UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 27

27 March 1668

Bombay was given to the East India Company by the English Crown.


What happened?

The British monarch King Charles II granted Bombay to the East India Company on 27th March 1668 for an annual rent of £10. In exchange, the king obtained a loan of £50000 at 6% interest from the company.

How Bombay was given on rent

  • The Royal Charter that gave fruition to this deal between the Kingdom of England and the East India Company was signed on 27 March 1668.
  • Originally Bombay was acquired by the Portuguese from the Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah by the Treaty of Bassein in 1534. As per the treaty, the Seven Islands of Bombay as well as Bassein (now known as Vasai) were given to the Portuguese. The Portuguese called the islands by different names and finally settled on Bombaim. During that time, they developed Roman Catholic religious orders in the city and also constructed several fortifications around it.
  • Because of its strategic location as a port, all the European powers like the English and the Dutch were vying for the hegemony of Bombay.
  • In May 1661, as per the marriage alliance between Charles II of England and Catharine of Braganza, the Portuguese king’s daughter, Bombay was given to the English as dowry.
  • However, the Portuguese still retained possession of Bassein, Salsette, Sion, Dharavi, Mazagaon, Worli, Parel and Wadala. By 1666, the British acquired Dharavi, Wadala, Mahim and Sion.
  • In 1668, as per the Royal Charter, Bombay was given to the East India Company for £10 per year.
  • From a meagre 10,000 in 1661, the city’s population grew to 60,000 in four years’ time.
  • The Dutch and the Mughal Empire’s admiral Yakut Khan attacked the islands several times.
  • In 1687, the company moved its headquarters to Bombay from Surat. Later on, the city became the headquarters of the Bombay Presidency as well.
  • The growth of Bombay commenced under the governorship of the second governor of Bombay, Gerald Aungier. He was appointed the governor by the company in 1669 and he remained its governor till his death in 1677. He was responsible for establishing the first court of Bombay and also for fortifying the city. A mint was established in 1676. He made several other administrative reforms in the city. His rule also saw the first printing press being set up in the city.
  • His insight helped the small island to become the biggest economic and commercial hub of the subcontinent.
  • Portuguese control of the city ended for good in the 1730s when the Marathas acquired Salsette and Bassein.
  • By mid-seventeenth century, Bombay developed as an important trading centre and it saw large-scale immigrations from different parts of the country. The British also brought in various trading groups like the Gujaratis, the Parsis, the Jews and the Dawoodi Bohras.
  • The British gained Salsette and Bassein through the Treaty of Surat in 1775 from the Marathas.
  • In 1784, all the 7 islands of Bombay were merged by a causeway known as the Hornby Vellard. It was a massive land reclamation project.
  • Bombay also saw the first railway line in India when it was linked to the neighbouring town of Thane on 16 April 1853.
  • During the American Civil War which started from 1861 and lasted till 1865, Bombay became the world’s most important market for cotton trading. This greatly accentuated the city’s standing and economic prosperity.
  • In the 19th century, several educational and administrative establishments came up in the city which led to its development.
  • Political consciousness began in the city when Dadabhai Naoroji set up the Bombay Presidency Association in 1885. Further impetus was given to the movement when the Indian National Congress was established the same year.
  • Today, Bombay is the capital of the state of Maharashtra and also the commercial capital of India. It is also the entertainment capital of the country. Bombay is also the largest city in India with the largest population. In addition, it is one of the largest cities by population in the world with a population of about 18 million as per the 2011 census.
Also on this day

1898: Death of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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