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East India Company, the.

At the close of 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted a charter to a company of London merchants for the monopoly of the trade over a vast expanse of land and sea in the region of the East Indies, for fifteen years. The charter was renewed from time to time. The first squadron of the company (five vessels) sailed from Torbay (Feb. 15, 1601) and began to make footholds, speedily, on the islands and continental [177] shores of the East, establishing factories in many places, and at length obtaining a grant (1698) from a native prince of Calcutta and two adjoining villages, with the privilege of erecting fortifications. This was the first step towards the acquirement by the company, under the auspices of the British government, of vast territorial possessions, with a population of 200,000,000, over which, in 1877, Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress. The company had ruled supreme in India, with some restrictions, until 1858, when the government of that Oriental empire was vested in the Queen of England. Though the company was not abolished, it was shorn of all its political power, as it had been of its trade monopoly. The East India Company first introduced tea into England, in the reign of Charles II.

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