The East India Company
The East India Company was founded in the early seventeenth century, and was first given permission to trade by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. The company grew quickly to become the largest trading company in the world, and was heavily involved in the slave trade and in setting up large plantations and factories in India, particularly Bengal, where it opened its first factory in 1615. The company owned the monopoly for trade in spices, cotton and silk, indigo dye, tea, saltpetre (rock salt used in gunpowder, preserving meat and in medicines) and opium, and after the Battle of Plassey (1757) also became an important political and military body. The East India Company effectively ruled over India until the Great Indian Rebellion of 1857-8, when the British Raj was established in its place. The Company was dissolved in 1874.
The East India Company is significant in opening up trade routes and early migration passages between Bengal and Britain. The Company employed thousands of Bengali seamen, known as lascars, on their ships, carrying them from Calcutta to the docks of East London, along with Indian servants, nannies and princes.