European Trade Establishments in Andhra Pradesh

European Trade Establishments in Andhra Pradesh

The fall of Constantinople at the hands of Turks and the blockade of sea route to India encouraged European adventures to embark upon exploits on water in threading their way to Indian . The excitement, India continued to create among European merchants and nations further added strength to geographical discoveries.

Vasco da Gama, one of the Portuguese navigators, braved the storms on seas on his ship, San Gabriel, round the cape of Good Hope and cast anchor off on 17th May 1498 AD. in a village called Kappad near the port of Calicut, under the Hindu ruler, whose hereditary title was Zamorin gave friendly reception to these strangers and invited Gama for trading activities in his kingdom.

Soon these foreign companies entered the trade in textile sector and also a number of other commodities. Therefore, there was a significant change in the exports from India since establishment of European trading companies in the beginning of seventeenth century. In this connection, the Andhra coast from Nizampatnam to Nellore and beyond soon became a target of the contending European powers and played a very important role in the life of the companies. Although the centuries trade became an object of special concern particularly in the seventeenth century A.D.

The coast line between Nizampatnam to Nellore and its surrounding area was a rich and fertile coast which had been always an attraction for traders. Natural creeks on the coast helped the development of several other important port-towns like Ganjam, Bimilipatnam, Visakhapatnam, Nizampatnam which served as important entrepots and foreigners for over centuries.

Pepper and other spices were earned on from Andhra coast to the West, and contemporary accounts had full praise for trade in Andhra spices. Andhra had been in the habit of the manufacture of fine cloth from the earliest ages and textile industry had been an inseparable part of her economy Fine cotton fabrics of this region excited the admiration of the foreign travellers from the early period.

By the mid seventeenth century three European Companies viz., the Dutch, the English and the French had acquired and consolidated their settlements on the coast of Andhra. Every company had its own capital on the Andhra coast. The most deeply penetrated among them were the Dutch. They had founded a castle with all the necessary fortifications in 1613 at Pulicat.

The English and the Dutch had spread out into a number of factories or trade settlements in ports all along the coast line around Nizampatnam to Nellore. Though not in any effective manner, the Portuguese continued their tottering presence on this coast at Nagapatnam and San thome along with a civilian settlement at Porto Novo. The Portuguese land power had been chiefly confined to the Malabar coast and Ceylon although they possessed out lying factories in the Mughal empire and on the Coromandel coast.

The main interest of the Dutch during the initial stages was more diverted towards the Indonesian Islands of Java, Sumatra and the spice islands. They concentrated on this region and consolidated their trading enterprise. Only after gaining control over the most important and profitable part of Asian trade, they began trying for Indian trade. Once set their foot on Indian shores, they had gone in for the establishment of their factories at Surat, Masulipatnam, Bimilipatnam, Narsapur and Nagapatnam. Needless to say, of these five factories, three were on the Coastal Andhra region in the immediate Neighbourhood of Nizampatnam to Nellore.

In the process of consolidation the Dutch never lost an opportunity in forging beneficial and favourable alliances with the power groups in Andhra region. This was more essential for foreign trading companies who entertained a long term perspective of coastal trade on the Andhra coast of Coromandel region. While such relations were to give them a free space for commercial activities, then, at the same time, facilitated their easy penetration into rural production centers which provided the solid strength to the trading activities in nearby ports. These considerations weighed with the options of the Dutch in spreading their wings of commercial enterprise.


The next company of importance on the coast of Andhra was the English East India Company. Like other European countries, England was also interested in Andhra coastal trade. The Company’s first commercial settlements were factories, warehouses, and residences for its local represented. Most of these establishments were near the sea or a river Surat, Masulipatnam, Madras and Calicut. The decay of the Mughal authority in India forced the English East India Company to consider exercising control over the lands which produced staple cotton piece goods.


The English East India Company soon realised that the British woolens were not in demand in South East Asia while, at the same time, there was an ample demand for Indian textiles, particularly those from the coastal Andhra region. In 1611 the globe under Captain Hippon saled up the eastern coast, touching at several ports, where he found the Dutch already established. The ship reached the Masulipatnam shores in the month of January in the year 1611. On their arrival, the English traders opened negotiations with Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the Sultan of Golkonda kingdom. Their main request was regarding a permission to establish trade on the coast of Andhra. The Company was, consequently, permitted by the Sultan to establish their factory at Masulipatnam, Nagapatnam and Pulicat.

English had to face the rivalry of the Dutch in spice trade. It was, now, implied for the English East India Company to arise effective defense structures to check the power of the Dutch . Accordingly, Thomas Dale planned a naval attack on the Dutch fleet from Masulipatnam in 1619 A.D. The period coincide with the reign of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. In the battle, the English were easily overpowered by the Dutch and the English fleet of six ships was destroyed.

Owing to the difficulties thrown open by the Dutch rivalry, the English realised, for the time being, that settlements beyond Nizampattanam coast was not safe heavens for their commercial activities. The local officials under the rule of Golkonda Sultan too oppressed them. The English appealed to the Sultan for the redressal of their grievances but in vain. Now, they decided to beat a hasty retreat from Masulipatnam and establish a new factory at Armagoan in 1626 in the district of Nellore.

However, the factory established at Masulipatnam was the foundation of the English trade in the East India. Under these circumstances, Francis Day visited Pondicherry and its surrounding places to select a suitable site for the establishment of an English factory. Damerla Venkatadri, the then Rajah of Chandragiri in the North Arcot region made an offer to Francis Day to establish a settlement at Madraspatnam, subject to the administrative jurisdiction of Chandragiri kingdom.

The English agreed to pay a yearly rent of twelve hundred pagodas, or nearly six hundred pounds sterling, for this piece of land. They built a wall round the island. Venkatadri and his brother had well ground intentions in extending an invitation to the English. The region was rich in textile production. Any permission to a foreign trading company to trade in textiles of Chandragiri region would be highly complementary to the economy of the region. These highly calculated economic motives made Venkatadri extend a cordial invitation to the English.

From 1654-55 the English had to face difficulties with Mir Jumla, the powerful, vassal of Abdulla Qutb Shah. He had vast interests in overseas trade. His strong army obstructed the trade of the English which led to the tension between Mir Jumla and the British. Reasons for clearly known the Dutch at Pulicat supported Mir Jumla against the British. Fearing aggression from Mir Jumla in 1637 the English constructed a wall round Madras. In 1658 Mir Jumla laid a siege to Madras but in vain. Finally the English entered into an agreement with Mir Jumla to pay yearly customs.

The honeymoon between the Mughals and the East India Company of London was short lived and did not continue for long. Sea piracy strained the relations between the Mughal emperor and the English. Aurangazeb blamed the trading transactions of Europeans throughout his empire.

The new faujdar of Hyderabad and Karnataka, Daud Khan Panni, had already nursed a grievance against the English for not giving him a befitting present when he assumed office earlier. Using the present dictate of the Mughal emperor on European trade, Daud Khan now took up cudgels against the English. As soon as the orders of the emperor arrived, he demanded a large amount of money in arrears of revenue along with a personal gift of Rs. 10,000. He even threatened to send forces to occupy the unfortified Indian quarter of Madras.

The East India Company did not keep quiet this time. They mobilised forces against the Mughal fauzidar. In the conflict that both side came to the negotiating table and the talks lasted for three months. Daud Khan agreed to leave the English at Madras undisturbed as he, by this time, realised that Madras posed a direct threat to the Mughal suzerainty in Karnataka region. The English on the other hand declare that they had malice towards none. They were involved in their affairs from now onwards. Soon the English began to upgrade their trade activities and play a pivotal role in the financial sector with handsome amounts of investment as well as returns a their command.

They further strengthened their Madras base and operated their other two important coastal settlements viz., Fort St. David and Visakhapatnam with Madras as the central place of their authority. Of these two coastal settlements off Madras port, Visakhapatnam became the most important trading center on the northern coast after the decline of Masulipatnam.

The another company French appeared late on the Indian coasts but they had a desire for eastern traffic since the early days of the sixteenth century. In 1667 an expedition was sent under Francois caron, who established French factory in India at Surat. In 1669 Marcara founded another factory at Masulipatnam by securing a patent from the Sultan of Golkonda.

Among them, only the French could enter into trade transactions on Andhra coast and the others remained outside Andhra coast. Even the French touched only upon the fringes of Andhra trade and had an isolated presence on the coast, that too during the early eighteenth century. Though the French secured trading facilities at Masulipatnam earlier, they were handicapped from the beginning owing to the lack of help from the French government. They also encountered the problem of securing proper trade concessions and privileges from the native rulers and the antagonism of the fellow European trading companies. Soon after their arrival, the French made on unsuccessful attempt to capture San Thome from the Golkonda ruler in 1674. But they were forced to surrender. However, the manner in which the French defended San Thome crated a good impression on the minds of indigenous rules of Andhra region. Meanwhile, in 1673 Francois Martin, Director of Masulipatnam factory obtained from Sherkhan Lodi, the Governor of Valikondapur a site in the old port of Pondicherry that became the nucleus of French trade and commerce in due course of time Between 1647 and 1687, the French trade began to progress in coastal Andhra from the port of Masulipatnam.

After the Mughal conquest of Golconda, the French secured trading rights from the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. He issued a farman which allowed the French to carry on duty free trade at Masulipatnam only after the French paid Rs. 10,000 to the Emperor. However, the French trade began to progress in coastal Andhra from the port of Masulipatnam. After the Mughal conquest of Golconda, Aurangagzeb issued a farman which allowed the French for duty free trade at Masulipatnam only after the French paid Rs. 10,000 to the Emperor. The Dutch attacked Pondicherry in 1693. Francois Martin after defending himself there with great courage, was compelled to capitulate and the town was given up.

In 1699 this town became the capital of the French possessions in India.The status of the French at Pondicherry was similar to that of the English at Madras and the Dutch at Pulicat. By the turn of the seventeenth century, the French, under the leadership of Francis Martin, could obtain more concessions from the Mughals. The Mughal general, Daud Khan, gave away a few more villages to the French at Pondicherry. A large port was constructed at the sea front and, by 1700 the port custom rose to 2791 pagodas. In spite of that, France was greatly exhausted by wars in Europe which ended in 1713.  As many as 500 weavers were employed by the French by the first decade of eighteenth century.





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