Nature and Scope

“An important resource enabling students and scholars everywhere to trace in detail the rise of the East India Company, which laid the foundations of the British Raj in India.”

Prof. H. V. Bowen, Swansea University

 

The nature and organisation of the material in Module 1 varies according to its class. Below is a summary of what users can expect to find in each class of documents.

For more detailed descriptions of the classes available in this resource, please see Margaret Makepeace’s introductory essay.

For full instructions on how to navigate and use East India Company, please see our user’s guide.

 

Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947

Module 2: Factory Records for South Asia and South-East Asia

Module 3: Factory Records for China, Japan and the Middle East

 

Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947

This module consists of the complete IOR classes A, B, C, and D and their associated Z-class indexes, comprising 932 volumes:
  • IOR/A: The East India Company’s charters, statutes and treaties
  • IOR/B: The minutes of the meetings of the Courts of Directors and Proprietors
  • IOR/C: The minutes and memoranda of the Council of India
  • IOR/D: The minutes and memoranda of the general committees and offices of the East India Company
  • IOR/Z: Indexes to selected documents in classes B and D

 

Document types include:Copy Letters Patent of Elizabeth I

  • Minutes of council meetings (Court of Directors, Court of Proprietors and Council of India)
  • Memoranda and papers laid before councils
  • Council resolutions
  • Proceedings of revenue boards
  • Charters
  • Text of legislation
  • Printed books
  • Correspondence
  • Lists of administrative, military and ecclesiastical personnel

 

File classes:

IOR/A/1

(111 volumes, 1600-1947)

These manuscript charters, commissions of voyages, letters patent, indentures, letters of marque and other legal documents are mostly catalogued individually or in small bound bundles.

 

IOR/A/2

(27 volumes, 1720-1851)

This sub-series consists of larger, bound volumes, often printed, which deal with relations with a British Government which undertook ever-increasing scrutiny of the Company’s commercial and administrative activities as the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth.

The volumes include an assortment of papers, most often to do with the periodic renewal of the Company’s charters and privileges, such as correspondence between Government and Company representatives, petitions, transcripts of evidence taken by Parliamentary committees, and statutes relating to the Company.

 

IOR/B

(275 volumes, 1599-1858)

These manuscript volumes are mainly minutes of meetings of the Court of Directors of the Company, with a minority of volumes relating instead to dissents to the Court, and others to the Court of Proprietors (which appointed the directors). The series ends with the transfer of authority from the Company to the Crown in 1858.

The B-class volumes are in date order by meeting; for ease of navigation we have subdivided each volume by month, quarter or year, as most appropriate.

Most B-class volumes have indexes to their content within them, but some do not; some of these latter are covered by a Z-class index or indexes (see below). All indexed volumes can be seen in conjunction with their indexes in our split-screen image-viewer.

 

IOR/C

(145 volumes, 1858-1947)

This series consists mainly of minutes of meetings of the Council of India, which succeeded the courts of the East India Company as the central executive authority for British India. Like the Courts, it met in London. It ceased to exist in 1937, when India gained greater self-government under the Government of India Act 1935. The volumes from after this date are of minutes of meetings of the Secretary of State for India’s advisers, and volumes of miscellaneous correspondence. As in the B class, there are also volumes of dissents.

Minute volumes have been subdivided by month, quarter or year, as most appropriate. Many of the later volumes in this series are printed or in typescript and some have indexes, which can be seen in conjunction with the related content in our split-screen image-viewer.

 

IOR/D

(256 volumes, 1700-1858)

The majority of these records were produced by, or are closely associated with, the Committee of Correspondence, the most important of the standing committees of the Company appointed by the Court of Directors. They include minutes of the meetings of the Committee, its reports and resolutions, and its memoranda.

The D class also includes many volumes of ‘auditor’s references’, comprising assorted papers mostly relating to the financial claims of Company employees. There are also a few miscellaneous volumes of papers on topics such as ecclesiastical appointments and the legal proceedings against Warren Hastings.

Where these volumes are indexed, content and index pages can be viewed simultaneously in the split-screen image-viewer. Some volumes are indexed in Z-class indexes (see below).

Please note that volumes IOR/D/64-65 and 68-71 have been mislaid and so are not available in this resource.

 

IOR/Z

(119 volumes, 1702-1858)

This series consists solely of volumes of indexes which relate to volumes in the B and D classes.

These index volumes have not been put together to a consistent pattern and can be difficult to navigate; some Z-class indexes relate to only one content volume whilst others relate to multiple content volumes.

In addition to this, some ‘Z’s actually refer to copies of minutes which have been lost – i.e. they are indexes to minutes of which the British Library holds a different (textually identical but differently formatted) copy to the copy they actually refer to.

To make navigation as easy as possible for users, we have cross-referenced each ‘Z’ index with the volume(s) it refers to and enabled users to look at content and index simultaneously through our split-screen image-viewer.

 

Highlights of Module 1 include:

 

Modules 2 and 3: Factory Records

The ‘Factory Records’ consist of papers sent to London from the East India Company’s ‘factories’, or trading posts, across Asia and parts of Africa, including letters sent and received, official trading diaries, accounts of the Company’s embassies to rulers, proceedings of provincial councils and revenue boards, military documents and account books.

 

Module 2: Factory Records for South Asia and South-East Asia

(scheduled for publication in 2018)

This will consist of 937 volumes from 34 factories.

Date range:

1595-1830

File classes:

IOR/G, Factory Records, c. 1595-1830

These relate to factories and presidencies established in India during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and those maintained outside the subcontinent from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. The remainder of this class will be digitised in Module 3.

Document types include:

  • Correspondence
  • Consultations
  • Diaries
  • Despatches
  • Other collections of papers

IOR/L

This class features Departmental records.

Included in this module will be some of IOR/L/PS/9: Political and Secret Department Records. Correspondence relating to areas outside India, 1781-1911.

The Secret Department was reserved for highly sensitive correspondence involving war, peace and diplomacy, whereas the Political Department dealt with the everyday matters involving relations with the Indian states and foreign governments. This distinction was blurred after 1875, with records from both departments filed together in the same volumes.

Document types include:

  • Minutes
  • Correspondence

Highlights of Module 2 will include:
  • Correspondence on rivalries between the English and Dutch East India Companies in Java (1618-54)
  • A translation of the Sultan of Sulu’s cession of Banquay (1765)
  • Accounts of three East India Company embassies to Ceylon (1762-95)
  • An account of the Dayaks of Borneo (1816)
  • Papers related to Sir Stamford Raffles (1812-27)

 

Module 3: Factory Records for China, Japan and the Middle East

(scheduled for publication in 2019)

This will consist of 802 volumes from 8 factories.

Date range:

1596-1870

File classes:

IOR/G, Factory Records, c. 1595-1858

The first part of this class will be digitised in Module 2. These related to factories and presidencies established in India during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and those maintained outside the subcontinent from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century.

Document types include:

  • Correspondence
  • Consultations
  • Diaries
  • Despatches
  • Other collections of papers

IOR/R

This class comprises records transferred later through official channels.

Module 3 will feature some of:

IOR/R/10 Records of East India Company Factory at Canton

IOR/R/19 Records of East India Company and India Office Agencies in Egypt

 

Highlights of Module 3 will include:
  • Papers relating to Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy to the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1616)
  • Diaries of the factory at Tonqueen (Tonkin) (1672-97)
  • A narrative description of the Cape of Good Hope, advocating Britain’s annexation of the Cape as a supply station on the way to and from India (1785)
  • Letters relating to Lord Macartney’s embassy to China (1787-1810)
  • Papers relating to Sir Harford Jones’s residency at Baghdad and mission to Persia (1794-1811)
  • Letters relating to Napoleon Bonaparte’s removal to St Helena (1815-17)

 

For a very detailed guide to all of the IOR classes, including those available in this resource, please see Martin Moir’s book A General Guide to the India Office Records, available as a PDF here.