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India Office Records: B: East India Company Minutes of the Court of Directors and Court of Proprietors 1599-1858

This is one of a series of pages giving brief descriptions and summary lists of documents in India Office Records classes.

Brief Description

The Minutes of the Court of Directors and the Court of Proprietors (together known generally as 'Court Minutes') form the central record of the deliberations and resolutions of the East India Company. The Directors were a body of 24 elected from and by the stockholders (or 'Proprietors'). The Court of Directors met regularly as the Company's executive body, while the Court of Proprietors (or 'General Court') met at least four times a year to elect Directors, to oversee their activities, and to debate policy. The 'Old' Company ('The Governor and Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies' incorporated in 1600) and the 'New' Company ('The English Company Trading to the East Indies' chartered in competition in 1698) had similar structures, of a body of proprietors and an elected court. The United Company (formally 'The United Company of Merchants of England Trading into the East Indies') adopted forms of organisation from both its predecessors. The United Company was generally known as the 'United East India Company' or 'East India Company', the latter name being made official in the 1833 Act of Parliament which revised the Company's charter. The Records in this series come from the operations of all three companies, and from the Court of Managers which was set up in 1702, with delegates from the 'Old' and 'New' Companies, to supervise the amalgamation planned for 1709. The Company's trading function ceased in 1834 with the withdrawal of the chartered monopoly of British trade with the East Indies, and its executive function in the government of India was transferred to the Secretary of State for India and the India Office in 1858. The Company continued as a separate legal entity, for payment of dividends on stock, until it was formally dissolved in 1874.

The Court of Directors established subordinate Committees for the conduct of its business, and the records in Minutes and Memoranda of General Committees class D are closely connected to the Court Minutes series. The official correspondence received, discussed and sent by the Court of Directors is found in East India Company General Correspondence class E.

Summary list of records

 B/1-236 Court Minutes 1599-1858
The Court Minutes series includes, besides minutes of the Court of Directors, minutes of subordinate Committees established by the Court of Directors (to 1680), minutes of the Court of Proprietors (to 1833), and Directors' Dissents (also to 1833). After 1833 the series includes minutes of the Court of Directors only. The Minute Books from the 'Old' Company, the 'New' Company, the Court of Managers and the United Company, previously numbered together in a single sequence, comprise:
B/1-41 'Old' Company Court Minutes 1599-1699, with internal indexes intermittently to 1665 and consistently in each volume thereafter;
B/42 'New' Company Court Minutes 1698-1699;
B/43-44 'Old' Company Court Minutes 1699-1705, with an index in each volume;
B/45 'New' Company Court Minutes 1704-1708;
B/46 'Old' Company Court Minutes 1705-1709, with an index;
B/47-49 Court of Managers Minutes 1702-1709, and United Company Court Minutes 1709-1710, with an index in each volume;
B/50A-50C Papers on the union of the two Companies 1702-1709, with an index;
B/51-185 United Company Court Minutes ('Court Books') 1710-1833, with an index in each volume (or each annual pair of volumes) to 1811;
B/186-236 United Company Court Minutes ('Minute Books') 1833-1858, with separate indexes Z/B/46-96
The series of Court Books was discontinued in 1833, and the parallel series of Minute Books thereafter used as the primary record of Court of Directors business. The pre-1833 Minute Books were discarded. There are separate series of general indexes to Court Minutes Z/B/1-96. 

B/237-246 Appendix to Court Minutes: Dissents 1807-1858
Minutes by individual Directors dissenting from particular resolutions of the Court. Dissents were recorded also in the Court Books to 1833, but not in the Minute Books thereafter. This series therefore provides the only record of Dissents after 1833, and has a separate index Z/B/97.

B/247-252 Court Minutes: Rough Notes 1621-1715

B/253-254 Minutes of the Court of Managers (Duplicates) 1702-1708
Duplicates of minutes in B/47-48. 

B/255-273 General Court Minutes (Proprietors) 1702-1858
Minutes of the Court of Proprietors were recorded in the Court Books to 1833, but not in the Minute Books thereafter. This separate series therefore provides a parallel record to 1833, and the only record of General Court Minutes after 1833. There are indexes in each volume to 1818, a separate index to elections of Directors Z/B/98, and a separate series of general indexes to General Court Minutes Z/B/99-100.

The minutes and associated records of the East India Company from 1858 to its formal dissolution in 1874 are found in the India Office Accountant-General's Records series L/AG/44.

The present list of this series supersedes the listing in List of General Records 1599-1879 Preserved in the Record Department of the India Office, London (London, 1902), pp. 1-6.

 Indexes 

For the period up to 1790 the only original indexes to the Minutes of the Court of Directors are those in the volumes of the Court Minutes ('Court Books') series B/1-236 themselves. These indexes continue in the Court Books to 1811. Photocopies of the assembled index portions of these Court Minutes volumes from 1678 to 1790 (B/35-110) are shelved in the Reading Room. The following separate general indexes to the Minutes of the Court of Directors were made for the period from 1790 onwards: 

Z/B/1-3 Index to the Minutes of the Court of Directors 1790-1820
Indexes to Court of Directors minutes only, as they appear in the 1790-1820 volumes of the Court Books series B/111-170. Photocopies of these indexes are shelved in the Reading Room.

Z/B/4-5 Index to the Minutes of the Court of Directors 1820-1827
Indexes to part of a separate series of Court of Directors 'Minute Books' which has not survived. The tables of Court meeting dates in the front of each volume enable the user to ascertain the date when any indexed matter was discussed and then to find the minutes under that date in the 1820-1827 volumes of the Court Books series B/171-179. 

Z/B/6-45 Index to the Minutes of the Court of Directors 1813-1833
Indexes to the discarded pre-1833 part of the series of Court of Directors Minute Books which otherwise survive only for the period 1833-1858. The tables of Court meeting dates in the front of each volume from 1818 onwards (Z/B/16-45) enable the user to ascertain the date when any indexed matter was discussed and then to find the minutes under that date in the 1818-1833 volumes of the Court Books series B/157-185. No tables of meeting dates are present in the indexes for 1813-1818 (Z/B/6-15), and those indexes cannot be used in this way. Photocopies of the indexes from 1818 to 1833 (Z/B/16-45) are shelved in the Reading Room. 

Z/B/46-96 Index to the Minutes of the Court of Directors 1833-1858
Indexes to Court of Directors 'Minute Books' series B/186-236. Photocopies of these indexes are shelved in the Reading Room.  

Z/B/97 Index to Dissents 1764-1858
Index to Appendix to Court Minutes: Dissents 1807-1858 series B/237-246. The dates recorded against Dissents in the index also enable the user to find the minutes of dissent under their dates in the 1764-1833 volumes of the Court Books series B/80-185. 

Z/B/98 Index to General Court Minutes 1702-1846
Index to Elections of Directors, as they appear in the General Court Minutes series B/255-273 .

Z/B/99-100 Index to General Court Minutes 1702-1858
Indexes to General Court Minutes series B/255-273. For the period 1702-1818 each volume of General Court minutes also has its own index, and for the period up to 1811 the indexes in the series of Court Books also include references to business at General Court meetings.

 Published Calendars

The following contain abstracts or calendars of entries in particular volumes (or runs of volumes) in the Court Minutes series:
B/1: H. Stevens, The Dawn of British Trade to the East Indies as recorded in the Court Minutes of the East India Company 1599-1603 (London, 1886).
B/1, B/3 and B/5-17: W.N. Sainsbury, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series: vol. i, East Indies, China and Japan, 1513-1616 (London, 1862);
vol. ii, East Indies, China and Japan, 1617-1621 (London, 1870);
vol. iii, East Indies, China and Japan, 1622-1624 (London, 1878);
vol. iv, East Indies, China and Persia, 1625-1629 (London, 1884);
vol. v, East Indies and Persia, 1630-1634 (London, 1892).
B/2: G.C.M. Birdwood and W. Foster, The Register of Letters etc. of the Governour and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, 1600-1619 (London, 1893).
B/18-35: E.B. Sainsbury, A Calendar of the Court Minutes etc. of the East India Company 1635-1639 [to] 1677-1679, 11 vols. (Oxford, 1907-1938).
Copies of these works are shelved in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room.

How to consult documents in this series

Researchers may consult documents in the India Office Records by using the services and facilities of the Asian & African Studies Reading Room. A full descriptive list of documents in class B is shelved in the Reading Room. Requests to see documents should bear reference numbers from that list.

In searching for minutes on particular matters, the following strategies are suggested:

Searching in the Minutes of the Court of Directors:
Before 1679:
First use the indexes in the published calendars as far as possible, and then the indexes in the minutes volumes themselves.
1678-1790: Use the Reading Room photocopies of the assembled index portions of the minutes volumes or Court Books (B/35-110).
1790-1820: Use the Reading Room photocopies of the general index to Court of Directors Minutes (Z/B/1-3).
1818-1833: First use the Reading Room photocopies of the indexes to the discarded Minute Books (Z/B/16-45) to establish the Court meeting date, then use the internal index in the pair of Court Books for that year (April to March).
1833-1858: Use the Reading Room photocopies of the indexes to the Minute Books (Z/B/46-96).

Searching in the General Court Minutes:
Before 1679:
First use the indexes in the published calendars as far as possible, and then the indexes in the minutes volumes themselves.
1678-1790: Use the Reading Room photocopies of the assembled index portions of the minutes volumes or Court Books (B/35-110).
1702-1858: Use the general index to General Court Minutes (Z/B/99-100).

In any search:
If the approximate date of the matter is known, and is before 1811, one may go directly to the internal indexes in the minutes volumes or Court Books for that year (April to March).

Contact

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