The East India Company: Trade and Domestic Financial Statistics, 1755-1838
Author: H V Bowen

Publisher University of Leicester, School of Historical Studies

Date 2007


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The dataset was created as part of an ESRC-sponsored study, 'British economic, social, and cultural interactions with Asia, 1760-1833' (RES-000-27-0108). It contains statistics relating to the trade and domestic finances of the English East India Company between 1755 and 1834, the year in which the Company ceased to function as a commercial organization. Until 1813 the Company held a monopoly of all British trade east of the Cape of Good Hope, but under the terms of the Charter Act of that year the Company lost its exclusive right to trade with India, and twenty years later it surrendered its remaining commercial privileges, including most notably its monopoly of British trade with China. Until now quantitative data derived from original sources has only been available in time series for the Company's trade and some aspects of its domestic finances for the years before 1760 (Chaudhuri, 1978; Dickson, 1967). But many of the details, patterns, and trends of trade and finance in the decades after 1760, a most important period when the Company fully embarked on the interlinked processes of military, political, and commercial expansion in Asia, have remained unclear. In creating this dataset, the aim was thus two-fold: i) to establish for the first time a set of statistics detailing the changing value, volume, and geographical structure of the East India Company's overseas trade for the period when the Company began to exert imperial control over large parts of the Indian subcontinent; and ii) to generate select statistics relating to the Company's domestic finances, thereby enabling analysis to be undertaken of a range of Company interactions with Britain's economy and society. The information found in the dataset was collected from the surviving commercial and financial ledgers of the East India Company, now housed in the India Office Records section of the British Library. Most of the collection took place between October 2004 and January 2007; and discussion and analysis of some of the domestic financial data was published in H.V. Bowen, The business of empire: the East India Company and imperial Britain, 1756-1833 (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Further studies based upon the trade data are currently being undertaken and will be published in due course.

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