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English, The


English, The are a nation and ethnic group native to England who speaks English. The largest single English population lives in England, the largest constituent country of the United Kingdom. They came to Bengal in the mid-seventeenth century. The English east india company, founded by a Royal charter of 31 December 1600, had in its initial stage contacts with the western and eastern coast of south India. They reached the orissa coast and started factories at Hariharpur and Balasore in 1633. A farman of Emperor shahjahan (1650) had exempted them from the payment of transit tax (rahdari). By the beginning of 1651, the English were able to establish a factory at Hughli, perhaps due to the able support given by Doctor Gabriel Boughton, and then in high favour with the Subahdar shah shuja, who by a nixan (nishan) of 1651 permitted them to trade freely. The nishan allowed free trade in lieu of an annual payment of Rs. 3000/-. Shah Shuja confirmed it in 1656 and mir jumla reiterated the confirmation in 1660 and by shaista khan in 1672. Prince Muhammad Azam (azim-us-shan) later confirmed it although there was no imperial farman to that effect. Behind such a facade of concessions and confirmations lay an acute tussle between the officials of the company and the succeeding Subahdars.

Meanwhile the English had begun to penetrate into the interior of Bengal. James Hart appeared to have been in Dhaka in 1658, perhaps as an agent of the company. At that time the company did not establish any factory in Dhaka. It appears that a factory was established in Dhaka in early 1669 and it was enlarged under Harvey in the late seventies and early eighties of the century. The factory was initially located at Tejgaon, from where it was shifted to the city in 1735.

Trouble between the English and the Mughals continued throughout the seventeenth century on the issue of payment of customs duties from which the English were asking for exemption on the basis of the farman. At home also, the company met with difficulties as their monopoly privilege was being severely criticised. By the end of the seventeenth century, the English company's operations had moved from the western to the eastern coast, and Bengal became their most important field. By the early eighteenth century, the area of operations of the company included the Arab world, Persian and Mughal empires, Southeast Asian kingdoms and the Chinese Empire. Despite a boom, the profits were carted away by the private trade of the company merchants and the wrangling with the customs officials, for which a large sum of money had to be spent. The Bengal factory was separated from Madras and efforts were made to suppress private trade. The Mughal officials, it may be mentioned, did not seriously impede the trade of the company in Bengal. The court of directors finally resolved to start a war against the Mughals. In early 1686, job charnock, Factor at kasimbazar, fled to Hughli where he found the horsemen of shaista khan seizing the factory and imprisoning some English soldiers. Charnock fled to Sutanuttee, a village 26 miles down the Bhagirathi.

Charnock sent his demands through the merchant Baramal to the Nawab, and these included permission for the construction of a fort, establishment of a mint and customs-free trade. While negotiations were going on, a new fleet under Captain Heath arrived. Heath and Charnock attacked Balasore and sailed to chittagong to seize the port, in alliance with the king of Arakan. But the latter thought it prudent not to incur the wrath of the Mughals and the English design fell through. On 16 August 1687, Shaista Khan had asked the English to come to Hughli. Charnock came back to Sutanuttee and withdrew for the second time on 8 November 1688. By the end of 1689, the Mughal emperor changed his stand towards the English as they had submitted in western India. On 23 April 1690, he ordered the new Nawab ibrahim khan that the repentant English company should be allowed to return to 'trade as formerly'. In February 1691, Ibrahim Khan, on the basis of the order of the emperor, sent a parwana to the English granting exemption from customs duties in lieu of an annual payment of Rs. 3000/-. Heath and Charnock, having failed to take Chittagong, came back to Sutanuttee in August 1690, to find their earlier structures destroyed. Even then Charnock decided to stay there disobeying the order of Madras to go to Hughli. The Subahdar had already offered them a place, perhaps Uluberia, two miles below Hughli. Charnock died on 10 January 1693.

Taking advantage of the outbreak of the revolt of shobha singh and rahim khan, the Europeans had begun to fortify their factories. The English offered shelter to some affluent people in their fortified enclave, which later became the nucleus of fort william. After the rebels were driven away from the area at the end of 1697, the English wanted to take three villages of Khalisah territory, viz. Sutanutty, Govindpur and Dihi Calcutta on rent. The zamindars at first refused but were at last persuaded to acquiesce by the Subahdar Prince Azimuddin. The bainama or Deed of Purchase was signed on 9 November 1698 on payment of Sicca Rs. 1300/- and the annual revenue of these three villages was fixed at Rs.1195-6 annas.

Untill this date, the English had been usurpers of land at Sutanuttee, but this deed legalised their position. The compensation paid by the English to the zamindars, as mentioned in the farman of 1717, shows that it was not a traditional procedure. Yet it was a taluqdari right (not a zamindari right) and the English as such were subject to the laws of the land for which often, as in 1699, there was talk of sending a qazi. Earlier, as usurpers, the English had collected rents from shops settled there since 1694.

From the beginning London had been urging Sutanuttee to raise revenue for their maintenance as well as for payment to the shareholders. While jama had remained stationary from 1698 to 1714, the revenue had increased to Rs. 5760/- by 1704. By 1710, it had increased to Rs. 16,500/-. Between 1710 and 1720, the land revenue had increased to nearly 230%, and was collected by collectors appointed for the purpose. The company imposed a tax of Rs. 3/- per bigha irrespective of the crop, a practice different from that of the Mughals who taxed the crop only. The company also imposed taxes on every article bought or sold, including the sale of slaves at Rs. 4 - 4 per slave. There was a 5% tax on houses and all the professional people and craftsmen including the Brahmins, had to pay tax. From the 1720's, these taxes were given ijara while Jiziya or poll tax was levied, which was however different from the Mughal tax.

The export of the English from Bengal mainly consisted of saltpetre, textile, raw silk, cotton yarn, as well as bulk goods like sugar that also served as ballast. While in 1652, the investment was around 7000 livres, in the early eighteenth century; it had gone up to the value of 336,973 livres, reflecting the increasing demand for cheap Bengal goods in Europe. The imports of the company consisted mainly of bullion and spices, woollens, broadcloth etc, of which the first two formed the most important items. Kasimbazar was the most important market for imported goods followed by Malda, Dhaka and Hughli.

In January 1715, the company received a hasb-ul hukum of the emperor permitting them to trade freely, as in aurangzeb's time. The company now sought a farman and sent an embassy to Delhi under John Surman, which received the farman on I February 1717, in which all the earlier privileges were maintained. The company was allowed to purchase 38 villages and was given 40 bighas of land to set up a factory. The Subahdar, Murshid Quli Khan did not allow them the right of using the mint freely as the farman was silent on the issue. He also obstructed the purchase of new villages. Only in 1754 could Holwell get the adjacent spot of land, called Similia, on an annual rent of Rs. 2,281. It was only in December 1758, after the battle of Palashi, that mir jafar granted to the company a Sanad for the free tenure of the town of Calcutta.

In the treaty of 9 February 1757 between the English and sirajuddaula, the latter did not include any clause against the English nor would he allow the free use of the mint or the use of the villages mentioned in the farman. By the treaty of 3rd June 1757 with Mir Jafar, the English got all these with the extension of their zamindari up to Kulpi. This time the zamindars did not get any compensation. The company was given new land in 24 Parganas as zamindari by a Sanad at Rs. 2,22,958-10-2-3, whose value, according to Clive, would be more than ten lakh rupees. On 23 rd June 1765, Mir Jafar bestowed 24 Parganas as jaigir to Clive, and later confirmed it by a farman, for ten years.

After the battle of Palashi, Mir Jafar offered to the English a compensation of Rs. 1,77,00,000/- and promised a donation of Rs. 53,90,000/- for which he had to mortgage his jewels. By the treaty of 1760, Mir Qasim gave the revenues of Burdwan, Midnapur and Chittagong to the English. The Court of Directors however was displeased with the new acquisitions. Clive, as Governor, entered into an agreement with the Nawab on 19 August 1765, by which the Nawab would pay the emperor a sum of Rs. 2,16,666-10-9, in return for which the emperor Shah Alam appointed the English company the Dewan of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, with an exemption from the payment of customs duties. On 30 October 1765, Clive entered into another agreement with Nawab nazmuddaula, who agreed to accept Rs. 53,86,131-9 as allowance for the Nizamat. An official nominated by the English would control the expenditure.

The situation of the English company in 1765 was supreme. Calcutta was held in free tenure and in the adjacent 24 Parganas, the company acted as the zamindar. In the ceded districts, the company directly managed the revenue and administered the functions of the government excepting Faujdari cases. The company was the Dewan in rest of Bengal. The English Resident at the Darbar decided every matter of importance. As the dewan, the company administered land revenue, collected customs and controlled financial expenditure. The commercial supremacy of the English company in Bengal was beyond any question.

The Court of Directors approved the new deals on 17 May 1766 and the English had become paramount in Bengal. After Palashi, the investment increased tremendously, thanks to the generous donation of Mir Jafar of 1 crore and 30 lakh rupees. Besides, the ceded districts yielded an income of 50 lakh rupees a year, which, with the income of the zamindari of Calcutta and 24 Parganas, gave the English sufficient amount of money. Gradually, the import of bullion was stopped and Bengal became a source of raw material as well as market of the finished products of England.

The social life of the English in Bengal, particularly in Calcutta, has been well documented. Coming from predominantly middle class families of England, their social life in Bengal began to change after 1765. Pillared bungalows in a hybrid Anglo- Mughal style, in which the living rooms began to dominate, gradually replaced the dark and makeshift lodgings in the fort. Till the end of the eighteenth century, there was the problem of finding marriageable European women for nearly two thousand civilian and military men. This resulted in their taking concubines and mistresses of Indian origin. Many of the Englishmen in the second half of the eighteenth century had children by their Indian mistresses, most of whom were Muslims or low-caste Hindus. The Court of Directors however refused to provide these natural sons of the Englishmen employment in the company's services, obviously a discriminatory racial policy pursued from the days of the Portuguese. Such Anglo-Indians were not considered British subjects even in the early nineteenth century, although they were allowed to go to England. [Aniruddha Ray]