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Traders: the East India Company and Asia

A new permanent gallery is due to open at the National Maritime Museum later this month. Traders: the East India Company and Asia is a opening 28 September 2011.

Traders: the East India Company and Asia is a new permanent gallery. It explores Britain’s maritime trade with Asia, focusing on the role played by the East India Company.

For over 250 years, the East India Company uniquely shaped trade between Britain and Asia. The gallery explores the influence of Company trade and power, tracing the changing relationships between Britain and Asia that this brought about.

This trade involved key commodities, different locations and many people. It had consequences that changed Britain and the world and still affect us today.

The gallery is arranged in five sections:

The maritime world of Asia

This introductory section gives visitors a sense of the maritime world of Asia. It examines Asia as a well-established centre of bustling trade and fabulous wealth before the arrival of European traders.

Spices: trading for spices in Asia

The next section looks at the Company’s spice trade with Indonesia following its foundation in 1600.

Textiles: supplying cloth to the world

This section explores how the Company became a textile merchant to the world in the 18th century. It imported vast quantities of textiles from India, changing European fashions and tastes in the process.

Tea: breaking into the tea trade

By the late 18th century, the Company’s business focused on the tea trade with China. This trade also had its darker side: the illegal smuggling of opium into China to help pay for the Company’s exports of tea.

The Company in crisis

The last section of the gallery explores the Company’s collapse in the 1850s. Through a combination of war and rebellion in Asia and mounting criticism at home, the Company was brought to its knees. This section invites visitors to consider the legacies and consequences of the Company’s history and enter into the debate on the limits of corporate power today.

via Traders: the East India Company and Asia : Future exhibitions : Exhibitions : Visit : NMM.


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