A chartered company of London merchants that gradually transformed trading privileges in Asia into a territorial empire centred on India. Chartered in 1600, the Company soon lost the Spice Islands (Moluccas) to the Dutch, but by 1700 had secured important trading ports in India, notably Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta. In the mid-18th century Anglo-French hostility in Europe was reflected in a struggle for supremacy with the French East India Company. The English commander Clive outmanoeuvred the French governor Dupleix in south India, then intervened in the rich north-eastern province of Bengal. Victory over the Bengal ruler in 1757 initiated a century of expansion, the East India Company emerging as the greatest European trader in India, though with strong French competition. Increasingly the company acted as an instrument of colonial government; having lost its commercial monopolies by 1833, it served as Britain's administrative agent in India. Widespread risings in 1857 during the Indian Mutiny determined, through the India Acts, the transfer of India from company to British government control in 1858, and the company was finally dissolved in 1873. See also Dutch East India Company.
Subjects: World History.