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The East India Company

Image of Letters Patent of William and Mary prescribing regulations for the conduct of business of the East India Company

Letters Patent of William and Mary
British Library IOR A/1/48
Copyright © The British Library Board
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The East India Company was the foundation stone of British colonial expansion in Asia, and was established by royal charter in 1600.

The East India Company was established at the request of a number of merchants who had agreed to contribute substantial sums of money to finance voyages to the East Indies, present-day Indonesia. Their hopes of obtaining a large share of the valuable spice trade were thwarted by competition with the Dutch and they turned their attention towards India, where during the 17th century, a number of factories, or trading posts, were established along the coast.

By the late 17th century, the East India Company's success provoked increasing resentment among those excluded by its monopoly, and there was considerable political pressure to open up the trade to the east. These letters patent of 1693 would therefore have been of immense importance to the Company, as they confirm its privileges, as well as regulating its activities. The richness of the decoration may well be an indication of the significance attached to them.

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