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The English East India Company was formed in 1600. It first began trading in Persia through Jask in 1616 and in the following year, established two factories inland at Shiraz and Isfahan. In 1617 the Company succeeded in securing a ‘firman’ (decree)from the Persian king, Shah Abbas, granting them a monopoly of the silk trade from the Persian ports. After the joint Anglo-Persian victory over the Portuguese in 1622, the Company’s representatives opened their first factory on the Gulf coast in 1623 at Bandar Abbas (Gombroon) on the southern coast of Persia. Thereafter, the trade of Hormuz was diverted to Bandar Abbas, which became the headquarters of British commercial activities in the Gulf for the next one hundred and fifty years.

With the decline of the Dutch, British fortunes began to prosper to some extent but the Anglo-French rivalry for mastery of India and the Gulf led to a period of instability. Furthermore, the British, whose major interest was trade, found that their position at Bandar Abbas had become increasingly precarious as a result of the political turmoil and frequent dynastic changes in Persia during the first half of the 18th century. In 1763, the Company opened a new ‘residency post’ for a native British official at Bushire, and secured the monopoly of the import of woolens into Persia to the exclusion of other European nations. This inaugurated a period of about two hundred years of undisputed British commercial and political supremacy in the area after the collapse of the Portuguese, Dutch and French positions. It also marked the beginning of the British Political Residency in the Gulf.

From the late 18th century onwards, the East India Company’s factories were superseded by a complicated network of Residencies and Agencies whose primary functions were almost entirely political. Their chief aims were to protect the sea and overland routes to India and to preserve the imperial interests of Britain from the growing interference of other European powers. Between 1763 and 1947, Residencies and Agencies were maintained at Bushire, Muscat, Basra and Baghdad, Bahrain, Kuwait and Sharjah.

  
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