Colonial India

In the 16th and 17th centuries, western relations with Mughal India began through trade. The rich and powerful emperors were eager to import western commodities and precious metals, and they granted privileges to the European traders to encourage them. In due course commerce, organised by European trading companies backed by their governments, developed into colonialism.

The Portuguese, Dutch, French and Scandinavians all participated in Indian trade and gained their own possessions there, but it was the British who came to dominate and eventually rule in India. Not until 1947 did India gain its independence from the British Empire.

Through the coinage, we can trace the changing influence of the Europeans in India. Initially the traders adopted and adapted the local currency systems that they encountered, but progressively they introduced western technology, administration and design.

Coinage of the British East India Company

Coinage in the Princely States

Coinage in the Republic of India


Obverse of East India Company bronze-gilt two-pice,

Obverse of East India Company bronze-gilt two-pice, 1804 Fitzwilliam Museum

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Department of Coins and Medals, Fitzwilliam Museum.