British East India Company

Also called the East India Company, Queen Elizabeth I established the British East India Company in 1600. It was owned by a collection of wealthy merchants, and was set up primarily to trade with the East Indies, although it ended up mainly trading with India. It became one of the most powerful trading companies in the world, eventually ruling large parts of India and developing its own standing army to maintain power there. This was referred to as “Company rule,” beginning in 1757 and lasting a little over 100 years until 1858, when a violent and bloody rebellion caused the British Crown to take direct control of India under the British Raj.

Text by Kat Lonsdorf. Image of East India House, London, painted by Thomas Malton in c.1800.