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Sun, 12.31.1600

The East India Company (EIC) is founded

The East India Company Coat of Arms

*On this date, 1600, the East India Company (EIC) was founded.  This Slave labor business was an English, and later British, joint-stock company.

The East India Company was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with the East Indies and later with East Asia. The company gained control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent and colonized Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the East India Company began using and transporting enslaved people in Asia and the Atlantic's Middle Passage in the early 1620s.

Eventually, the company ended the trade in 1834 after numerous legal threats from the British state and the Royal Navy in the form of the West Africa Squadron, which discovered various ships that contained evidence of the illegal trade. At its peak, the company was the largest corporation in the world by multiple measures. It had its armed forces in the form of the company's three presidential armies, totaling about 260,000 soldiers, twice the size of the British army at the time.

The East India Company's archives also reveal its involvement in the Middle Passage slave trade began in 1684 when Captain Robert Knox bought and transported 250 slaves from Madagascar to St. Helena. Originally chartered as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East-Indies," the company rose to account for half of the world's trade during the mid-1700s and early 1800s, particularly in essential commodities, including cotton, silk, indigo dye, sugar, salt, spices, saltpeter, tea, and later, opium.

The company also initiated the beginnings of the British Empire in India. The company experienced recurring problems with its finances despite frequent government intervention. The official government machinery of the British Raj had assumed its governmental functions and absorbed its armies. The company was dissolved under the terms of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act enacted one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had rendered it vestigial, powerless, and obsolete by then. The East India Company was officially dissolved on June 1, 1874. 

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