After being weakened for decades, it ceased to exist as a legal entity in A number of things contributed to the end of the East India Company. It acquired control of Bengal on the Indian subcontinent in , and, as the company was an agent of British imperialism, its shareholders were able to influence British policy there.
This eventually led to government intervention. The Regulating Act and the India Act established government control of political policy. It lost that role after the Indian Mutiny The company commonly referred to as the East India Company was incorporated in and ceased to exist as a legal entity in During its existence it was known by a few other names as well: its formal name from to was Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, and from to it was United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies. The company was formed to share in the East Indian spice trade.
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That trade had been a monopoly of Spain and Portugal until the defeat of the Spanish Armada by England gave the English the chance to break the monopoly. Until the company conducted separate voyages, separately subscribed. There were temporary joint stocks until , when a permanent joint stock was raised. The company settled down to a trade in cotton and silk piece goods, indigo , and saltpetre, with spices from South India.
Beginning in the early s, the East India Company began using slave labour and transporting enslaved people to its facilities in Southeast Asia and India as well as to the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean , west of Angola.
Large-scale transportation of slaves by the company was prevalent from the s to the early s and ended in the s. After the midth century the cotton-goods trade declined, while tea became an important import from China. Beginning in the early 19th century, the company financed the tea trade with illegal opium exports to China. Chinese opposition to that trade precipitated the first Opium War —42 , which resulted in a Chinese defeat and the expansion of British trading privileges; a second conflict, often called the Arrow War —60 , brought increased trading rights for Europeans.
The original company faced opposition to its monopoly, which led to the establishment of a rival company and the fusion of the two as the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies. The United Company was organized into a court of 24 directors who worked through committees.
They were elected annually by the Court of Proprietors, or shareholders. That arrangement led to government intervention. Thereafter the company gradually lost both commercial and political control.
Its commercial monopoly was broken in , and from it was merely a managing agency for the British government of India. It was deprived of that role after the Indian Mutiny , and it ceased to exist as a legal entity in East India Company.
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