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Ships Of The Honourable East India Company J Murdoch The Honourable East India Company Was A Response To The Dutch East India Company . This Paper Discusses The Evolution And Design Of Their Ships

2810 words - 11 pages

Ships of the Honourable East India CompanyJ MurdochThe Honourable East India Company was a response to the Dutch East India Company . Many of the delicacies of life were being supplied by the Dutch and English money was leaving the country. Such an affront to mercantilism was unacceptable. The main cause of this money outflow was the fashionable desire for nutmeg. There was typically a 16 fold profit margin on this spice in the early 1600s. Little did anyone know that the desire for nutmeg would create a company that ruled the Asian sub-continent with an army of administrators in London, a private military and navy in Asia.After a shaky start using ships displacing 700 to 1000 tons the Company's typical ship size was soon reduced down to 499 tons displacement . The smaller ships had better sailing qualities and trade was yet to develop to a level where the behemoths were required. The spice trade had not proved as successful as anticipated as the spice islands were firmly under Dutch control. Large ships would have to wait two hundred years to be of use to the Company. The 499 ton ships avoided the requirement to have a Chaplin on board. The crew of an East Indiaman already contained far more specialists than other merchants who typically carried just a carpenter . A Chaplin would have taken valuable space and resources that could have been used for crew, specialists or human super cargo. Although many East Indiaman officially listed at 499 tons displacement they actually displaced upwards of this figure. East Indiamen carried considerably more armament than a typical merchant. They were operating under a royal charter in possibly hostile environments assuming a quasi-diplomatic role. To this end each ship carried the Kings Commission. A standard weapons load was twenty two 9lb cannons and four 4lb cannons. Occasionally the 4lb cannons were mounted on swivels at the bow and stern of the ship to augment the eleven cannon broadside to 15. Using the four pounder cannons as bow or stern chasers was only useful in firing warning shots or canister at boats and gigs. The cannons used by the Company although graded on the same weight ratings as the Royal Navy were considerably shorter in the barrel and hence less accurate . Theoretically a eight hundred ton East Indiaman could mount a 30 gun broad side. However this would allow no room for cargo or crew. Often there were insufficient crew to fire a full broadside even when there were only a total of thirty guns onboard. Often gun ports concealed only cargo not cannons. Many ships adopted the "Nelson chequer" which was the practice of painting on a row of ports that would be present on the lower deck of a true man-o-war. The 499ton ships looked like frigates the twelve hundred ton ships looked like 74 gun ships of the line. This was a deliberate ploy by the company to deter attackers .The demands of the various Company activities led them to adopt in 1793 different size classes for different geographical...

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