The English Factories in India, Volume 11: 1661-1664

About this text

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 eleventh volume of "The English Factories in India" was published in 1922. The selected passages of the eleventh volume of deals with fhe correspondences of the Company's factory in Surat and the agent of Masulipatnam to the Council of the Madras factory, between the years 1661 to 1664.

Selection details

The eleventh volume of "The English Factories in India" was published in 1922. The selected passages of the eleventh volume of deals with fhe correspondences of the Company's factory in Surat and the agent of Masulipatnam to the Council of the Madras factory, between the years 1661 to 1664.

[Page 24]


The reply to the Company's caution against excessive expenditure on housekeeping is interesting for its reference to the drought of 1660-1.

We humbly answear that noe country under the sunn hath the same plenty in one yeare as another. When that the gentleman or men that were here which advised it, twas enough; it might be a plentifull yeare. But the two yeares past, never come was soe deare, but only in a great famine 40 yeares since,1 we say, as the two yeares past; and not only corne, but all other provisions, caused by little raine. If you will be pleased to make us pay for filling our bellies, we must submit; but we humbly conceive that noe servants in England, of our quallity, eate their victualls in feare of an after reckoning; espetially when we neither feast it nor feed on dainty's, but plaine food. And to plead a little for ourselves, and satisfye the curious, tis but rice, mutton, beefe, and henns; nothing elce, not any other variety doe we spend your mony in.

In conformity with the Company's orders, one of the smaller vessels (viz. the Surat Frigate) will be sent to Bantam. The Hopewell and Vine have not yet returned. The new Royal Welcome, built at Surat (partly from the materials of the wrecked Welcome) at the cost of nearly 2,000l., will probably be ventured to England the next season. It is a mistake to keep vessels in Indian waters for any length of time.

We have noe place of resort, to command carpenters, timber, etc. from the country, nor noe stores sent out from yourselves; that the conclusion must be ruine, which hath been since to many of your ships that might have been raigneing still; and will be soe to those you have now. For tis not small cost or careening that can hinder a worme from the planke, when two sheathings in two yeares are eaten off, as constantly they are here. Here is noe tarr to be gott, [Page 24] noe beefe, and men (Englishmen) [that,] upon any accident of a long voyage can live, like these heathens, on rice. Here is noe nailes (propper for use) procureable; noe anchors, yet tis impossible but some will be lost, espetially when noe cables are sent out to keepe them that we have; for they weare out with useing, before the anchor. Nor is there any other stores attaineable, that is as necessary as the sayles.

[Page 32]


At the end of the month the Madras Merchant and the East India Merchant, which had both arrived from Balasore a few days previously, were also dispatched to England, the former carrying another letter to the Company, dated 28 January. In this references were made to several matters touched upon in the preceding volume of this series.

The greate dearth, that hath bin in these parts now these 18 monethes, hath bin noe small obstruccion to our trade [...] If Mr. William Isaacson had bin desirous to have stayed in this countrey, wee should have enterteyned him. But haveing possessions fallne to him by the death of freinds, hee was sollicitous to us to take passage last yeare on the Mayflower (haveing then payd him 300 rialls for 18 monethes in this new Stock) ; but shee missing of her passage, hee came back upon the Trueroe.

[Page 57]


The Royal James and Henry had not yet returned to Madras, and would probably make a voyage to Persia, for want of sufficient cargo to take home.

To make an investment in peetre att Metchlepatam is alltogeather frustrated by the late famine, that hath undone all the poore workemen. Besides, the President etc. hath absolutely forbidden any thinge to bee layd out in that commodity, sayeing that the Bay is the onely place that you require the procury thereof.

[Page 58]


On his arrival in England in the autumn of 1661, Isaacson brought the matter before the Court of Committees, at whose instance he submitted also a list of other abuses at Fort St. George.1 This is of sufficient interest to warrant a lengthy quotation.

The maine inconveniencie I have observ'd hath bin the want of a good and knowing Councell to assist the Agent: such a Councell as will not, for any by-respects on the one side or feare on the other, relinquish their free vote in any thing that shall concerne the Honourable Company. On this depends the whole management of Your Worships affaires in those parts; the want of which hath bin of late a great obstruction to the good government of Your Worships towne, whilst onely the Agent and Timana2 (a blacke servant) are privy to all passages, and those that were appointed by the Honourable Company to be of the Councell shold never be calld to advise with them. This complaint I have heard severall times from some of the Councell. In the second place, whereas Your Worships desire is that the inhabitants of your towne, as painters, weavers, etc., shold be encouraged by a good treatment of them, they have on the contrary bin much discouraged by the enhanceing the price of rice; which is occasioned by the engrossing all into the hands of one man (its easily imagined whose); which is no better then a monopoly of his owne raysing, and by this meanes makes a famine where God sends none. So that the painters and weavers are forc't to sett a higher value upon their worke and cloth, and consequently the Honourable Company must needes feele it. But into whose purse the gaines of all this goes may easily be conjectured. Another inconveniency which I have observ'd is the unkind usage of those that wold willingly furnish the towne with rice and other privisions, so they might have free liberty to sell their goods publikely, after discharging the usuall custome; which of late hath not bin granted, and I have had severall complaints from honest men about it; which discourages them from bringing rice and other provisions to our port, and forces them to cary it to other places where they may have more freedome.

[Page 159]


The letter brought by the Coronation was dated 10 November, 1661, and opened with commendations of the longcloth made round Fort St. George and at Porto Novo. On the other hand, the calicoes procured at Viravasaram and Masulipatam were pronounced to be 'exceeding badd' and 'meere raggs', besides being short in length and breadth. The famine then raging in those parts was admitted to be some excuse, but better cloth must be sent in future. No more 'flowred salpicadoes' were to be provided. The 'parcallaes', 'morees', and 'bettellees' were approved, and a large supply was ordered of each. In future all white calicoes were to be specially packed in cotton-wool and wax cloth; while bales of fine cloth were to be covered with skins, as was formerly the practice. Directions were also given for sorting and numbering the bales, and for a rigorous examination of each piece, to see that it was up to the quality of the sample. The Coronation was bringing silver to the value of about 9,800l., besides the gold and ivory she was to embark in Guinea. Another ship would be sent in January, with a stock of 40,000l. at least. The Coronation should proceed to Bengal for her lading, and return to the Coast in time to leave for England by the end of the year. The silver sent home had been assayed in the Tower and certified to be of the value stated in the invoice. The report to the contrary must therefore have been a trick on the part of 'your cheating, base sheroffs'; and in future the factors must maintain the correctness of the invoiced value. The Second at Fort St. George and the Chiefs of other factories were in future to undertake the duty of seeing that the calicoes were of full dimensions and of the required standard in other respects, and were themselves to make out the ticket for each bale.

[Page 257]


Our sad experiment made the last yeare in sending downe our shipps barely consign'd to the Companies factours at Carwarr etc. places upon the Coast, by imperfect accompts of their proceedings and goods laden on them to our honourable masters great loss; wherefore, to prevent the like in the future, wee are resolved to appoint a cape merchant to voyage on every ship from hence forward, who shall be accomptable to us for all transactions during the tyme of the voyage.

He is given full discretion as to the ports to be visited, beginning at Rajapur but not going lower than Mangalore. He should call at Goa to pick up Giffard, and carry him to Karwar, if he has not already departed for that place, in obedience to the instructions sent him. He is there to replace Richard Ball, who is to come to Surat. From Karwar Taylor is to bring away the goods provided and any cash in hand beyond 1,000l., which is all that it is thought prudent to leave there, in view of the disturbed state of the country. His main business is to procure 150 or 200 tons of pepper, and the most suitable place for this appears to be Bhatkal.

Carwarr hath totally failed us; wherefore Batticolla must be the place, if any [...] since wee are certainly informed there is some [Page 258] thouzands of tunns lodged in warehowses belonging to that King. Our necessitie is so great, and having no other place from whence wee can expect any therfore wee may not set you a price, but leave you to agree for it as you can.

Reparation is to be demanded from the Karwar broker for the great shortage in the pepper shipped last year; and this time none is to be shot loose in the hold but all packed in 'double dungaree baggs, well sewed with double threed'. Sails &c. are sent for the Swally, and Capt. Millet has promised to bring her to Surat 'by towing or otherwise'.

You are sufficiently acquainted with the great scarcity of raines this yeare, even not sufficient to produce corne, whereupon all things are deare with us ; that if you could procure us a quantity of good rice, it would be very acceptable [...] or what other corne you can procure, and butter, if to be had reasonable and good.

Gunny being scarce and very dear at Surat, a good supply should be purchased, if possible. An experienced broker (Valji) has been provided to assist Taylor in his transactions.

[Page 320]


To the letter from England of 10 August, 1663, Oxenden and his Council replied promptly on 4 April,1 entrusting their answer to the skipper of a junk bound for Gombroon and Basra. As regards indigo, none had been sent by the recent ships, as it was extremely dear and scarce, owing to the failure of the rains, the Lahore variety being at 67 rupees per maund of 37 lb. ('a price never heard of') and the Sarkhej 'answeareable'. As, however, the Company had definitely ordered a supply, arrangements were being made to procure some from Agra and Sarkhej. Should the rains fail again this year, the result would be to [Page 321] utterly dispoeple all these parts, it being theire manner to forsake theire habitations and with theire families to travail into other countryes where they heare corne is cheape, to preserve them from famishing. There are more then 500 families of weavers that are already fled, and the rest will certainely follow, if the famine should encrease; that wee shalnot dare to entrust them, as accustomary, and without it wee may not expect any goods. But wee hope the Almighty will bee mercifull to this land, and restore to them theire wanted plenty.

There was little expectation of procuring any Malabar pepper or cassia lignum, as the Dutch were strictly preventing their export by any but themselves. Steps were being taken to procure the desired piece-goods. Raybag and Kolhapur being unavailable 'soe long as that grand rebell Sevagy raignes', an agent was being sent to Bhatkal to buy dungarees and dutties, that port being the only place to which the English could still trade without molestation. It might prove possible to obtain there the pepper required by the Company; but it seemed doubtful whether the latter would approve its purchase at a high rate. Already the price at Surat had risen from 9 or 10 mahmudis the maund to 18, owing to the policy of the Dutch in engrossing that commodity. There were then in Swally Road three Dutch ships from Cochin, laden with pepper and cassia lignum, 'which they sell heere at strange unusuall rates'. Relations with the Governor of Surat were now on a good footing. As for broadcloth, the factors thought that to lower the price would not increase the sale, and therefore they had decided to 'hold up the prices to betwixt 4 and 5 rupees the yeard'.

[Page 329]


These steps were detailed in a letter sent overland to the Company on 26 November. In a passage that is of interest as showing that the drafting of letters was still the business of the President, Oxenden excused any shortcomings on the ground of the sickness general among the factors.1It hath pleased the Almighty to afflict us in generall throughout the whole family with agues and feavers, that wee can scarce say there is a man in your house hath escaped them, but hath been violently afiflicted. Amoungst the rest your President hath very lately escaped death, haveing had the symtoms thereof upon him and given over by all, but it hath pleased God somewhat to recover him; yett still lyes very weake upon his bed, not able to sitt up for a dissinesse in his head and a weakenesse in his body, that hee is constrained to dictate these with some trouble [...] The passed yeare[s] dearth these poeple affirme to bee the cause of the intemperature of the aire, as what alwayes followes a scarcity of raine and corne. All the townes and villages heereabouts are full of sicknesse, scarce a house free; amoungst which, to your prejudice, the weavers have theire share; that what with many thousands of them that are fled the passed yeare, and the remainder now infected, hath been a great hinderance to your investments.

Raw cotton had fallen in price 55 or 60 per cent.; but the factors judged it better to send home larger quantities of piecegoods. Whether much pepper or cassia lignum would be procurable was doubtful.

Synomon there is not an ounce to bee had, but from the Dutch, who sell it heere in this place at soe much a maund, 64 rupees; nuttmegs, 48 per maund; mace, 130 per maund; cloves, 122 per [Page 330] maund. And thus they sell the whole carg[azon] they bring yearely (to the amount of twixt 30 or 40,000l.) at one clap.

This is a selection from the original text


dearth, drought, famine

Source text

Title: The English Factories in India, Volume 11: 1661-1664

Editor(s): William Foster

Publisher: The Clarendon Press

Publication date: 1923

Original date(s) covered: 1661-1664

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: Oxford

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive: Original date(s) covered: 1661-1664

Digital edition

Original editor(s): William Foster

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 23 to 24
  • 2 ) page 32
  • 3 ) pages 57 to 58
  • 4 ) page 159
  • 5 ) pages 257 to 258
  • 6 ) pages 320 to 321
  • 7 ) pages 329 to 330


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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