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Fitch, Ralph


Fitch, Ralph (1550-1611) traveller and trader. He was the son of a merchant of London. With the object of travelling in the East he came to India in 1583 in a ship called 'the Tiger' with a letter from Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the then Queen of England. Subject matter of the letter was concerning a request for safety of Englishmen's trade and travel. He was arrested in the Iranian port of Hormuz and was taken to Goa under portuguese custody. He was released on bail in 1584 for 2000 dukets (cash money) payed by two Christian Fathers. He Left Goa and reached Akbar's capital Fatehpur Sikri via Burhanpur and stayed there up to 1585. He decided to visit Bengal being advised by his friend Newbury.

Fitch left Agra in 1585, made his journey across the rivers Jamuna and Ganga, passed the cities of Prayag (Allahabad), Benaras and Patna on the way and reached tandaH in February 1586 with 180 boats loaded with commodities. From Tanda he went to Kochbehar. From there he proceeded to hughli or 'Porto Piqueno'. From Hughli he came to isa khan's capital sonargaon via satgaon, Bakerganj and Sripur. He went to Chittagong or 'Porto Grande' from Sonargaon. Then he left for Pegu (Myanmar) via Sandwip. He reached Malacca in 1588, and on his way back, he came to Bengal again. He stayed here from November 1588 to 3 February 1589 due to non-availability of ship. Then he returned to Goa by way of South India. From there he proceeded through Hormuz, Basra, Baghdad, Aleppo, and Tripoli to reach London in 1591.

Ralph Fitch wrote his travel accounts while staying in London. Subsequently this account proved very helpful to the English east india company. In his accounts he gave information about such towns and ports as Tanda, Hughli, Satgaon, Chittagong, Bakerganj, Sripur, Sonargaon as well as the Sundarbans and the course of the Ganga. Ralph Fitch died in 1611. [Golam Kibria Bhuiyan]