The English Factories in India, Volume 6: 1637-1641

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Introductory notes

"The English Factories in India" published in thirteen volumes was compiled by Sir William Foster a Vice-President. 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 sixth volume of "The English Factories in India" was published in 1912. The sixth volume deals with the correspondences of the Company's factory in Surat between the years 1637 to 1641. The selected correspondences from this volume highlighted improvement in trading following the great famine of 1630-31.

Selection details

The sixth volume of "The English Factories in India" was published in 1912. The sixth volume deals with the correspondences of the Company's factory in Surat between the years 1637 to 1641. The selected correspondences from this volume highlighted improvement in trading following the great famine of 1630-31.

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1. PRESIDENT METHWOLD AT SURAT TO EDWARD SHERBORNE 3, SECRETARY TO THE COMPANY, MARCH 19, 1637 (Public Record Office : C.O. 77, vol. vi. no. 36).

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Conceived it his duty at his arrival to advise the Company of their great debt of 100,000l., but denies charging Mr. Wylde with leaving the Company so indebted, having only said that the custom of engaging so deeply began with him and was continued by him beyond the Company's liking. Hopes that he did no injury by insisting on his opinion that the Charles and Jonas had been better sent to Bantam than returned to England. States that the vast expenses which devoured the stock preceded his arrival in India, and that they were increased by the unheard-of famine and the abundance of shipping then there, and that for this Mr. Smithwick's discontent will be no remedy. Concerning the freight of the four ships he has already replied in his letter to the Company. (Endorsed: ' Answer to Mr. Smithwicke.' 2 pp.)

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Commercially the position is very encouraging, for the country has recovered from the famine and goods are to be had in abundance, while the Company's expenses are much lessened, especially by the agreement with the Portuguese. Thinks that there should only be one President in the Indies, for it cannot be expected that Surat and Bantam will always act in harmony ' nd supply each other for the good of the Company '. Moreover, there would be less tendency for the Presidents (as recently at Bantam) to 'comport themselves like pettie kings, which gives occation to theire subordinate factoryes to live at that hight of expence as lately they have done att Maccassar and Mesulapatnam, which (if reports be true) is beyond all modestie. Then, secondly, the Company must give order for the makeinge good a place for the securitie of there estate in India; which how much prejudiz the want hath ben is very visible, for are wee not continually subject, and have not your estates made good all demaunds from tyme to tyme, be it right or wronge ? And, lastly, are wee sertayne of continuall peace with the Portugalls and Dutch? Noe; for the peace wee injoy by them is but for theire owne ends. All which beinge duely considred, 'twer very requisitt that the makeinge good a place were first put in practiz; from which will arrise these bennifitts: you shalbe ever secur'd of the most part of your estate, and yf any affront offer'd be enabled to doe [y]ourselves right.'1 Were there but one President, every ship going home from Surat might be provided with sufficient pepper to discharge all the expenses of the voyage. It would also be possible then to send yearly a member of the Council to visit all the factories and check expenses. The Masulipatam factors live profusely, because they are under Bantam 'and cannot from thence be soe well remided as from hence; for, were that factory subordinate to Surratt, an accompt would (as from others) be requir'd monthly of the howse expenc[es] and of the cash; that soe extraordinaris may not be made a continuall yearly custom'. Indeed, in any case it would [Page 91] be well to place Masulipatam under Surat, for first, letters of advice may pass monthly or oftener, and secondly, as Bengal is under the rule of the Mogul, complaints relating to the settlements there can better be made from Surat than from Masulipatam, which is under another king. (4pp)

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The Bantam factors have complained of the non-receipt from Surat of Gujarat calico suitable for Java and Sumatra; this was due either to the scarcity and dearness of cloth or to want of money. Since the receipt of supplies by the William, 'wee have not failed them.' As the Company is aware, a good cargo was dispatched thither in the Eagle. Last year, too, a similar consignment was got ready to be sent on the Francis or Diamond, but the one was detained at ' Scinda' and the other was found to be too leaky for such a voyage. The goods are therefore still waiting; though, had the Bantam factors sent the Jewel hither (as they were begged to do), she might not only have carried back the calico but also have brought a cargo of pepper to be shot amongst the goods laden in the [Page 196] London and Discovery. They hope for an improvement now that Muschamp has been appointed President at Bantam; yet it would be well if the Company would order the regular dispatch of pepper to Surat for this purpose. Are glad that the indigo sent home gave satisfaction. The deficiency in weight 'is a disease adhaerent to this comodity, especially if it bee bought any time before Christmas'. That now sent is very good indigo, full weight, and very cheap. Regret the small proportion of the Biana sort, but that is more difficult to get and the difference in price between it and the Sarkhej indigo is about 70 per cent. Next year, however, they hope to send half and half, as desired by the Company. For this purpose they have lately dispeeded Bornford to Agra to buy 500 bales. 'What you wryte in generall touching badness and dearness of all callicoes wee must needs subscribe unto now, as at any time since the famine'; yet a steady improvement is visible, 'not only in the substance of the cloth its self, but in its curing, papering, yea, every requisit apperteyning to them, for with incessancy have wee inculcated unto our callicoe buyers your severall dislikes, and with all possible seriousness required reformation.' Pauncefote and Elder have been resident at Baroda since last February, and have provided there a quantity of baftas and Guinea stuffs. Broach and Nosārī have been looked after from Surat, Breton and one other factor going monthly to supervise. At the beginning of September, however, Spiller was dispatched to Broach to 'prosecute the investment' and pack up the goods which were being bleached there. For the latter process 'that towne yet reteynes its wonted perfection and hath the preference before all other places,1 although the auncient making of callicoes bee somewhat adulterated'. The Company's criticisms of the Armagon and Masulipatam cloth have been forwarded to the Coast factors to answer. Trust that the Guinea stuffs now sent will be approved; the Dutch buy large quantities at Baroda and Broach. As the calicoes purchased in Ahmadabad were thought at home to be dear, they have this year sent only a few of each sort. They are now rather cheaper, as are also all kinds of coarse cloth, owing to [Page 197] the badness of the Mokha market. Piece-goods to be procured by Bornford at Agra. Part of the present consignment came down last January and was sent in the Discovery to Mokha, but returned 'for want of a chapman' and had to be housed at Swally during the rains. There the bales were 'by those roguing Coolies [Kolis], or as theevish Muckadams [village headmen: muqaddam] pillaged', but the value of the stolen pieces has been recovered. A further quantity has now been received from Agra and will be put aboard the London. Tatta cloth sent in the Discovery. Some of the narrow baftas that were 'tainted' owing to the leakiness of the Michael 'wee dyed and so converted them into mavees or watchets and cannikeens', while the broader ones were made into 'blew byrams' for the southwards. The rest of the Sind cloth now sent was received by the Diamond and is very satisfactory.

This is a selection from the original text


abundance, debt, famine, goods, market, scarcity

Source text

Title: The English Factories in India, Volume 6: 1637-1641

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: 1912

Original date(s) covered: 1637-1641

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: Oxford

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original date(s) covered: 1637-1641

Digital edition

Original editor(s): William Foster

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 16 to 18
  • 2 ) pages 89 to 91
  • 3 ) pages 194 to 197


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

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.