On This Day: 9 July 1705

Today’s document is a bill for calico and other fine fabrics.

Spices may have been the primary reason for the creation of the East India Company but its first profitable trading was in textiles. The serious rivalry in the spice trade with the Dutch and Portuguese, as well as the risk of piracy, resulted in each voyage requiring a minimum number of ships in order to enable the fleet to defend itself. The first company voyage returned with so much pepper that the market was flooded with a detrimental effect on prices. On subsequent voyages only sufficient spices were purchased to fill just one of these ships. Other trade goods were required to fill the others.

The Company began importing both printed and painted cotton into England as early as 1620 when they brought fifty thousand pieces (about a meter wide and ten or twenty meters long) back from India. Even as late as the mid-eighteenth century, India textiles provided sixty percent of the Company’s profits.

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