The Early British Traders in Sindh

in Article
Published on: 23 February 2017

[This article was read before the Sindh Historical Society, Karachi, on March 25, 1934, and was published in the Society’s journal.]


Up to the last decade of the sixteenth century, Sindh was like a sealed book to the people of the West. The record of Western knowledge about Sindh was full of numerous errors, of which the following may be cited as representative illustrations. Duarte Barbosa, who sailed from Hormuz to Cambay[i], in the beginning of the sixteenth century, said that Sindh was a kingdom over which a Moorish king held sway, that its people were Moors who fed their horses on dry fish, that canes were available in Sindh, of the thickness of man’s leg, and that the Indus started from Euphrates and passed through the midst of Persia finally emptying itself in the Gulf of Cambay.


This ignorance regarding Sindh was perhaps due to the fact that after the march of Alexander the Great –​ the Macedonian hero, in 325 BC through Sindh[ii], the face of a white man had not been in this valley of the Indus.


Of the Western nations, the Portuguese were the first who came to Sindh and that was about the year 1555 A.D. In that year, Mirza Iss Tarkhan, the ruler of Thatta, marched to Bukhur in the Upper Sindh, to subdue its governor –​ Sultan Muhammad. Finding his means of coercion inadequate, Mirza Isa Tarkhan despatched an embassy to Bassein, the seat of government of the Northern Portuguese province, to ask for military aid[iii]. Considering it politic to cultivate friendship with the Chiefs of Sindh, Pedro Barreto Rolin was despatched to Sindh, with a fleet of 28 ships to succour Mirza Isa Tarkhan. Before he arrived in Sindh, Mirza Isa Tarkhan had made peace with his enemy. Consequently the Portuguese help was found unnecessary. The Portuguese soldiers desired that, in all fairness, they should at least be compensated for their trouble. On this request being refused, Barreto landed his men, entered the city of Thatta and killed over 8000 men, taking away with himself one of the "richest booties ever taken in Asia."[iv] It appears that soon after this event, the Portuguese established themselves in Sindh. Hardly anything is known about the Portuguese connections with Sindh in the latter half of the 16th century. If some painstaking student of Sindh History were to search directly for material on this subject in the archives of Goa, Lisbon and other places, I am sure he will not find his labour in vain.


The Englishmen came to Sindh much later on. On 31st December 1600 A.D. the East India Company was incorporated in England, by Royal Charter, under the title of "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies." The first epoch in the Company’s history was that of separate voyages. These were conducted between 1601 to 1612 A.D. After 1612, however, there came a change and the "Separate Voyages" were followed by "Joint Stocks". The first Englishman to come to Sindh was one Anthony Starkey, the steward of the ship the "Dragon". Thomas Best the Captain of the "Dragon" asked Anthony Starkey in the middle of February 1612 to traverse the land route for England, and carry with himself some important letters and documents. Starkey appears to have landed safely at Thatta and written hopefully about the trade prospects in Sindh. He and his Indian attendant, however, died shortly after, in Thatta perhaps, poisoned by two Portuguese friers there.[v] The object of the English merchants at this time was to get some share in the trade of Sindh. In the beginning of 1613, the good ship "Expedition" sailed from England for India. It carried on board an Englishman Walter Payton by name, from whose journal we get very useful information about Sindh. On board the same ship, were also Sir Robert Sherley, the ambassador for Persia, Sir Thomas Powell, their wives and other members of the suite, about fifteen in number who were all to go to the Kingdom of Persia. For nearly eight months the "Expedition" was voyaging, touching many small islands and seaports, observing strange people and their stranger customs. On 17th of September 1613, the "Expedition" anchored at Guader, a port of Mekran. The governor of the place sent a message to Sir Robert Sherley that though Mekran did not belong to the Shah of Persia, yet he acknowledged "a kind of dutifull love unto his Majesty", and the English ambassador was welcome to his place. He also promised a safe escort to Sir Robert Sherley and his party through his country to Persia. Sherley was overjoyed at this reception and at the prospect of reaching Persia in about twenty days’ time. He sent most of his goods on shore and was about to go on the shore himself, when the perfidy of the governor of Gauder and his men was revealed by a sailor chancing to overhear their conversation. It was found that the people of that part of the country were all rebels to the King of Persia and that their intention was to massacre Sir Robert Sherley and his whole party and rob them of their property. Some Baloch residents of Makran were detained as prisoners on board the "Expedition" and they were released only when all the goods of Sir Robert Sherley were handed back. The "Expedition" then sailed Sindhwards and arrived safely at Diul Bunder on 26th of September 1613.[vi] Sir Robert Sherley sent two men ashore to seek the permission of the governor of that place to land and to have passage through Sindh to Persia. The governor of the place –​ Arah Manewardus (Sic)[vii] welcomed the ambassador and offered his hospitality. Christopher Newport, the Captain of the "Expedition" gave some presents to Sir Robert Sherley for the governor and also a letter, in which he wrote that if the governor pleased, the English people might establish a factory in Sindh, and that although this time they were but slenderly provided, yet hereafter they would bring with themselves a large quantity of goods. But if such permission were not granted, then they begged leave to refresh themselves with water and provisions and depart. At Diul Bunder, Sir Robert Sherley found several Portuguese who perhaps fearing trade competition, spread false stories about Sir Robert Sherley and his intentions. But Arah Manewards –​ the governor, was a sensible person and he silenced the slanderous Portuguese traders. He then suggested to Sir Robert Sherley to invite two, three gentlemen from the "Expedition" to explain to him about the establishing of trade factory in Sindh. Accordingly a small deputation including Walter Payton went to him whom he received in style and listened patiently to what they said. He then told them that as they had brought very little stock with themselves, he could not entertain their request but that he would give them all facilities when they came to Diul next time. He also would not allow them to sell the few things which the English traders had brought, on the plea, that thereby he would be offending the Portuguese merchants of the town. He however permitted them to take fresh water and buy their provisions from the town and then depart in peace. All persuasion having failed and finding no other remedy left, the deputation went back disappointed. Sir Robert Sherley advised them to send one of their party to the Moghul Emperor at Agra and get a "Firman" from him allowing the English to trade in Sindh. On 9th October 1613, the "Expedition" sailed away from Diul leaving behind Sir Robert Sherley and his party to proceed to Persia as best as they could[viii]. The promises of Arah Manewardus, to help Sir Robert Sherley to proceed to Persia, turned out to be false. He not only did not keep his promises, but on the contrary connived at the outrages of the Portuguese to which the English ambassador’s party was frequently exposed. During this period of distress, Sir Thomas Powell and Francis Bubb, the Secretary died at Diul Bunder. Sir Robert Sherley getting fed up with the whole business sought liberty to go to Thatta, but as permission was not given to him to do so, he went away without leave to Thatta. On the way he had to cross the Indus and as no boatman would carry him over, being prohibited on pain of death to do so, the intrepid Englishman and his party made rafts and sailed on the Indus. Hardly had the rafts sailed when a party of twenty or thirty horsemen appeared on the bank of the river who dismounting, plunged in the water and swam to the rafts. Thus Sir Robert Sherley and others were brought back to Diul Bunder but not before Master John Ward who had long been the companion of Sir Robert Sherley, had been shot dead in the skirmish. After a short period of imprisonment at Diul Bunder, the party was atlast permitted to depart for Thatta, the governor of which place, being a Persian, entertained them all, in a most friendly manner. At Thatta, Sir Robert Sherley waited for two months, during which period, Lady Tomasin Powell the widow of Sir Thomas Powell was delivered of a son, but both the mother and the child, as well as Master Michael, who was a brother of Sir Thomas Powell, died. Sir Robert Sherley at last reached Agra safely and was received with great honour by the Moghul Emperor –​ Jehangir[ix].


In 1613 we hear of another Englishman in Sindh –​ Nicholas Withington the British factor. Mr Withington was called upon in December 1613, to undertake an overland journey from Ahmedabad to Lahri Bunder[x] the news having come to Ahmedabad, of the arrival of three English ships to Lahri Bunder. Withington set out and reached very near Thatta, when the party was seized by a local chief, who bound them and robbed them of all that they possessed. Withington and his party, however luckily escaped back to Surat with their lives[xi].


However a start had been made towards the practical acquaintance of the West with Sindh, and the Englishmen began to take interest in Sindhs’ trade possibilities. Sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador, who had been sent from England to the Court of Emperor Jehangir, to obtain some trade concessions for his countrymen, looked on Sindh, as a fair field for commerce. On 24th November, 1615, he wrote from India, to the East India Company that, "according to such relations as I have gotten, the river of Syndu were most commodious of all others, to which from Lahor anything my passe by water; besides the cuntry is more healthy and plentiful in indico and comodytyes fit for England.[xii] In his Treaty of Commerce, which he presented at the Royal Court of Jehangir, in March with the second article provided for trade facilities in Sindh. An extract from the second article of Sir Thomas Roe’s draft treaty reads thus:-


"… that the subjects of the most renowned King of Great Brittane shall come freely without any prohibition to any of the ports or havens in the dominions of the said King of India, as well in Bengala and Syndu … with their ship and other vessells, and so arrived may quietly, safely, and peaceably land theyr goods" etc.[xiii]


On 26th of April, 1616, Sir Thomas Roe wrote to the English factors at Surat, that an attempt should be made to open up trade with Lahore and Sindh[xiv]. The factors at Surat were not however very keen on trade connections with Sindh. They considered trading with Sindh, a risky matter, as the Portuguese had settled at Lahri Bunder. Sir Thomas Roe however pacified the Surat factors and dispelled their doubts, by saying, "The number of Portugalls residing is a good argument for us to seek it; it is a signe ther is good dooing … It is to bee understood wee must fire them out and maynteyne out trade at the pikes end[xv]. Seven years afterwards in 1623, the English traders were permitted free trade in Sindh, by the Surat authorities.[xvi] Though permission to trade had been given, and Sir Thomas Roe had encouraged the idea of trading with Sindh, yet hardly any interest was shown and no commercial project undertaken till 1629, when an invitation was sent from Sindh, to the English factors at Surat, for the establishment of an English factory in that country. Thereupon a native broker was despatched, to make inquiries and procure samples of the goods available there[xvii]. The Surat factors had, in the meantime, written to the East India Company in England about the establishment of a factory in Sindh, and a discouraging reply had been received from England, saying that "The settlement of a factory in Synda must not be undertaken except after good consideration."[xviii] By April 1630, the native broker who had been sent to Sindh, to collect samples and information, returned from that place bringing the samples of several articles, made in Sindh. Two bales of Sindh indigo and some samples of white cloth of Sindh, were thereupon sent to the East India Company with a request that "… if they shall be found usefull in England and beneficall to recompence the expence and charge of settling a factory in that place, your Worships may determine and we shall endeavour itts performance."[xix]


For the next five years the question of the establishment of a factory in Sindh, does not seem to have been agitated. However in November 1635, the bitter feelings which the English and the Portuguese entertained for one another, having subsided, an English ship –​ the "Discovery" anchored off Lahri Bunder[xx]. This year 1635, is important, as it was in this year that the East India Company mustered up courage to trade on a large scale with Sindh. Before the "Discovery" sailed for Lahri Bunder, William Fremelen, John Spiller and Richard Moyle, who had been nominated for service in Sindh, were instructed to inquire chiefly for piece-goods, suitable for the English market and to remain at peace with the Portuguese residents there, and not to "encroach upon nor prejudice their royalties of revenewes." Fremelen was to be the leader of this expedition, with Spiller as his assistant to keep the cash and the accounts ; and on Richard Moyle, "a youth well-born and educated" fell the task of helping in writing and keeping the petty cash accounts."[xxi] On 28th November 1635, the "Discovery" anchored right against the river Indus’s mouth. On 3rd December, Fremelen and his companions landed at Lahri Bunder, at midnight. Next day, they were received by the local officials with due respect and courtesy. One of the best houses in the town, was ordered to be prepared for them. Fremelen found the town of Lahri Bunder, well-inhabited, containing mud houses. The articles of food were both cheap and abundant. Hens were to be had at four pice each, and a sheep cost only one rupee. The country round about belonged to one Rana Jeeah. In the town, a Portuguese pastor dwelt in a decent house, whereas three or four padres had poor dwellings "to exercise their devotions in."[xxii] After enjoying the hospitality of this town for five days, the party left for Thatta, which place they reached on 10th December 1635. For nearly two months and a half, Fremelen’s party remained at Thatta investigating in the commercial possibilities of Sindh. The Governor of Thatta –​ Daulat Khan, extended a hearty welcome to them. In his report to the President and Council at Surat, Fremelen mentioned, that Nasarpur (in the Hyderabad district) was the chief cloth centre in Sindh, boasting of nearly 8000 families of weavers, that the chief commodity of Sehwan, was an inferior kind of indigo, "because in the making they are accustomed to mingle sand with it, which not only makes it hard but heavie withall." Among other articles of commerce, were mentioned saltpetre and opium[xxiii]. On 23rd February 1636, Fremelen and his party left Thatta, and embarked for Surat a few days later, in the "Hopewell," which ship had come to Lahri Bunder, a week before the Christmas of 1635[xxiv]. It should be borne in mind, that even after Fremelen’s arrival at Thatta, no English factory had been established there. The President and the Council at Surat were still intending "to settle a constant factory at Tatta." One John Drake, who had been sent to the Royal Court of the Moghul Emperor, was instructed to obtain a fresh "parwana" for Thatta[xxv]. He succeeded in obtaining the necessary "parwana" and sent it to the Surat factors on the 25th of August 1636.[xxvi] After the return of Fremelen from Thatta, the English interests in Sindh were left in the hands of a native broker.[xxvii]  But it appears that the trade connections with Sindh were yet uncertain. The samples sent to England, found favour with the Directors of the East India Company who wrote to their Surat factors on the 16th of March 1638, that a factory in Sindh should be established and cherished, "for the goods received from thence … are the flower of the whole parcell and are preferred before all others for their making and prizes … Wee shall therefore desire that you do not neglect that place …"[xxviii]


The next two years are uneventful. Two, three Englishmen had gone or passed through Sindh and sent reports to the Surat factors about commerce and commodities of Sindh, but it was in 1640, that an important step was taken, by sending John Spiller to Sindh.[xxix] John Spiller had come to Surat in 1630, as a youth of seventeen or eighteen. He had also accompanied Fremelen to Sindh in 1633. Now in June 1640, he was despatched to Sindh as the chief factor and in Sindh he remained upto 1652.[xxx] In 1643, presents were sent to Emperor Shah Jehan and his sons, with a view to obtain trade immunities. The result was very satisfactory and Dara Shikoh, Shah Jehan’s eldest son, granted several nishans to facilitate English trade in Sindh.[xxxi]  Though Spiller had gone to Sindh in the middle of 1640, yet very little is heard of him, for the next three years. The establishment of the Englishmen, employed in Sindh in 1644, consisted of John Spiller, Daniel Elder and Revett Walwyn, on salaries of £133-6S, £70, and £18 per annum respectively.[xxxii] From May to September 1644, John Spiller toured in Upper Sindh, studying the productions, and finding suitable places for the purchase of calico and indigo. He found, that the calico that was being produced, was of an inferior quality, the reason being the great demand for it, which had grown lately. In spite of fertile soil, he found that the people were too poor to produce good indigo.[xxxiii] Two reasons have been assigned for the production of inferior quality of indigo in Sindh at this time. One was the oppressive government in Sindh, which left people "neither will nor means" to grow the crop. The second reason was the "reduced demand (for it) and a heavy fall in price."[xxxiv] Expectations of great quantities of indigo, having thus been frustrated, it was deemed advisable, to concentrate on the Sindh cloth, and President Breton at Swally Marine wrote to the Company on 3rd January 1646, that "the cloth of those parts (Sindh) affoardeth much better encouragement."[xxxv] By January 1647, some change in the Sindh Establishment, had been made. Daniel Elder and Revett Walwyn had been replaced by Henry Garry, Nicholas Scrivener and Gilbert Harrison at Thatta,[xxxvi] with Spiller as chief factor in Sindh. Trade conditions were not at all favourable in Sindh, in 1647, and John Spiller, reported to the Surat factors on 21st January 1647, that "Trade has been very dead" and that, "there is such a scarcity that merchants that trade up in the country are faine to runne all over the towne for a 100 rupees, and perchance not get them neither.[xxxvii]


Trade transactions in Sindh, of this period are not of much historical interest. Trade reports, an occasional death of some one from this small band of English trading pioneers, difficulties experienced at the hands of local officials, these sum up the activities of Messrs. Spiller, Gary, Scrivener and Harrison, in Sindh. In 1650, the factory servants in Sindh, had been hindered by the obstructions, set by the native officials, at two places –​ Kandiaro and Nasarpur.[xxxviii] Richard Davidge, who was proceeding to Agra, was requested to place this matter before the Moghul Emperor. The results was satisfactory and Richard Davidge, succeeded in obtaining a "firmaan" ordering the governors in the province of Sindh, and more particularly at Kandiaro and Nasarpur "not to interrupt the free course of our trade in that province."[xxxix] In April 1652, John Spiller embarked on the "Lanneret" for Persia, where he had been appointed as the chief English factor. [xl] But before proceeding there, something had happened at Lahri Bunder, which deserves some notice. So far, only two Western nations, were competing for trade in Sindh, the Portuguese and the English, but in March 1652, we hear for the first time of the Dutch nation competing with the English, for Sindh trade. In March 1652, Spiller found, much to his annoyance, some Dutch traders, who finding the English people, doing profitable trade in Sindh, had sent a mission to Thatta, headed by Pieter de Bie, [xli] seeking permission to establish a factory in Sindh. This permission was easily granted to them, much to the chagrin of the English traders in Sindh.[xlii] But Spiller was optimistic that "inspite of the recent intrusion of the Dutch, the Sindh trade will continue to be prosperous and profitable.[xliii] Trade conditions in Sindh, in 1656, were causing great anxiety, and Scrivener who was now the East India Company’s chief factor there,[xliv] wrote on 24th April 1656, that the traders in Sindh were put to great inconvenience, by the retiring Moghul governor –​ Jaffar Khan, who had seized all their boats for his accommodation.[xlv] The new governor of Thatta, Kabad Khan,[xlvi] was no better than his predecessor. Though not exactly a hen-pecked husband, yet his wife commanded all, "the Governor not daring to controule her." The trouble with Kabad Khan’s masterful spouse was, that she harassed the local traders considerably by taking away their goods and not paying even half the price for them. So Scrivener reported on 5th June 1658, that "there is a madd kinde of government at present in Tatah."[xlvii] During the following year, all that we learn about the trade affairs in Sindh, is that Scrivener was still in Sindh, clearing up matters, before going away with the goods, recently brought from thence.[xlviii] A band of five Englishmen, namely Messrs. Nicholas Scrivener, William Bell, Humphrey Fox, Thomas Atkins and John Widdrington were sent to Sindh in 1658 to be the factors there.[xlix] The year 1658, is historically important, on account of the conflict, in Northern India, between the four sons of Shah Jehan. Prince Shuja’s defeat by the Imperial forces near Benares, in February 1658, the defeat of Dara Shikoh at Samugarh in May 1658 at the hands of Aurangzeb and Prince Murad, the captivity of Shah Jehan in 1658, the imprisonment of Murad by his wily brother Aurangzeb, who crowned himself as the Emperor on 21st July 1658, and Dara’s flight from Delhi to Lahore, from Lahore to Multan, and finally to Gujerat are matters too well known to the students of Indian History. While this political tornado was sweeping away everything before it in the Northern India, there was a terrible famine raging in Sindh, in 1658, which swept away the majority of the people.[l] Mention has been made of this famine, as it affected the English trade in Sindh. So terrible was the famine that the living were hardly able to bury the dead,[li] and consequently the number of the weavers diminished considerably. The cloth that was produced was of an inferior quality, as whatever the Sindhi weavers produced was bought immediately by the native merchants at any price. The Surat factory, sent some grain, to be distributed among the Sindhi weavers, to keep them at work,[lii] but the East India Company’s trade affairs were by no means in a flourishing condition. In April 1660, orders were issued to Scrivener, in Sindh, to cease buying cotton goods there, and to buy a stock of saltpetre instead.[liii] The affairs at Surat, had taken a bad turn in 1660, owing to a clash between the Surat factors and the local authorities there. The Surat factors had been subjected to affronts and abuses and petty indignities, like prohibiting them to "wear sword, dagger or knife."[liv] The factors resolved to be patient, till the arrival of their ships, and then to demand satisfaction for insults and injuries heaped on them. They wrote to their factors, scattered all over India, to be in readiness to depart, on receiving a warning from them, to do so. The factors at Thatta, were also informed on 14th June 1660, to be in readiness to withdraw at a short notice. The situation however improved by September 1660, when the governor of Surat … Mirza Arab, evinced signs of friendliness. The pro-offered peace, was readily accepted, the justification on the part of the English factors being, "our masters business."[lv] Nicholas Scrivener still continued to be the chief factor in Sindh, assisted by Messrs William Bell, Valentine Nurse and John Cox.[lvi] The trade with Sindh, as mentioned above, was becoming less profitable day by day. It was feared in the beginning of 1662, that the Sindh factory "will not be worth the charge."[lvii] On 20th March 1662, a strong letter was written to William Bell, the chief factor in Sindh now, in place of Nicholas Scrivener, who had evidently given up his post in Sindh, [lviii] that if a steady supply of saltpetre and calicoes, at reasonable prices were not procured, the Sindh factory would be withdrawn.[lix] It appears that William Bell, the chief factor in Sindh, was a person of extravagant tastes. He returned to Swally on the 14th of November 1662, with the other Sindh factors,[lx] and was reprimanded, for his various misdemeanours. While in Sindh, he had, not only been most scurrilous, in his correspondence with the President of the East India Company at Surat, but he had also misappropriated the Company’s money and had failed to pay into the Company’s treasury at Surat, the money he had brought from Sindh. He was accused and found guilty, and the Council at Surat decided to send him back to England, "as a person most unfitt to serve the company."[lxi]


With the departure of William Bell and other factors, the English factory in Sindh, may be considered as finally withdrawn. After 1662, we hear no more of any English factor in Sindh.


Very little is gathered from Sir William Foster’s monumental work in thirteen volumes –​ "The English Factories in India," about the social and the political life in Sindh in the 17th century. But in the year 1699 an Englishman, by name Captain Alexander Hamilton visited Thatta and from his interesting book –​ A New Account of East Indies we gather some information about the social customs prevalent in Sindh and the trade conditions of the country. Hamilton visited Thatta at a time when Thatta had reached the zenith of its glory. The large and rich city boasted of a citadel, capable of lodging 5,000 men and horse, with a palace built in it for the governor of the place. Hamilton had brought with himself goods worth 10,000£ with the intention of trading with the people of Sindh. He was very kindly received and hospitably treated by the Nabob of the town who sent him a present of "an ox, five sheep, as many goats, twenty fowls, and fifty pigeons, with sweet-meats and fruits in abundance." At an interview between the Nabob and Captain Hamilton, the Nabob after praising the bold Englishman, told him that he was free of all customs duties and tax on his goods that he had brought or should export from Sindh. He also allowed him the privilege of "imprisoning those people who failed to pay him for the goods bought from him, without going to the Kazi for justice." Hamilton stayed at Thatta for three months. Thatta in 1699 appears to have been a very populous town, for Hamilton mentions that three years before he came to the place, 80,000 weavers and manufacturers of cotton and silk had died on account of a severe plague caused by the rain not having fallen. He further refers to four hundred colleges at Thatta training the young men of the place in theology, philology and politics. Though Hamilton’s account of Thatta smack of hyperbole, yet it must be admitted that Thatta at this time was "the emporium of the province of Sindh." Hamilton’s account throws some light on the local manufactures and articles of export. Cloth of silk, cotton and wool was the special manufacture of the place. Beautiful coverlets for beds, and fine cabinets, some of them inlaid with ivory were also made at Thatta. Great quantities of butter were exported in jars of all sizes. Another articles of export was the Ligna Dulcis which found its way from Thatta to even China. Though the religion established by law was Mahomedan yet general religious tolerance was observed towards the Hindus who formed the majority of the people. The Hindus were allowed to observe their fasts and feasts unmolested. Another interesting fact is brought to light by Captain Hamilton and that is the absence of Suttee system in Sindh, for, Hamilton distinctly mentions that "the wives of (the Hindus) are restrained from burning with the corpses of their husbands." After a pleasant stay of three months at Thatta, Captain Hamilton left for Gujerat, passing through Cutch.[lxii]


After Alexander Hamilton, we learn of only one more Englishman in Sindh –​ Edward Cooke. Nothing is known about him and his doings in Sindh. But it is clear from the inscription on his grave that he was a private merchant who died at Thatta in 1748. The date of his death, is found inscribed on his grave, which lies hidden in some cactus bushes, at a short distance, from the Travellers’ Bungalow, on the Makli tableland near Thatta. The grave of Edward Cooke, bears the following inscription:


"Here lyes the manes of Edward Cooke, who was taken out of the world in the Flower of his Age, a person of great esteem and much lamented by his friends, learned in many languages, of great humanity, a sound judgement and generous disposition, who departed this life on the 8th of May 1748. Aetatis Suae 21.


As blooming lilies grace the field,

So for a day they shine,

Like him to God, so they yield

Their selves, but not their names resign.

To whose memory his servants erected this tomb."[lxiii]


This summarises very briefly the doings of early English traders in Sindh, in the 17th and the early decades of the 18th centuries. From Anthony Starkey the first Englishman in Sindh to Edward Cooke, the list of the English pioneers has been fairly exhaustive.




The journal of the Sindh Historical Society carried articles by eminent historians and scholars of the time, and explored topics related to the ancient as well as modern history of Sindh. There is no complete archive of these journals in any library. A few of the articles were published by the Sindhi historian Mubarak Ali and can be read on and


This particular article The Early British Traders in Sindh appears here with the help of the Sindhi scholar Mehtab Ali Shah who visited the library of the University of Sindh, Jamshoro, and photocopied it from the source. I have keyed it in retaining all spellings, punctuation and usages as they appeared on the page, except for ‘Sind’ which has been replaced by the contemporary ‘Sindh’.


Saaz Aggarwal

November 2016


[i] Damus, M1 The book of Duarte Barbosa ppI 106-107

[ii] Aitken, EH, Gaz of the Province of Sindh p85

[iii] Haig, MR The Indus Delta Country p97-98

[iv] Danvers, FC The Portuguese in India p508

[v] Purchas, S, Purchas, His Pilgrimage IV, p133 and Foster, W Early Travels in India p191 n1.

[vi] Purchas, op cit IV pp 192-200

[vii] A Arab Manewardus. Manohards. Arahat, Sanskrit, a candidate for Narvana; venerable; a Mahatma; arab is the Pali form of Sansrit Arhat, a worthy.

In Maxmuller’s translation of Dhamapada XXIII, we read, ‘These wise people –​ arabata meditative, persevering, ever full of strength, attain to Nirvana, the highest bliss.’

[viii] Purchas, op. cit. IV p201. Ind ff

[ix] Ibid., pp 296-297 and Orme, r. Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, pp 358-359,

[x] Lahori Bunder was an old port of Thatta, near the PItti mouth of the Indus. It has disappeared now.

[xi] Purchas, op. cit., IV. pp. 168-171 and Foster Early Travels in India pp 190-191.

[xii] Foster, William  The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe, pp 75-76

[xiii] Ibid., p. 134

[xiv] Ibid., pp 146 and 148

[xv] Ibid., p193, n.2.

[xvi] Foster, The English factories in India, 1622-1623. p309

[xvii] Foster, op. cit. 1624-1629, p.XXXII

[xviii] Foster, op. cit. 1630-1633, p.5

[xix] Ibid;, p 35

[xx] Foster, The English factories in India, 1634-1636. Pp. VII-X and XVI.

[xxi] Ibid., pp. 117-119

[xxii] Ibid., pp. 123-124

[xxiii] Ibid., p. XVI

[xxiv]Ibid., pp.271 and XXVI

[xxv]Ibid., p. 261

[xxvi] Foster, The English factories in India, 1637-1641 p. VII

[xxvii] Ibid., p57

[xxviii] Ibid. p275

[xxix] Foster, The English factories in India, 1655-1660 p. 53

[xxx] Foster, op. cit., 1642-1645 p.X

[xxxi] Ibid. p. 132

[xxxii] Ibid. P. XII

[xxxiii] Moreland, W.H. From Akbar to Aurangzeb pp. 114 and 120

[xxxiv] Foster, The English Factories in India, 1644-1650 p13.

[xxxv] Ibid., p96

[xxxvi] Ibid., pp72 and 73

[xxxvii] Ibid., pp.276-277. Kandiaro is a taluka headquarters in the Hyderbad district. Nasarpur is a small town of great antiquity, also in Hyderabad district.

[xxxviii] Ibid., pp.303 and 321

[xxxix] Foster, The English Factories in India, 1651-1654 p9.

[xl] Ibid., p116, n

[xli] Ibid., pX

[xlii] Ibid., p130

[xliii] Foster, The English Factories in India, 1635-1660 p58.

[xliv] Ibid., p78

[xlv] Kalich Beg, History of Sindh, II, p129

[xlvi] Foster, op. cit., 1655-1660 p79

[xlvii] Ibid., p115

[xlviii] Ibid., p147 and 152

[xlix] Moreland, op. cit., p209

[l] Foster, op. cit., 1655-1660 p307

[li] Ibid., p210 and n.

[lii] Ibid., p311

[liii] Ibid., p312

[liv] Ibid., p313

[lv] Ibid., p319

[lvi] Forster, The English Factories in India 1661-1664 p27

[lvii] Ibid., p30

[lviii] Ibid., p72

[lix] Ibid., p78

[lx] Ibid., p108

[lxii] Hamilton, A. A New Account of the East Indies I p117

[lxiii] Cousens, Antiquities of Sindh, p123