400 years ago British merchants landed on the coast of India and founded a trading post to export goods to London. Over the next 200 years, their tiny business grew into a commercial titan. Using the letters and diaries of the men and women who were there, this documentary tells the story of the East India Company, which revolutionised the British lifestyle, sparked a new age of speculation and profit and by accident created one of the most powerful empires in history. Yet inexorable rise ended in ignominy. Dogged by allegations of greed, corruption and corporate excess, by the 1770s the company's reputation was in tatters. Blamed for turning its back as millions died in the Bengal famine, and thrown into crisis by a credit crunch in Britain, the world's most powerful company had run out of cash, sparking a government intervention.
S1E1 • 2014 • History
By 1800 the East India Company had grown from a tiny band of merchants into a colossal trading empire. But scandal and corruption in the 18th century had led to a curtailment of its powers by the British government. The state now controlled the company's affairs in India and, throughout the 19th century, would chip away at its remaining powers and trading privileges. The company was transformed from a trading enterprise into the rulers of India, and governed vast swathes of the subcontinent on behalf of the British Crown. Its territory expanded enormously and an empire was born. As the company traded opium to a reluctant Chinese Empire, in India a dangerous chasm opened up between the British rulers and the Indian people. Alienated and disaffected, significant numbers of the company's massive army of Indian soldiers finally revolted and the Company's handling of the mutiny was its final undoing. In 1858 British India passed into Queen Victoria's hands and the Raj was born.
S1E2 • 2014 • History