DepartmentGlobal Asia Studies
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Journal 7: The Br itish East India Company and
Matteo Ricci and Jesuit Missionar ies
The British East India Company: was an early English joint-stock company
that was for med
initially for pursuing trade wit h t he East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly w ith the Indian
subcontinent and China. The oldest among several similarly for med European East India
Companies, the Company was granted an English Royal Charter, under the name Governor and
Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, by Elizabeth I on 31 December
1600.The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, tea, and opium.
The Company also came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming
administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits; it effectively
functioned as a megacor poration. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle
of Plassey. The Company long held a privileged position in relation to the Br itish Government.
As a result, it was frequently granted special r ights and privileges, including trade monopolies
and exemptions. These caused resentment among its competitors, who saw unfair advantage in
the Company's position. Despite this resentment, the Company remained a powerful force for
over 200 years.
Matteo Ricci and Jesuit Missionaries: In 1534 Ignatius Loyola founded the Order of the
Jesuits, dedicated to reaff irming and teaching the Roman Catholic faith and to winning new
converts. Asia became the major target because of its huge population and because of the
Western conviction that Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism were not legitimate or adequate
religions at all and hence should easily yield to the superior message of Christianity. Matteo
Ricci entered the Society of Jesus at 19, where he distinguished himself in mathematics and
geography. After f inishing his religious training, he taught at the college until 1582 when he was
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