4. Mughal Empire

The English had been trading their woollen cloth at Bantam market, but it soon became clear that they would do better to barter with other Asian goods, especially Indian textiles. For this reason they needed to dispose of their broadcloth and to find other Asian goods for barter. India, with its rich textiles, seemed to offer the answer.

The Mughal Empire covered northern and central India. It was perhaps the world's most civilised centre of power. Its glittering court at Agra, Delhi and Lahore, was filled with all the magnificence and luxury that Asia could supply.

The Portuguese had traded directly with India for over 100 years before the first English East India Company ships reached Surat. The Company was not welcome, and in 1611 it asked King James to send an ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, to visit the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. The Emperor ruled over a prosperous civilisation that produced many goods, and had many different religions (the Mughals were Muslim).

In 1608, William Hawkins, commander of the Hector, was sent to ask the Mughal Emperor about trade with England. He impressed Jahangir with his grasp of Turkish and ability to drink copious amounts of wine, but he failed to get an agreement for an English factory. It took the arrival of a proper amabassador, Sir Thomas Roe, sent by King James I in 1615, before the Company was able to set up a base in India. From Surat the Company could send Indian textiles to the market at Bantam.

Highly skilled dyers and weavers in India produced cloth with beautiful colour-fast designs. This successful industry created an enormous amount of cloth for markets throughout Asia. In England, demand for Indian textiles grew fast, and many patterns for the new English textile industry came from India. By 1750, Indian silks, cottons and calicoes made up 60 per cent of the company's sales.

By 1750, the Mughal Empire was in a state of collapse. Regional states emerged in India and the Company began to get involved in power politics. It raised its own armies and prepared for war.

Having seen off the rival French in the Carnatic, in 1765 the Company assumed the Diwani of Bengal. A trading company from England was now responsible for the civil, judicial and revenue administration of India's richest province, with some 20 million inhabitants. It was now a regional state in India.