On this day in 1707, Bowrey settled his bill for muslin he had purchased. Textiles were important imports from the East Indies. Spices may have been the primary reason the East India Company was set up but, because of serious rivalry from the Dutch and Portuguese, their first profitable trade was in the luxury fabrics.
Initially the only spice the Company were able to purchase in any quantity was pepper. Each voyage of the Company’s fleet required enough ships to be able to defend themselves but if they filled all of them with pepper for the return voyage, they would flood the market. They needed another luxury commodity – textiles.
The Company’s first imports in the 1620s were printed and painted cotton fabrics. Even as late as the mid-eighteenth century, Indian textiles provided 60% of the Company’s profits.