1600s to 1800s - India Office Trading Documents

Detail of East India Company's Sale Catalogue - Pepper

This is a collection of documents from the British Library's India Office, all of which relate to British trade with Asia from the late 1600's to the 1800s. The East India Company's first ships arrived in Bengal in 1608. By the end of the 17th century the company had factories, forts and settlements in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. It was importing cotton, silk and indigo, and making inroads into the Dutch domination of the spice trade.

Early in the 18th century, Company ships began to sail onward to Canton and the trade in tea ('cha') and porcelain ('China ware') began. From this time on the East India Company became more of a ruling power than a trading company in India, with the increasing involvement of the British government. A period of progressive domination and annexation followed so that, by 1858, when the East India Company was dissolved and the administration of India was taken over by the Crown, Britain controlled India, Burma, Singapore and Hong Kong.