The English Factories in India, Volume 5: 1634-1636

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Introductory notes

"The English Factories in India" published in thirteen volumes was compiled by Sir William Foster. Sir William Foster, born in 1863, entered the India Office in 1882. He worked most of his his official life on the archives of the East India Company. Sir Arthur Wollaston, the then Registrar, and Superintendent of Records, gave Foster the opportunity to begin work on the monumental calendar, on the English factories in India. The English East India Company for commercial enterprise set up factories at different locations in India in the 17th Century. "The English Factories in India", was meant to be a compilation of documents emanating from or directly relating to these factories compiled from the archives of the British Museum, with addition from the East India Series at the Public Record Office. The English Factories of India was eventually published in thirteen volumes by the Oxford University Press, between 1906 to 1923. In 1907, Foster became the Superintendent of Records and in 1923 the post of Historiographer was temporarily revived in his honour; he held it until his retirement (1927). For the Hakluyt Society, of which he was Secretary (1893-1902) and President (1928-1945), he edited nine volumes, the last appearing in 1949. Foster passed away in 1951.

The fifth volume of "The English Factories in India" was published in 1915. The fifth volume deals with the correspondences between the Company's agents located in Surat, Swally(now Suvali), Masulipatnam and with the Council back in London, between the years 1634 to 1636. The selections of this volume highlight on the impact left behind the great famine of 1630-31 on commercial activities of the East India Company.

Selection details

The fifth volume of "The English Factories in India" was published in 1915. The fifth volume deals with the correspondences between the Company's agents located in Surat, Swally(now Suvali), Masulipatnam and with the Council back in London, between the years 1634 to 1636. The selections of this volume highlight on the impact left behind the great famine of 1630-31 on commercial activities of the East India Company.

[Page 6]


Found there seven Dutch ships, whereof some had come from Persia and the rest from Batavia. The latter were commanded by 'Phillip Lukcus',1 who brought a very great [Page 7] present for the Governor of Surat, viz. two elephants and several sorts of spice; 'the which did soe contente the sayde Governar that hee cald the Dutch commedore his brothar, and by reporte gave hime a farr more respecktive entartainemente att his first comminge to Surratt then hee gave unto Mastare Methwold [...] Inded, hee did not much regard the English sence the deth of Mr. Rasdell. A resone for the same I cannot here relate, unlest ytt were the wekenes of Mr. Hopkins[on] and the rest of his Counsell, that should have complid with him bettar then they did; for I ame suare att our arrivall your busnes laye in a disstrackted fasshone for want of good manneginge or good men to mannege the same.' The Governor had detained the Company's lead in the customhouse for nearly two years, because he was not allowed to have it at 5 1/2 mahmudis a maund, when it was worth nearly double; and some goods were lying at Burhanpur which had been on their way from Agra for almost a year and a half. Of these and other disorders the Dutch took notice and endeavoured to turn them to their own advantage. Allnutt heard from brokers that the Hollanders had agreed with the Governor to buy all the indigo in the country at a certain price, provided that the English should not have any; and thereupon the King, at the suggestion of the Governor, took that trade into his own hands, with the idea of forcing all merchants to buy from him at his own price, pay a year in advance, and take whatever trash he might please to give them. Hopkinson, shortly before his death, yielded to this contract, but Methwold has now stood out against it. 'In the first place ytt would have ruinated the country wherein ytt growethe and is made, by the Kings takinge the same fram the manuarars thareof att his owne prise and paiing them for the same att his owne plesure; upon which thay could not subsest to manuare1 thare land, but many of them were forst to leve the countrye and run awaye to sum othare place; upon which the Kinge leet the same oute to farme to one of his noblemen, who tooke ytt upon those termes that in case the Dutch and English should forbare to bye of the indygoe att his prise for two or three yeers togethare, that then the Kinge should bare the loss of that time himselfe.' What the event will be, God knows; but [Page 8] what with the King's 'meserablenes', the Governor's baseness, and the cunning projects of the Dutch, nothing is to be expected but a great charge to little purpose, unless the trade grows better when the country is more populated. At present the Portuguese forces are not much to be feared, by reason of their poverty and a great mortality which has befallen them in Goa and other parts since the beginning of the famine. In consequence they profess a great desire for peace with the English; and if their heart means what their tongue expresses, it would be advantageous to both parties. As the case stands, they cannot long subsist, for the Dutch send every year, ten, twelve, or fourteen ships; 'soe that the pore Portingall cannot goe out of any thaire portes but the Dutch presantly takethe them.' Fears that, if the Portuguese are crushed, the Company's trade will next be destroyed; 'for allredye the Dutch hath as faire quartar in Surratt and Persia as the English have, and doth not faile to supplie those places with more goods then you doe of the same sorte, and also such as you have none, viz. spises and Cheina ware of all sorts, to the value of a hundred thousan pounds in Persia by reporte; for all the which thay paye noe custom to the Kinge nor othars, nethar is thare any Englishman that can tell what goods or how much thaye have landed in Persia sence thaire first time of trade thare; by reson of the which prevelege itt tis supposd thay land Mors goods alsoe in thaire one nams.'

[Page 59]


Refer to previous letters of December 10, 1633, January 31 and February 21, 1634, and acknowledge the receipt on August 29 of one from the Company of October 25, 1633. To this they now reply. Explain the circumstances in which the Jonas was directed to visit Gombroon during the hot weather, in spite of previous losses. Think it desirable that a ship from England should touch there in September, unlade her goods, take in silk, and come on to Surat. The Dutch this last year sent two vessels thither direct from Holland; these arrived 'in the extremitye of heate', and stayed a long while; yet there was no remarkable loss or sickness among them. However, the decision on this point might well be left to the President and Council, who will take into account the information received from Persia. Note the Company's sorrow for their servants deceased and their just indignation against some others that survive. 'We wante arithmetique to computate the losses which you have sustayned, and doe still continue to beare, by the miserable stand in trade befalne this almost desolated kingdome of Guzurat. Where to better it, or how to mend ourselves, we cannot possibly foresee. Your shipps are here in India without hopes of ladeing from hence; yet here they spend your meanes, and must doe so, whilest onely necessaries are demaunded. But that which hath most ruyned your action hath bene the long continued interest which you have unwillingly paid, whereof you were fully advised by the Marie, and have now by good happ sent out treasure enough to sincke it almost unto nothing.

[Page 64]

Note the Company's dislike of the price and quality of the calicoes sent home in the Star and the James. As regards a fresh supply, 'we can send you none, not onely because wee have no meanes (although that cause is impulsive enough) but because none of any sort can be had in any proportion for any reason.' The scarcity of calico is shown by the experiences of Thimbleby and Keeling, who are now making an investment at Broach. 'They wright from thence their feares that they shall not finish it, because that more then two corge [score: Hind. kori] of bastaes in a day are not brought unto the bazar, although that they are at this tyme the onely buyers; if 20 corge a weeke, they conceive it a great weekes worke; but at no better rates then the last yeare afforded.' The reasons of this are as follows. First. 'the scarcity and consequently the deareness of cotton wooll, which we conceive doth cheifely arise from the great price which all sorts of graine hath yeilded for some forepast yeares, which hath undoubtedly disposed of the country people to those courses which hath bene most profitable for them, and so discontinued the planting of cotton, which could not have bene vented in proporcion of former tymes, because the artificers and mechaniques of all sorts were so miserably dead or fledd from all parts of the kingdome of Guzeratt; which is the second cause that hath occasioned this great stand in the callico trade, and cannot be so restored to its pristine estate as that we may hope to see it in it's former lustre for many yeares to come (we conceive for five yeares at least). Yet the plenty of this presente yeare diffused generally through all the vast parts of this kingdome, occasioned by the seasonable raines which have falne universally, in a more fruitfull proporcion upwards into the countrey then hereabouts Suratt, which is somewhat a hotter clymate and requires therefore more abundantly [Page 65] the latter rayne, doth summon downe againe those fugitives which famine forced from their owne habitations; and we are eyewitnesses of a much greater concourse of people frequenting the citties. The villages fill but slowly, yet it betters with them also; and if the excessive tiranny and covetuousness of the governors of all sorts would give the poore people leave but to lift up their heads in one yeares vacancye from oppression, they would be enabled to keepe cattle about them, and so to advance the plenty which the earth produceth that all things would be much more abundant, and there would be no want but of tyme to make the children capable to exercise the functions of their fathers, whereunto the custome of this countrey doth necessarily oblige them. Other accidents are also accessary to the deareness of cotton wooll, vizt., the great transportacion thereof unto the Coast of Malabarr by the Malabars themselves who trade unto this place; as also [[by?]] the merchants of this towne who trade unto the Red Sea, unto Seire [i.e. Shuhair] and [ ] upon the coast of Arabia; unto all which places great store of cotton is carried and sould to great advantage.'

[Page 117]

3. INSTRUCTIONS TO MESSRS. FREMLEN, ETC., OCTOBER [[25 ?]]1, 1635 (Ibid., p. 390).

They are aware 'how auncient our honourable employers commands have bin to attempt' the trade of 'Sinda', and that the 'one only impediment' has now been removed by the peace concluded with the Portuguese. 'Wee have (to make way for our more wellcome receipt) this Kings firmaen, granted about five yeares since; [Page 118] and to those peruannaes which were procured at that time from Asaph Chaune, hee of his owne accord hath added one of a fresher date, lately received.' Have therefore, relying upon the Company's promise of means, borrowed a sum of money to enable them to commence operations, intending to send them a further supply on a small ship when the fleet arrives. On reaching their destination, they should inquire chiefly for piece-goods suitable for the English market. As a guide, some samples procured from Nosari are delivered to them. These are judged to be 20 per cent. cheaper than last year, and yet 50 per cent. dearer than 'in the times of plenty'; they should remember, however, that 'in Sinda there hath bin noe such mishapp as in the province of Guzeratt hath occationed see great alteration.' Of the samples of indigo formerly received some were very good, and the worst was passable; but at present want of means prevents their ordering more than a bale of each sort to be sent to England for trial. A good quantity of cotton yarn may be bought, if to be had cheap. As regards saltpetre, the price should be advised to Surat before anything is done. Promise further means and instructions, either by a small ship to be dispatched on the arrival of the fleet, or by the Hopewell on her return from Gombroon.

[Page 203]


[Page 206]

In accordance with the Company's orders, large purchases have been made of piece-goods and cotton yarn. Those procured in Surat are the best and cheapest; those of Baroda and Broach are coarse and dear, and much inferior to those of 'Synda'. 'The Agra cloth of all sorts seemes fine [...] but it is for the most part so beaten and sleekt that it is fitter for saile then use, and so knowne to bee by good experienc in this country.' The dutties and broad bastas of Ahmadabad are few and dear, compared with the prices of former times; yet they are fifty per cent, cheaper than the musters sent by the Mary. Saltpetre bought owing to their disappointment in respect of pepper. The price of cotton yarn at Surat has fallen almost to the normal level; 'for though it may seeme to have cost fewer pice, yet (as we are informed) for two or three yeares before the famine the ma[hmudi] was not worth above 20, 21, and 22 pice, which is now worth 25 and 25 1/2. Cotten wooll riseth and faleth at an instant, as ships are disposed unto severall places; and yet at the greatest price which it costeth it would bee a profitable commoditie, if the bulke did not so much exceede the value, or that wee had the art or meanes to stive [compress] it as they doe in Turkie.' Hope to send some sugar, 'white, drie, and good.' Gum-lac is priced at 14 or 15 mahmudis [per maund] here, but it can be procured much more cheaply from Bengal, and so they will buy none. Dry ginger is much more plentiful in the Deccan than at Surat; they hope to obtain a supply from Dabhol.

[Page 224]


Replies to their queries to the best of his ability; but there is no one now in India who can speak from personal knowledge. With regard to Rastell's business, the President has undertaken to answer. Hopkinson no doubt was guilty of using the Company's money for his private purposes, which he could easily do, as he alone signed the bills for money borrowed during his presidency; but all that is shown in the books as due from him is 564 mahmudis 16 1/2. Explains a series of errors in account made by Mr. Giffard and others. The imperfect books complained of have doubtless now been replaced by the perfect ones which Mountney took home with him. Explains that it has always been the custom here to receive mahmudis in payment for goods, even though the price has been made in rupees. This does not apply to gold and silver, which are paid for according to agreement; 'howsoever, of late yeares the ryalls that have bene sould for mamods were paid for in rupes att 2 1/4 withoute any allowance of vatteau' [see p. 68]. 'I find not any moneyes paid in other species then the same they were borrowed, [Page 225] without allowance of vatteau, which in tyme of famine and scarcity in this place was growne to excessive rates, not less then 13 1/2 m[ahmudis] per 100 rup[ee]s.' The reason is that mahmudis 'are none of the Kings coyne, but coyned by the Rajah of Mallore,1 a place distant from hence 70 course or myles, and are onely currant in these adjacent countries, not further then Brodera; so that, according to mens occasions for rup[ee]s to send to Agra, Amadavad, or any other parts, the vatteau doth rise and fall. But that which raised it to the prementioned rate in tyme of f[amine] was the Benjares [Banjaras] or carriers, which brought corne and provisions [in] abundance from other parts, which they sould here for mamood[ies and] changed them for rup[ee]s at any rate. The merchants also of Surratt sent what money they could possible get to Brampore to procure graine; so that scarcely a rupe could bee found.' Since that time the 'vatteau' has daily declined and is now only one mahmudi per 100 rupees.

[Page 317]

6. THE COMPANY TO THE AGENT AND FACTORS AT MASULIPATAM, OCTOBER 27, 1636 (Letter Books, vol. i. p. 127).

If no letters from the Coast arrive by the Discovery, the Company must conclude that the factors are ashamed of their unfulfilled promises in their last of 'soe manie mountaines of trade and such expectacion of rich and proffittable commerce in those parts as would redound much to our advantage'. They accordingly [Page 318] expected to receive this summer a large and plentiful supply, either direct from the Coast or by way of Bantam; but they are now persuaded that those 'glorious pretences' were only meant 'to draw more monies from us'. Remind them that since November, 1631, the following sums have been sent them: by the Pearl (November 26, 1 631) 10,380l. 9s. 4d.; by the Swan (September 29, 1632) 22,454l. 10s. 7d.; by the Jewel (October 20, 1633) 25,033l. 18s. 11d.; by the Coaster (August, 1635) 11,000l.; and by the Swan (October 30, 1635) 29,449l. 16s. 4d.; making a total of 98,318l. 15s. 2d., in addition to what has been received from Bantam and Surat. Moreover, as the stock of 122,329l. 13s. 7d. sent to the latter place in the William and Crispiana (March, 1635) would probably more than suffice for 'that decayed trade', the master of the Swan was authorized, if he overtook the Crispiana (which was known to have been delayed), to demand from her 10,000l. out of her 48,000l. and carry it to the Coast. No doubt this has been done, and so the factors have had in all over 108,000l. Of this amount, the Company ordered 32,500l. to be invested in calicoes for England; but all that has been received is a parcel by the Mary invoiced at 1,269l. Demand to know by whose orders the factors have 'taken up a very carriers trade' by transporting Moors' and Persians' goods to Gombroon. Believe that this is a mere pretext for carrying on private trade with the Company's capital. Censure the dispatch of the Speedwell to Persia, and still more the borrowing of money at 30 per cent. per annum for a second venture, when the first had turned out so badly. For the future, stock that is sent out for return to England is not to be used for any other purpose; and voyages to Persia and elsewhere are not to be undertaken save with the approbation of the President and Council at Bantam. In the expenditure of nearly 4,000l. on Joyce's mission to Golconda, 'you have to the life expressed your owne vanitie, follie, and riott unto those people, and wasted soe much of our estate in such a lavish manner as if wee sent our shipps and monies thither for you to make shewes and pagents for those people to scorne att'. And notwithstanding this boasted grant of freedom of trade throughout that kingdom, it appears from a Masulipatam letter of November 4, 1635 (as reported from Surat) that Joyce had then gone to Armagon 'for the composcing of some troubles of that place, where the [Page 319] Naycke had taken prisoner Raya Chitty [Raja Chetti] and others whoe are our greate debtors, and demaunded ransomes beyound reason or their power to paye; notwithstanding, it is thought that our estates must disburse it, to hedge in or secure our greater debts; hee demaunds likewise besides 1,000 pagodas promised (he saith) by Mr. Norris [as] satisfaction for some late buildings erected without his leave'. 'Wee supposed you had soe setled our trade and busines for all that coast that wee should have found none that would have done us anie damage; but by this Naicks accions it seemeth to be otherwise, and that wee are in noe better condicion then formerly before you spent that greate summe.' 1 They gather from the Surat letters that 'the priviledges by you taken are for your owne tyme, and if you should be remooved would endanger the losse of them all; which if it should be soe, wee must then out of a necessity contynue you in that place, except we intend to loose all our cost and trade togither'. Suspect, however, that this is only a device of the Surat factors, who have probably private reasons for not desiring a change of correspondents. Were much disappointed to find so little Coast calico brought by the Palsgrave, which is now at Plymouth. Note that Pinson was dispatched from Bantam in the Coaster to be second at Masulipatam, and that injunctions were then given not to send that vessel to Bengal. Had calicoes been sent home, as ordered, 'they would have found quick marketts and toumed well to accompt; and more especially because that dearth and mortallity had soe devoured the trade of Suratt as that place for some yeares have afforded us noe supplyes; by which meanes of intermission our callico trade hath suffered much in its wounted use and expence, and will require some tyme to bring that commodity into worth and reputacion againe'. The cessation of the supply has 'caused our linnen drapers here to find out other sorts of cloath to supplie the wants of their accustomed sorts of callicoes'. Trust that in future the factors will not neglect the home trade for 'Persia and those other strange imployments', 'for this tumbling of our estate from one place to another gives noe life to our trade here, nor incouragement to the adventurers to see you plentifully supplied'.

This is a selection from the original text


cattle, famine, goods, king, manure, rain, ship, silk, spices, trade

Source text

Title: The English Factories in India, Volume 5: 1634-1636

Subtitle: A Calendar of Documents in the India Office, British Museum and Public Record Office

Editor(s): William Foster

Publisher: The Clarendon Press

Publication date: 1911

Original date(s) covered: 1634-1636

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: Oxford

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original date(s) covered: 1634-1636

Digital edition

Original editor(s): William Foster

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 6 to 8
  • 2 ) page 59
  • 3 ) pages 64 to 65
  • 4 ) page 117 to 118
  • 5 ) page 206
  • 6 ) pages 224 to 225
  • 7 ) pages 317 to 319


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > official correspondence > india office records

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