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first voyage

The Company bought four ships for the first English Voyage – the Dragon, Hector, Ascension and Susan. Carrying 500 men and 110 guns these set sail from London in February 1601 under the command of James Lancaster. More than 100 men had died by the time they rounded the Cape of Good Hope.

It took 16 months to reach their first Asian port in Sumatra. Pepper was available in neighbouring Java and it was here, at Bantam, that Lancaster set up the first European trading post in 1602. All four ships returned safely to England in 1603, their holds full of pepper.

The East India Company was in business.

  shipyard model    

Shipyard model of the East Indiaman Charles Grant built at Bombay in 1810. © National Maritime Museum, London
(click image to enlarge)

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