Chapter-3 Europeans Arrive in India (15th Century)

Why Europeans Wanted a Sea Route to India:

  • Trade with India declined after Roman Empire fell (7th century).
  • Ottomans controlled Constantinople (1453), making land routes difficult.
  • Europeans wanted spices, fabrics, and other goods directly from India.

European Advantages:

  • Renaissance spirit of exploration.
  • Advancements in shipbuilding and navigation.
  • Growing economies creating demand for luxury goods.

Portugal Takes the Lead:

  • Prince Henry the Navigator (“the Navigator”) obsessed with finding sea route to India.
  • Wanted to bypass Muslim control of trade routes.
  • Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) divided non-Christian world between Portugal and Spain.
  • Bartholomew Dias rounded Cape of Good Hope in 1487.
  • Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498.


From Portuguese Traders to Rulers in India

Vasco da Gama (1498):

  • Arrived in Calicut seeking spices.
  • Arabs worried about losing trade dominance.
  • Established Portuguese trade posts in Calicut, Cannanore, and Cochin.

Francisco de Almeida (1505):

  • First Portuguese governor in India.
  • Aimed to control trade and build forts.
  • Faced opposition from Zamorin of Calicut and Mameluke Sultan of Egypt.
  • Implemented ‘Blue Water Policy’ to control trade routes.

Afonso de Albuquerque (1509):

  • Consolidated Portuguese power in the East.
  • Established strategic forts across the Indian Ocean.
  • Captured Goa from Sultan of Bijapur (1510).
  • Encouraged Portuguese settlement in India.
  • Introduced new crops and infrastructure projects.

Nino da Cunha

  • Nino da Cunha became governor of Portuguese interests in India in 1529.
  • Moved Portuguese headquarters from Cochin to Goa in 1530.
  • Bahadur Shah of Gujarat ceded Bassein to Portuguese in 1534.
  • Conflict arose when Humayun withdrew from Gujarat in 1536.
  • Portuguese killed Bahadur Shah during negotiations in 1537.
  • Attempted to increase Portuguese influence in Bengal with Hooghly as headquarters.


Rise and Fall of Portuguese Power in India

Favorable Conditions for Portuguese (Early 16th Century):

  • Weak Indian states: North divided, Deccan’s Bahmani kingdom collapsing.
  • No strong navies among Indian powers.
  • Limited reach of Chinese ships.
  • Superior Portuguese naval technology (cannons).

Portuguese Territorial Control:

  • Goa (captured 1510) became the center of Portuguese India.
  • Coastal control from Mumbai to Daman and Diu.
  • Chain of forts and trading posts in the south (Mangalore, Cannanore, Cochin, Calicut).
  • Military outposts on the east coast (San Thome, Nagapatnam).
  • Wealthy settlement in Hooghly (West Bengal).

Portuguese Administration:

  • Viceroy (3-year term) headed the administration.
  • Vedor da Fazenda oversaw revenue and trade.
  • Captains governed forts, assisted by factors.

Portuguese Religious Policy in the East 

  • Portuguese were hostile towards Muslims due to conflicts in North Africa.
  • Initially tolerant towards Hindus but became intolerant over time.
  • Introduction of the Inquisition in Goa led to persecution of Hindus.
  • Jesuits made a positive impression at Akbar’s court due to his interest in theology.
  • Akbar invited Jesuit priests to convert him to Christianity, but his interest waned.
  • Fathers Rodolfo Aquaviva and Antonio Monserrate sent to Akbar’s court in 1579.
  • Second mission in 1590, followed by a third mission in 1595, invited by Akbar.
  • Mission extended influence on secular politics during Akbar’s reign.
  • Prince Salim, later Jahangir, neglected Jesuits upon ascending the throne.
  • Jahangir renewed favor towards Jesuits in 1606.
  • Jesuit priests hoped to convert Jahangir but were unsuccessful.
  • Arrogant actions by Portuguese viceroys led to rift with Jahangir.

Decline of Portuguese Power:

  • Arrogant actions by viceroys strained relations with Mughals.
  • Rise of other European powers (Dutch, British, French) challenged Portuguese dominance.
  • India gained independence in 1947, but Portugal retained Goa, Daman, and Diu until 1961.


The End of Portuguese Influence with the Mughals

  • In 1608, Captain William Hawkins arrived in Surat with a letter from King James I of England to Jahangir.
  • Father Pinheiro and Portuguese authorities tried to prevent Hawkins from reaching Jahangir but failed.
  • Jahangir received Hawkins favorably in 1609 and appointed him as a mansabdar.
  • Hawkins married the daughter of an Armenian Christian named Mubarak Shah.
  • Granting trading facilities to the English offended the Portuguese, leading to negotiations and a truce.
  • Portuguese stopped English ships from entering Surat port, leading Hawkins to leave the Mughal court in 1611.
  • In 1612, English ship Dragon under Captain Best fought and defeated a Portuguese fleet, impressing Jahangir.
  • Portuguese piracy led to conflict with the Mughal government in 1613.
  • Jahangir ordered compensation for Portuguese offenses but lost favor with Shah Jahan.
  • Hopes of converting the Mughal royal family to Christianity faded with Shah Jahan’s reign.


Capture of Hooghly (1632):

  • Portuguese settled near Satgaon in Bengal based on an imperial farman circa 1579.
  • Strengthened their position, leading to trade migration to the new port of Hooghly.
  • Monopolized salt production, enforced duty on tobacco.
  • Engaged in cruel slave trade, seizing Hindu and Muslim children.
  • Seized two slave girls of Mumtaz Mahal, leading to the siege of Hooghly in 1632.
  • Shah Jahan ordered Bengal governor Qasim Khan to take action.
  • Siege resulted in Portuguese fleeing and Mughal loss of 1,000 men.
  • 400 prisoners taken to Agra, given choice to convert to Islam or become slaves.
  • Christian persecution continued for some time before gradually diminishing.

The Downfall of Portuguese Power in India

  • Rise of Rivals:Powerful empires (Mughals, Marathas) weakened Portuguese influence.
  • Religious Friction:Harsh policies and piracy caused resentment from locals and rulers.
  • Shifting Focus:Discovery of Brazil drew Portugal’s attention westward.
  • Union with Spain:Dragged Portugal into wars, hurting Indian trade.
  • Loss of Monopoly:Dutch & English with more resources challenged Portuguese dominance.
  • European Competition:Portuguese possessions fell to stronger European rivals.
  • Decline of Goa:Loss of importance after Vijayanagara empire’s fall.
  • Dutch Domination:Dutch took control of the spice trade.
  • Maratha Attack:Invaded Goa in 1683, further diminishing Portuguese power.


The Portuguese Impact on India


  • Introduced naval power with powerful ships and cannons.
  • Pioneered use of body armor, matchlock guns, and ship-fired cannons (potentially influencing Mughals).
  • Introduced European-style drilled infantry formations (later adopted by Marathas & Sikhs).


  • Advanced shipbuilding techniques (multi-decked, heavy armament).
  • Established royal shipyards, pilot systems, and mapmaking.


  • Missionaries introduced European art forms (painting, sculpture, music).
  • Goa became a center for metalworking (filigree, fretwork, jewelry).
  • Church architecture, though simple in plan, featured woodwork, sculptures, and painted ceilings.


Dutch Arrival and Expansion

  • Cornelis de Houtman reached Sumatra and Bantam in 1596.
  • States General of the Netherlands formed the East India Company in 1602.
  • Company authorized to engage in war, treaties, territory acquisition, and fortification.

Dutch Settlements in India:

  • First factory established in Masulipatnam in 1605.
  • Nagapatam became main stronghold in South India after capture from Portuguese.
  • Factories established along Coromandel coast, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, and Bihar.
  • Other principal factories included Surat, Bimlipatam, Karaikal, Chinsura, Baranagar, Kasimbazar, Balasore, Patna, and Cochin.

Trade and Commerce:

  • Participated in redistributive trade, transporting goods to the Far East.
  • Transported indigo, textiles, silk, saltpetre, opium, and rice from various regions of India.
  • Monopolized trade in black pepper and spices.
  • Traded Indian commodities like silk, cotton, indigo, rice, and opium.

Anglo-Dutch Rivalry:

  • Rising English prominence in Eastern trade posed challenge to Dutch.
  • Rivalry turned into warfare, climaxing at Amboyna massacre in 1623.
  • Compromise in 1667 saw British withdrawal from Indonesia and Dutch retreat from India.

Decline of Dutch Presence:

  • Drawn into trade of Malay Archipelago.
  • Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74) resulted in defeat in battle of Hooghly (1759).
  • Dutch focused on trade in Spice Islands, losing interest in Indian empire building.


Dutch East India Company (VOC):

  • The VOC was established in 1602 by the States General of the Netherlands.
  • The VOC was the first publicly traded joint-stock company in the world.
  • The VOC was granted a 21-year monopoly on Dutch trade with Asia.
  • The VOC was the most important colonial force in Asia for almost 200 years.
  • The VOC was successful because it:
  • Was granted a monopoly on trade by the Dutch government
  • Successfully outcompeted European rivals
  • Used an innovative new business model: the joint-stock company
  • The VOC had a significant advantage over its European rivals because of the Brouwer route, which shortened the voyage to Java by months.
  • The VOC issued shares that sometimes paid as much as 40% dividends.
  • The VOC returned profits between 1635 and 1690, which fueled the Dutch economy during its “golden age”.
  • The VOC undertook the world’s first recorded Initial Public Offering in the year 1602 and so established the world’s first Stock Exchange.
  • The VOC completely controlled all supplies in and out of every continent.
  • In 1619 the company renamed Jacatra Batavia (now Jakarta) and used it as a base to conquer Java and the outer islands.


The English East India Company in India

Early Establishment (1600-1660s):

  • Founded in 1600, received royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Faced competition from Portuguese and Dutch.
  • Established factories at Masulipatnam (1611) and Surat (1613) with Mughal permission.
  • Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy (1615-1619) secured trading privileges.
  • Marriage of Charles II to Portuguese princess brought Bombay to English (1662).
  • Anglo-Dutch compromise (1667) removed Dutch competition in India.

Expansion in South India (1630s-1690s):

  • “Golden Farman” (1632) from Golconda Sultan allowed free trade in their ports.
  • Madras (Fort St. George) founded in 1639, became regional headquarters.
  • Factories established in Bengal (Hooghly, 1651) and Odisha (Balasore, 1633).

Struggle for Foothold in Bengal (1650s-1690s):

  • Faced harassment from Mughal customs officials despite farmans.
  • Desired a fortified settlement in Bengal (Hooghly).
  • Conflict with Mughals led to sack of Hooghly (1686).
  • English retaliated but ultimately forced to leave.

Calcutta Founded (1690-1700):

  • Job Charnock negotiated return to Bengal with Mughals.
  • Established factory at Sutanuti (1690) with Mughal permission.
  • Rebellion by a zamindar provided justification for fortification (1696).
  • Acquired zamindari rights of Sutanuti, Gobindapur, and Kalikata (1698).
  • Settlement named Fort William (1700), becoming the Eastern Presidency (Calcutta).


Farrukhsiyar’s Farmans & English East India Company

1715 Farmans:

  • English received valuable privileges in Bengal, Gujarat, and Hyderabad.
  • Considered the “Magna Carta” of the Company.
  • Key Points:
    • Bengal: Duty-free trade (except annual fee), right to issue movement passes, rent more land.
    • Hyderabad: Existing duty-free trade continued.
    • Surat: Duty-free trade for annual fee.
    • Company coins minted in Bombay became legal tender throughout Mughal Empire.

Establishment of Dominance:

  • English used diplomacy to gain concessions, but later defeated French for complete control.

Merger of Rival Companies:

  • Whigs opposed East India Company’s monopoly after the English Revolution (1688).
  • A rival company emerged but failed.
  • Both companies merged in 1708 as the “United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies.”
  • This company (1708-1873) laid the foundation for British political power in India.


East India Company: Formative Years (1600-1717)

  • 1600:Founded in England.
  • 1609-1613:Mughal permission secured for trade in Surat (factory established in 1613).
  • 1615-1618:Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy secures farmans for free trade with reduced tolls.
  • 1616:First factory in South India established at Masulipatnam.
  • 1632:“Golden Farman” from Golconda Sultan grants trading privileges.
  • 1633:First factory in East India established at Hariharpur (Odisha).
  • 1639:Madras leased from a local king.
  • 1651:Permission to trade in Hooghly (Bengal) granted.
  • 1662:Bombay acquired by British Crown as dowry.
  • 1667:Mughal farman allows English trade in Bengal.
  • 1691:Imperial order permits continued trade in Bengal for annual fee.
  • 1717:Farrukhsiyar’s farman (“Magna Carta”) grants extensive trade concessions.


Anglo-French Rivalry

Background of Anglo-French Rivalry:

  • Both nations aimed for political power in India, stemming from their European rivalry.
  • Carnatic Wars emerged as a decisive conflict determining Indian supremacy.

First Carnatic War (1740-1748):

  • Triggered by European Anglo-French War due to Austrian War of Succession.
  • English navy provoked France by seizing French ships, leading to French capture of Madras in 1746.
  • War ended with Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, returning Madras to English and French territories in North America.

Immediate Cause:

  • English navy under Barnet seized French ships, leading to French retaliation.
  • France captured Madras in 1746 with help from Admiral La Bourdonnais from Mauritius.

Result and Significance:

  • Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle concluded the war, restoring Madras to English and French territories in North America.
  • Battle of St. Thome highlighted the effectiveness of disciplined small European armies against larger Indian forces.
  • Naval strength became crucial in Anglo-French conflict in the Deccan region.

Political Context:

  • Uncertain political situation in South India with declining power of Nizam Asaf Jah of Hyderabad and fragmented smaller states.
  • Maratha kingdom of Tanjore posed interference threat in the region.

First Carnatic War (1740-1748):

  • Caused by: Austrian War of Succession in Europe.
  • Trigger: British naval attack on French ships.
  • French captured Madras (1746) with Indian support.
  • Ended: Treaty of Aix-La Chapelle (1748) – Madras returned to British.


  • Highlighted European military superiority over Indian forces (Battle of St. Thome).
  • Importance of naval power in the conflict.


Second Carnatic War (1749-1754)


  • Dupleix aimed to increase French power in southern India by meddling in local disputes.
  • Death of Nizam-ul-Mulk and release of Chanda Sahib by Marathas led to power struggle.

Immediate Cause:

  • Dispute over Hyderabad throne between Nasir Jang and Muzaffar Jang.
  • Appointment of Anwar-ud-din Khan as Nawab opposed by Chanda Sahib.
  • French supported Muzaffar Jang and Chanda Sahib, English sided with Nasir Jang and Anwar-ud-din.

Course of the War:

  • Combined forces of Muzaffar Jang, Chanda Sahib, and French defeated Anwar ud-din at Battle of Ambur in 1749.
  • Muzaffar Jang became subahdar of Deccan, Dupleix appointed governor of Mughal territories.
  • French army under Bussy secured French interests at Hyderabad.
  • Territories near Pondicherry and some areas on Orissa Coast ceded to the French.

Robert Clive’s Strategy:

  • Proposed attack on Arcot to relieve pressure on Trichinopoly.
  • Successfully captured Arcot with 210 men in August 1751.
  • Chanda Sahib’s siege on Arcot lasted 53 days, ultimately failing.
  • Mysore, Tanjore, and Maratha chief Morari Rao aided Clive and Stringer Lawrence.


  • French recalled Dupleix in 1754 due to heavy financial losses.
  • Godeheu succeeded Dupleix, adopted negotiation policy with English.
  • Treaty concluded, parties agreed not to interfere in native princes’ quarrels.


  • European success no longer dependent on Indian authority.
  • Muhammad Ali and Salabat Jang became clients rather than patrons of European powers.


Third Carnatic War (1758-1763)


  • Started as part of the Seven Years War (1756-1763) in Europe.
  • Britain and France were on opposing sides once again.

Course of War in India:

  • French under Count de Lally captured English forts at St. David and Vizianagaram in 1758.
  • English retaliated, defeating French fleet under Admiral D’Ache at Masulipatnam.

Battle of Wandiwash:

  • Decisive battle on January 22, 1760, in Tamil Nadu.
  • General Eyre Coote led English forces to victory, routing French army under Count Thomas Arthur de Lally.
  • Pondicherry defended gallantly by Lally before surrendering in January 1761.

Result and Significance:

  • Third Carnatic War proved decisive, marking the end of French political influence in India.
  • Treaty of Peace of Paris (1763) restored French factories in India but diminished their power.
  • English emerged as supreme European power in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Battle of Plassey (1757) often seen as crucial, but Wandiwash also significant in solidifying British rule.
  • Victory at Wandiwash left English East India Company without European rivals, paving the way for their dominance.

Native Involvement:

  • Sepoys served in both armies during the Battle of Wandiwash, highlighting native involvement in European conflicts.
  • Lack of geopolitical awareness among native rulers contributed to inevitability of European invasion and rule in India.


Rise and Fall of Dupleix in India

Joseph Francois Dupleix (1697-1763)

Early Career:

  • Son of a wealthy French official.
  • Gained high position in Pondicherry (1720), allegedly due to influence.
  • Engaged in private trade (then permitted).
  • Suspended in 1726 due to company restructuring, reinstated in 1730.
  • Appointed Governor-General of French colonies in India (1741).
  • Awarded titles by Mughal emperor and Subahdar of Deccan.

Dupleix as Administrator:

  • Became Governor-General of Pondicherry in 1741.
  • Faced challenges: Maratha invasion, famine, and economic woes.
  • Reduced public spending (against council’s wishes) and balanced budget.
  • Fortified Pondicherry despite company’s cost-cutting orders.
  • Developed Pondicherry’s trade, making it a commercial hub.

Dupleix as Diplomat:

  • Pioneered European intervention in Indian politics.
  • Used Nawabs of Carnatic to protect French settlements.
  • Secured promises of territory from Nawabs in exchange for military support.
  • Persuaded French Admiral La Bourdonnais to break agreements with English.
  • Supported specific candidates in Indian succession disputes (Muzaffar Jang, Chanda Sahib).
  • Considered the originator of the “subsidiary alliance” system in India.

Reasons for Recall:

  • Recalled in 1754 due to initial French defeats and high financial costs.
  • Historians debate the recall’s justification, suggesting a potential compromise with England.

Weaknesses of Dupleix:

  • Overly optimistic, sometimes missing critical moments.
  • Autocratic style caused friction with colleagues.
  • Focused on planning and leadership, not battlefield command.
  • French failures (e.g., Trichinopoly) linked to ineffective execution of Dupleix’s strategies.


English Success vs. French Failure in India

English Advantages:

  • Private company: faster decisions, more enthusiasm.
  • Superior navy: control of sea routes.
  • More settlements in India (Calcutta, Bombay, Madras).
  • Balanced focus on trade and territory (secure finances).
  • Strong leadership (Clive, Coote, Lawrence).

French Disadvantages:

  • State-controlled company: slow decisions, less motivation.
  • Weaker navy: vulnerable supply lines.
  • Fewer settlements (Pondicherry only).
  • Prioritized territory over trade (financial strain).
  • Limited leadership (Dupleix only).


The Danes in India

Establishment of Danish East India Company:

  • Founded in 1616.
  • Established a factory at Tranquebar in 1620.

Principal Settlement:  Serampore near Calcutta.

Commercial Significance: Danish factories were not significant in trade.

End of Danish Presence: Danish factories sold to British government in 1845.

Missionary Activities:

  • Danes known more for missionary work than commerce.
  • Contributed significantly to Christian missions in India.


Why England Became the Dominant European Power in India

Structure of Trading Companies:

  • English East India Company:
      • Board of directors elected annually.
      • Shareholders influenced decisions.
  • French and Portuguese companies:
      • State-controlled, less flexible.
      • Less shareholder interest.

Naval Superiority:

  • Strong Royal Navy with advanced technology.
  • Victories against Spanish Armada and French cemented dominance.
  • Enabled troop movement and trade protection in India.

Industrial Revolution:

  • Early industrialization in England (18th century).
  • Increased production in textiles, metalworking, and agriculture.
  • Maintained technological advantage over other European nations.

Military Strength:

  • Disciplined and well-trained British soldiers.
  • Skilled commanders and innovative tactics.
  • Technological advancements in weaponry.

Stable Government:

  • Relatively stable government in Britain compared to other European powers.
  • France’s revolution and Napoleonic Wars weakened their position.
  • Other nations like Italy and Netherlands faced internal conflicts.

Religious Tolerance:

  • Less emphasis on spreading Christianity compared to Spain, Portugal, and Dutch.
  • Made British rule more acceptable to Indian subjects.

Financial Innovation:

  • Use of debt markets to fund wars and expansion.
  • Bank of England sold government debt in exchange for funding.
  • Enabled higher military spending than rivals like France.


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