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British Colonization The East India Company History Essay

The East India Company was founded around 1591 to trade mainly with the East Indies, but ended up trading with the Indian Subcontinent and China instead. Martin states that the Company was given free rein in the beginning to do trade as it pleased, without any fear of interference from the British Parliament. As time passed by, the British Government grew more sensitive to the importance of having an international footing on trade and thus began to influence a few decisions that would initially have been made by the Company’s designated ambassadors/chief-in-charge for that particular land(s). Soon, the East India Company found itself bowing low to most of the strictures thrown at it by the British government, with no choice in most matters – especially after the Indian Act of 1948. (Martin, 1978)

The settlement of Botany Bay was a similar case in which the main aim was to transfer unwanted convicts from the shores of Britain to those of Australia. It seems as though the imperial government, as an afterthought, decided to make good use of the convicts that it intended to throw out of its land, and capriciously turned towards the option of trading from the shores of Botany Bay with the utilization of resources found in that land – mainly flax. Legal proclamations claimed the existence of skilled flax makers and laborers amongst the convicts to be sent to the Sydney Islands; as a way of justifying the acts the government intended to take.

It was soon realized, that Botany Bay could be used as an intermediary in trade between China and the East India Company, and its importance was even further crystallized. Thus, the government decided to take a firm hand in the manipulation of the colonization at Botany Bay – even though it was almost an ascertained fact that the colony would not survive very long.

When comparing Malaspina’s Report and Heads of a Plan, it is easy to see that the latter has been written by someone impartial to the consequences of the proposed idea of a settlement in New South Wales. Heads of a Plan is a very strategized, and calculated, literary work of politics; focusing on the disposal of convicts from British Prisons – in a time of great crime and high social degradation – and their use abroad, for the benefit of the British Government. Everything concerning the implementation of the plan is given in minute detail in The Heads of a Plan, from the number of convicts to grace each ship to the amount of food to be carried aboard it from the different ports the ships will stop at on their journey, to the exact number of marines to be hired for the protection of the natives on the island and for the restoration of order both on the ships inland towards their journey and on land. Everything was calculated and penned down in minute detail, as though mapping out the future of a colony of long in the process of being made. (Frost, 1990)

Malaspina’s Report, however, conveys a very different aim behind the decision of the British Government in the establishment of the colony at New South Wales. Alejandro Malaspina states in his report of the geographic and political advantages the location of the colony provided the British. He sheds light on the fact that aside from the scientific cover used by the British government in furthering many of their so-called enterprises – with the colonization at New South Wales being just such another – it is a method effectively used by the British to further their political and strategic clout. He further provides evidence that points towards the intended weakening of Britain’s rival, Spain, via the formation of Botany Bay that would then prevent her from forming a colony of neighboring communities that might undertake international trade, thus spoiling Britain’s chances of remaining the global ruling party. Both these documents point towards a strategic planning of colonization abroad, but the purpose of Malaspina’s Report was more to lift the curtain and shed light on Britain’s dirty laundry, rather than simply show the deliberation with which the colonies were founded, as is the case with Heads of a Plan. (Malaspina, 1793)

In using such a testimony as the one Wood quotes (i.e. the views of Governors Macquarie and Brisbane), the reader may judge the views to be entirely prejudiced against the free settlers in New South Wales. This is because the convicts, according to the testimonies of both governors, never interfered with the government’s plans with the colony, and simply followed its lead in everyday life and matters of import. The free settlers, however, tried to impose their own will upon the laws governing the colony of New South Wales, as they were not ridden with guilt or humility of any kind due to past stigmas, causing many a tussle to occur between the government authorities and the immigrants that had freely decided to join. The British aristocracy was not able to rule over them as it was with the emancipators, as the latter lived life judging people on character and not on the wealth the accumulated. This was possibly also because the colony of New South Wales had nothing to fight for, and everything the convict settlers achieved they built from the ground up. Thus, when the immigrants arrived after a few years, they found an already-established colony where people lived for one another, and not for everyday miniscule greed like the one ruling most of the English gentry. There was no social status dividing the two, as all were equal and thus did not demand much from the government, as they knew everything would be done by them. The immigrants, however, were not so generous. When looked upon from that angle, it may be said that the government resented the interference it received from the immigrants, who were not at all scared of the repercussions of standing up against any regulations they deemed impertinent, thus becoming a major barrier in the way of settling peace in the land. (Wood, 1993)

Work Citation

Martin, Ged. (1978). The founding of Australia: the Argument about Australia’s Origins. Hale and Iremonger.

Frost, Alan.(1990). The Colonisation of New South Wales.

Wood, G.A. (1993). Convict Origins. Brisbane University of Queensland Press.

Malaspina, Don Alejandro. (1793). The Discovery and Exploration of Australia. University of Washington Press

Phillips Marion. (1994 ). A Colonial Aristocracy.

Historical Records of Australia, vol. x

Frost, Alan. (1786). the East India Company and the Choice of Botany Bay. Daily Universal Register.

Mackay, D.L. (1974). Historical Journal. Cambridge University Press.

Collins, (1788). English Colon. Ballard & Tighe Publishers.

Tench and Fitzhardinge. (1979). Sidney’s First Four Years. Library of Australian History

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