Seafarers in the East India Company

Historical note

From its first charter in 1600, the English East India Company operated one of the most extensive shipping operations in support of its trading enterprises during the colonial period. The merchant or mercantile fleet was responsible for carrying cargoes outward to the east, returning richly laden with exotic goods which found a ready, and profitable, market in Europe.

The people who commanded these ships were career men who often spent a lifetime in the service of the Company. Voyages to the east were lengthy and uncertain, but the rewards were good, as captain and officers were allowed, in addition to their wages, to ship goods on their own account as "private trade".

The East India Company established a monopoly of trade to the east, which was strictly enforced, and no other ships could trade where it had established its own bases. The market opened up a little in 1813, and other ships were licensed to trade under certain conditions.

In 1834 the monopoly came to an end and the mercantile service was disbanded, although the Company continued to administer its territories in Asia for many years.


Information on Richard and Thomas Hounsell

Site note

FIBIS Research Guide No. 2When I started this website I intended to add details of seafarers. Since then, I have realised that this is too big a task for me to complete myself, and also that this information is now better available online elsewhere.

However, if you search the ships section of my website, you will find that the names (but not personal details) of the captains and shipowners are often shown for individual ships, to aid indentification of the ships.

But if you are seeking detailed information on seafarers who were in the service of the East India Company, your best starting point is the excellent Research Guide No. 2 produced by the Families in British India Society (FIBIS) which is available here.