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Bangladesh and Global Studies

The expansion of European trade in Bengal

We all know that the economic condition of some European countries flourished for the discovery of mineral resources, expansion of sea trade, and development in technical and commercial fields. As a result of this, a powerful trade revolution started in the 14th century.

Then, the internal economic condition and economic organizations of those countries started to be stronger. So it became important for them to look for raw materials and markets for selling their products.

In 1498, Vasco-de-Gama, a Portuguese sailor reached Kalikot port of South India. This incident gave a chance for other countries to contest in the competition of expanding trade and commerce in India. Al Bukark, an experienced sailor, captured the entire trade of India by taking control of the Indian Ocean.

A peace agreement was signed in 1648 among some European warring nations. This agreement is called West Fallieres Accord. Peace was restored after the signing of this agreement and as such many European nations set out for trade and commerce with new vigor and energy.

India became the target of many of these nations. Silk and many other fine clothes and the different spices of Bengal were the chief attractions for them. This brought about momentum in the trade of Bengal after a long time. Export income of Bengal stood at about 2 lac pound or 18 lac taka only from England during 4 years from 1680-83.

The foreign merchants established big industries and earned a huge profit; they could do so by combining their capital with technical knowledge and by employing local workers to work hard. With time, English merchants became more important than the Portuguese.

Besides, the French, the Danish, and the Dutch merchants also established industries and conducted business in Bengal. We can have a short description of foreign merchants’ investment and business even from the description of the foreign tourists.

French tourist Barnyard wrote in 1666 ‘The Dutch sometimes employed 07-08 hundred workers in their silk factory at Kashimbazar.’ The English and the merchants of other nations also conducted the business of this type. French tourist Barnyard also mentioned 22 thousand bales of Silk were produced every year only at Kashimbazar.

Running a business in this way, the English merchants realized that they would get maximum facilities if they could make Permanent Settlements. During this time, European trade centers at Kolkata, Chandan Nagar, Chuchura, and Kashimbazar started to flourish rapidly.

With the flourishing of their trade centers, the English merchants also started to smuggle capital from Bengal before the Battle of Plassey and during the tenure of Mir Zafar and Mir Kashim. Clive himself proudly informed the British Parliament of this abundance of wealth.

William Hejej came to Hoogley in 1682 as the governor of the English companies in Bengal. At that time, many of the Mughal employees of Bengal became corrupted regarding revenue collection. The British Companies incurred great financial loss due to this corruption.

Comprehending the situation Hejej wrote a letter in 1686 to the king of England King James II convincing him to send soldiers from England to take preparation for battle. The Mughal had fought several battles with the English from 1687 to 1690 and finally, the English could ensure their commercial benefit.

They got permission for running their business as well as keeping their soldiers. At the same time, the British established their province over other contesting European powers.

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