to 1709, obtained from the Nawab of Karnatak a grant of five villages near Madras in 1708 (actually occupied nine years later) and in 1734 it also got Vepery and four other settlements. 


The French appeared late on the Indian coasts, but they had a desire for “eastern traffic” since the early days of the 16th century.

COLBERT, the famous minister of Louis XIV, had a genuine desire to help his country’s economic development through maritime trade, and France owed him the foundation of the Compagnie des Indes Orientales in A.D. 1664. 

In A.D. 1667 an expedition was sent under Francois Caron, who established first French factory in India at Surat. 

In A.D. 1669 Marcara founded another French factory at Masulipatam by securing a patent from the Sultan of Golconda

In July, De la Haye occupied St. Thome near Madras, which the Sultan of Golconda had conquered from the Portuguese ten years earlier. 

In 1673, Francois Martin, Director of the Masulipatam factory, obtained from Sher Khan Lodi, governor of Valikondapuram, a site for a factory. Thus “began in modest fashion the historic role of Pondicheery.” After taking charge of Pondicherry in A.D. 1674 Francois Martin developed it as a place of importance “amid the clash of arms and the clamour of falling kingdomw”.

 In Bengal, the French laid the foundation of their famous settlement of Chandarnagar in A.D. 1690 on a site granted to them by Shayista Khan.

The outbreak of war in Europe between the French and the Dutch, who were in alliance with the English since the Revolution of A.D. 1688, adversely affected French position in India. Under Francois Martin’s able guidance Pondicherry grew in prosperity and became the most important settlement of the French in India.

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