It is commonly known that the British came to India in search of trade, especially in spices, and for markets for British goods, but ended up ruling the country for half of the 347 years they stayed here. On the last day of the year 1600 they formed the East India Company. By 1765, they were given the authority to collect revenue on behalf of the Mughal Emperor and gradually they annexed several parts of India which they administered.
The British had no intention of ruling the country when their ships first landed in Surat during the rule of Jahangir. Queen Elizabeth’s Charter of 1600 gave the British East India Company monopoly of trade with the east for 15 years. Had they not been driven away by the Dutch from Indonesia, and had Mughal rule in India not started to decline rapidly, when the British came here, the nature and duration of Britain’s stay in India might have been different.
The relations of the British East India Company with the Mughals and native rulers eventually determined the shape of events to come. The British were also competing with others during the phase of colonial expansion. In India, the competition was between Britain and France. The East India Company wanted to consolidate its power in India and get hold of the three important towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. It succeeded in converting these into ‘presidencies’, each governed by a president and a council. The Supreme government operated from Fort William in Calcutta. The Company had soldiers to guard its forts and it held more power than the Indian princes.