Honourable East India Company

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The East India Company (also known as the East India Trading Company, English East India Company,[1] and, after the Treaty of Union, the British East India Company)[2] was an early English joint-stock company[3] that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China. The oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies, the Company was granted an English Royal Charter, under the name Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, by Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600.[4] After a rival English company challenged its monopoly in the late 17th century, the two companies were merged in 1708 to form the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies, commonly styled the Honourable East India Company,[5] and abbreviated, HEIC;[6] the Company was colloquially referred to as John Company,[7] and in India as Company Bahadur (Hindustani bahādur, "brave"/"authority").[8]

The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, tea, and opium. The Company also came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits. Company rule in India, which effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey, lasted until 1858, when, following the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and under the Government of India Act 1858, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India in the new British Raj. The Company itself was finally dissolved on 1 January 1874, as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act.

The Company long held a privileged position in relation to the English, and later the British, government. As a result, it was frequently granted special rights and privileges, including trade monopolies and exemptions. These caused resentment among its competitors, who saw unfair advantage in the Company's position. Despite this resentment, the Company remained a powerful force for over 200 years.

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