East India Trading: Capitalism and Colonization


To Colonize: 

  • to create a colony in or on (a place) : to take control of (an area) and send people to live there

  • : to move into and live in (a place) as a new type of plant or animal


East India Company 

One of the strangest parts of the history of the British Empire involves that commercial venture generally known as the East India Company, though its original name when founded by royal charter on the very last day of 1600 was the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies. As its name suggests, the company was the enterprise of London businessmen who banded together to make money importing spices from South Asia. For centuries the valuable spice trade with the East Indies (as they were long known) relied on land routes across Asia and the Middle East, but by the sixteenth century, the superior navigational technology and skills of the Portuguese for the first time permitted Europeans to cut out intermediaries and hence make themselves far greater profits. The Spanish and Portuguese had a monopoly of the East Indies spice trade until destruction of the Spanish Aramada in 1588, which permitted the British and Dutch to seek their share of this wealthy import business.


George Graham and the East India Company 


East India Time Line: a journey of trade, occupation and war

1600 East India Company (EIC) is formed


1615 Company acquires territory in Bombay

1748  Carnatic War:    Wars between French, British and Austrian’s fought on Indian Soil


1757 Battle of Plassey  British rule in India is conventionally described as having begun in 1757. On June 23rd of that year, at the Battle of Plassey, a small village and mango grove between Calcutta and Murshidabad, the forces of the East India Company under Robert Clive defeated the army of Siraj-ud-daulah, the Nawab of Bengal.


1792 The EIC defeats the Maratha and Tippu Sultan of Mysore

1806 10 July, Mutiny at Vellore.  Indian sepoys (solider) rose in a bloody revolt against the East India Company’s garrison

1857 Mutiny of the Indian Army at Barackpore.  the Rebellion becomes a War of Independence, First Indian War of Independence.  In the North and Central region.

1858 Bahadur Shah Zafar, The Last Mogul, is proclaimed as Emperor.
The Mutiny is Crushed and the Last Mogul Emperor, is disposed.
The Revolt is crushed ruthlessly.
End of the EIC’s rule in India.
End of Mogul rule in India.
British Crown takes over India, beginning of the Raj.

1869 Mahatma Gandhi born in Porbandar, Gujarat (Oct 2)   documentary


1877 Queen Victoria becomes the Empress of India.


he “Empress of India” with her ‘munshi’ (clerk) Abdul Karim 1896. Although Queen Victoria never set foot in India, she added the Dunbar Room to Osborne house, (1890-1) for state functions, complete with an Agra carpet, a model of a Mughal palace, Indian painting collection and an Indian clerk seen here who lived on the estate until her death.

1885 Indian National Congress if Formed: broad based political party

1897 Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Queen Victoria in her diamond jubilee year - 1897.jpg

1914 The Great War breaks out in Europe

1919 Jalianwala Bagh Massacre.  Parliament passes the Rowlatt Acts.

1939 World War II Breaks out with Germany’s invasion of Poland

1947 India and Pakistan become self-governing


Indian / British Commodities: 

exports: Indigo, raw silk, sugar, piece goods, opium and cotton.

Imports from Great Britain:  cotton yarn, cotton piece goods, apparel, metals, manufactured goods, wine and spirits.


Agency Houses Before the great failure of I830-33, Calcutta had 50 firms, Bombay I7, and Madras 1o. There were subsidiary branches of these firms at Canton, Penang, and of course in London. The business carried on by the Agency Houses included deposit banking, issuing paper money, financing the indigo producers, shipping, and investments in urban properties. Apart from acting as entrepreneurs, the Agency Houses proved to be the instrument through which Western market capitalism was being introduced in India in response to the requirements of the world market

Remittance of Funds 


Kashmir Shawl, a symbol of colonial trade. 

Kashmir Shawls in Mid-Victorian Novels
Author(s): Suzanne Daly
Source: Victorian Literature and Culture, Vol. 30, No. 1 (2002), pp. 237-255 Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25058583
Accessed: 10-09-2016 22:39 UTC



“When cloth or clothing made for a specific purpose in one cultural context begins to be produced as a commodity and is appropriated as fashion by a different culture, mean ings reverberate on both sides of the transaction. The commercial traffic with India in the nineteenth century brought many such commodities into the homes of the English midd class. Some of these items, and particularly textiles, led a double life, functioning at once as exotic foreign artifacts and as markers of proper Englishness.”


outlined by John Keay in Th Honourable Company. He writes that the Merchant’s Hope, which sailed from Surat to England in 1613 with a cargo of cotton goods, marked the beginning of a new domestic economy: “Instead of English tweeds revolutionizing Eastern fashions, Indian cottons were about to invade English domestic life. Napkins and table-cloths, bed sheets and soft furnishings, not to mention underwear and dress fabrics, quite suddenly became indispesable to every respectable household. A new vocabulary of chintzes and calicoes, taffetas, muslins, ginghams and cashmeres entered everyday use.


English textiles invasion – Indian  tweeds Revolutionized  

Kashmir  know as Cashmere.


“when son or grandson comes home from travel, far or near, his present is a new shawl”1 despite the fact that “the supply which arrives from Asia over bleak continents and wide oceans, can only be for the rich and great”

“Karl Marx complains in “The Communist Manifesto” that “the bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. … In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes” (207-08). Regardless of whether the “old wants” were in fact so satisfied, his succinct formulation ? the market creates the desire in the consumer ? is generally not taken up by historians of fashion or art (and Kashmir shawls, then and now, hover somewhere between these two poles) who tend to see the intrinsic qualities of Indian textiles as themselves primarily constitutive, at least initially, of consumer desire.”


To begin with the history of fashion: in The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France, 1750-1820, Aileen Ribiero notes that “by the early nineteenth century, imitation cashmere shawls were being produced in Norwich, Paisley, and Edinburgh, either of cotton or silk mixed with wool, or very fine wool. . . . Nothing, however, could match the real cashmere shawls for lightness and warmth, and this preference is clearly marked in contemporary portraiture”



Portrait of a Young Lady in a Red Dress with a Paisley Shawl by Eduard Friedrich


“textiles does not always avoid certain aspects of the mythologizing that surrounds them in Victorian literature, it is invaluable in that it provides a vocabulary for describing something we think we know (a shawl made of cashmere) but possibly do not. First, their preferred term, Kashmir, by delimiting a place of manufacture and not a fabric, suggests that a) what we know as “cashmere” is, or can be, many things, and b) the combination of textile and technique that made the shawls unique was historically and geographically circumscribed and needs to be considered separately from several categories of shawls that are commonly identified as “cashmere.” Briefly, Kashmir shawls are understood to be those woven on hand looms from one of several grades of hair from two or more species of Asian goat.”

The often-repeated truism available to Victorians was that Kashmir shawls were “immutable,” “designed for eternity in the unchanging East; copied from patterns which are the heirloom of a caste, and woven by fatalists, to be worn by adorers of the ancient garment, who resent the idea of the smallest change”

“Cashmere Shawls: Of What Are They Made?,” written in 1865, asserts that the London shawl market had been in a downturn since 1860. As Ruskin’s comments on Indian savagery suggest, the Indian Uprising of 1857, and particularly the way it was presented to the English reading public, while it cannot be held accountable for this downturn, nevertheless produced a wave of anti-Indian sentiment that temporarily cooled the popular taste for all things Indian. Ruskin spells out for us the underside of Orientalism: romanticizing Kashmir shawls may turn into demonizing them within the same conceptual framework.





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