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Sources from the British Library, London

Part 5: Calcutta, 1690-1708

These records cover the early history of the East India Company’s Calcutta Factory – or Trading Centre – from 1690 to 1708.

After the outbreak of hostilities in the 1680’s between the East India Company in Bengal and the Mogul emperor, Aurangzeb, all the Company’s factories in his dominions were confiscated. As a result the Company moved their factory about 20 miles down the Hooghly River to Sutanati, a settlement which gradually extended to Kalikata as it was originally known and Govindpur. Kalikata was renamed Calcutta by the British and became the headquarters of the Company’s Bengal factories. In 1696 the Company was given permission to fortify the settlement and in 1698 actually purchased the towns of Sutanati, Govindpur and Calcutta. Fort William was completed in 1702, the Calcutta settlement grew rapidly and in 1707 it was raised to the status of presidency.

The factory records for Calcutta, 1690-1708 are divided into the following types of document:

• Diaries and Consultations, 1690-1691, 1694-1708 (These are wonderfully detailed records describing goods exported to London, warehouse reports, trade with Madras and other areas, notes on foreign ships, reports on negotiations with the local Moguls and many other issues).

• Copies of letters dispatched to subordinate factories from Calcutta, including St Helena, Fort William, Cassim Bazzar and Viziagar, 1690-1705 (These cover all manner of topics from concerns about piracy to the cost of silk and cloth).

The Factory Records of the East India Company for Calcutta are an indispensable tool for researchers interested in the early trading networks in South East Asia.

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