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English East India Company VEIC quarter pice, 1816-1826

Date: 1816-1826
Overall: 4 x 15 mm
Medium: Copper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Coins and medals
Object Name: Coin
Object No: 00026045
Place Manufactured:England

User Terms

    These coins bearing insignia of the English East India Company were in general circulation in India and other parts of Asia during the 19th century.
    SignificanceThese coins are significant for their association with the East India Company, the major British influence in Asia from the time of its formation in 1600 until its collapse in 1857. East India Company influence extended to the Australian colonies and was an important factor in the early colonial period.
    HistoryIn AD 1600, the East India Company was founded and set up trading settlements on the coast of India. At first they used silver coins from the New World, but these were not accepted elsewhere in India, so an agreement was reached for the Company to send its bullion to the Mughal mint in Surat. By 1672 the Company had established a mint in Bombay to produce copper and tin coins to serve its local needs and in 1717 they started minting silver rupees of Indian style in the name of the emperor. These became the principal currency for West Indian trade. A mint was also established in Madras, where they produced copper coins, silver rupees and their most distinctive coinage, gold pagodas. Towards the end of the 18th century, European machine-presses were introduced in the Company’s mints, distinguishing their products from the Indian coinages which continued to use traditional hand-striking.

    Gradually Britain’s interest in India turned from trade to involvement in local politics and, by 1834, East India Company's influence extended over most of India. From 1835, the Company issued a uniform coinage for all its Indian possessions. This new coinage was minted on the English pattern, with the head of the ruler of England in place of the name of the Mughal emperor and the inscription 'EAST INDIA COMPANY' on the reverse. In 1858, after the Indian revolt, the East India Company was disbanded and administration of India was transferred to the British government. As a result, the coinage no longer carried the name of the East India Company, but the British monarch. After 1877, when Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India, new coins were minted bearing the legend 'VICTORIA EMPRESS'.

    The gradual domination of India by Britain's East India Company throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and the collapse of Mughal power resulted in the use of a variety of coin standards. Through The Coinage Act of 1835, the East India Company introduced a single standard. This consisted of copper coins (Quarter and Half Annas); silver coins (Quarter, Half and One Rupee); and gold Mohurs (One and Two Rupees). In 1835 the construction of the new Mint at Calcutta meant that all of British India could be supplied with a uniform coinage of British design.The British monarch's head remained on the rupee until Indian independence in 1947.

    The East India Company was formed on 31 December 1600, when a group of merchants who had incorporated themselves into the East India Company were given monopoly privileges on all trade with the East Indies. The Company's ships first arrived in India, at the port of Surat, in 1608. Sir Thomas Roe reached the court of the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, as the emissary of King James I in 1615, and gained for the British the right to establish a factory at Surat. Gradually the British eclipsed the Portugese and over the years they saw a massive expansion of their trading operations in India. Numerous trading posts were established along the east and west coasts of India, and considerable English communities developed around the three presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. In 1717, the Company achieved its hitherto most notable success when it received a firman or royal dictate from the Mughal Emperor exempting the Company from the payment of custom duties in Bengal.

    The Company saw the rise of its fortunes, and its transformation from a trading venture to a ruling enterprise, when one of its military officials, Robert Clive, defeated the forces of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah, at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. A few years later the Company acquired the right to collect revenues on behalf of the Mughal Emperor.

    However, despite this increase in revenues, the Company found itself burdened with massive military expenditures, and its collapse seemed imminent. State intervention put the ailing Company back on its feet, and Lord North's India Bill, also known as the Regulating Act of 1773, provided for greater parliamentary control over the affairs of the Company, besides placing India under the rule of a Governor-General.

    The first Governor-General of India was Warren Hastings. Under his dispensation, the expansion of British rule in India was pursued vigorously, and the British sought to master indigenous systems of knowledge. Hastings remained in India until 1784 and was succeeded by Cornwallis, who initiated the Permanent Settlement, whereby an agreement in perpetuity was reached with zamindars or landlords for the collection of revenue. For the next fifty years, the British were engaged in attempts to eliminate Indian rivals, and it was under the administration of Wellesley that British territorial expansion was achieved with ruthless efficiency. Major victories were achieved against Tipu Sultan of Mysore and the Marathas, and finally the subjugation and conquest of the Sikhs in a series of Anglo- Sikh Wars led to British occupation over all India. In some places, the British practiced indirect rule, placing a Resident at the court of the native ruler who was allowed sovereignty in domestic matters. Lord Dalhousie's notorious doctrine of lapse, whereby a native state became part of British India if there was no male heir at the death of the ruler, was one of the principal means by which native states were annexed.

    The annexation of native states, harsh revenue policies, and the plight of the Indian peasantry all contributed to the Rebellion of 1857-58, referred to previously as the Sepoy Mutiny. In 1858 the East India Company was dissolved, and the administration of India became the responsibility of the British Government.

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