East India Company (EIC), originally chartered as the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, and more properly called the Honourable East India Company, was an English, and later (from 1707).
The company rose to account for half of the world’s trade, particularly trade in basic commodities that included cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.
The company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth in 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. The company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its own private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858 when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown to assume direct control of India in the new British Raj.
The East India Company has had a long lasting impact on the Indian Subcontinent. Although dissolved following the rebellion of 1857, it stimulated the growth of the British Empire. Its armies after 1857 were to become the armies of British India and it played a key role in introducing English as an official language in India.
The arrival of tax-exempt Company tea, undercutting the local merchants, triggered the Boston Tea Party in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, one of the major events leading up to the American Revolution.
The East India Company was the first company to record the Chinese usage of orange – flavoured tea which led to the development of Earl Grey tea.
The East India Company introduced a system of merit-based appointments that provided a model for the British and Indian civil service.
At the time of the American Revolution the East India Company flag was identical to the Grand Union Flag. Sir Charles Fawcett argued that the East India Company Flag inspired the Stars and Stripes.
The East India Company’s original coat of arms was granted in 1600.
The East India Club in London was formed in 1849 for officers of the Company. The Club still exists today as a private gentlemen’s club with its club house situated at 16 St. James’s Square, London.
The company was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act passed one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had by then rendered it vestigial, powerless, and obsolete. The official government machinery of British India had assumed its governmental functions and absorbed its presidency armies.