Bombay Presidency

See Extracts from IOR; Letters from Bombay; Further Letters from Bombay; English Factories, Fawcett; Early Bombay, Foster



The first two voyages of the EIC from England did not go to India but to the islands of the East Indies, and it was not until the third expedition that an English ship, commanded by a captain Hawkins, eventually reached Surat on 28th August 1608. However, Hawkins was unable to establish a trading post at Surat and, initially, the English could only base themselves near to Surat at a place named Swalley Hole. The twelfth voyage sent out by the EIC, commanded by Thomas Best, arrived at Surat in 1612 and finally succeeded in obtaining the necessary permission to establish a factory, possibly because the Moghuls were beginning to realise that the English were seriously capable of challenging Portuguese naval power. In 1635 the Portuguese and the English signed, in Goa, a treaty that gave the English access to Portuguese trading posts all around the Arabian Sea, including the posts along the west coast of India. One of the islands controlled by the Portuguese was Bombay, south of Surat, and this island was ceded to Charles II as part of the dowry for his marriage to the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza in 1661. The Earl of Marlborough was sent to occupy the island with a Portuguese Viceroy and 400 troops. However, when Marlborough arrived in 1662, the Portuguese Governor refused to hand over the Island until he received instructions from Goa. Marlborough was obliged to unload his soldiers onto a deserted island whilst he himself sailed home. It was not until 1665 that negotiations between the British force and the Portuguese led to the British taking possession of Bombay, by when only 97 of the original force of 400 was left alive. Having obtained possession of the island, King Charles then rented Bombay to the East India Company in 1668 for £10 p.a., but the seat of government of the EIC did not transfer there, from Surat, until 2nd May 1687 [1]. Up until that time, the English were obliged to have their bullion coined in the local mint at Surat and pay the appropriate charges (see Surat section).



The coinage of Bombay at the time of transfer was Portuguese in nature and consisted of silver xerafins, copper pice, and tin bazaruccos, all of which were manufactured outside of Bombay itself. Sixteen bazarucco’s went to one pice and 23¼ pice to one xerafin. In the books of the EIC the accounts continued to be kept in the old Portuguese way in xerafins (valued in the Company’s books at 20 pence sterling), divided into 3 larins with each larin being reckoned at 80 reis. Of course, this was the coinage of the island of Bombay itself. Most trade was carried out with the mainland and the coins in use there were gold mohurs and silver rupees, although other coins were also in use. Pridmore (see ref [1]) cites the use of a coin called a Mahmudi (with a sterling value of about one shilling), apparently issued by the Rajah of Malher in Baglan, a place about 70 miles from Surat [2].

Once the English had gained control of Bombay Island, it was not long before they turned their attention to the matter of the coinage. Henry Gary was the King’s representative on the island and in 1668 he wrote [3]:

There is a very greate need for small money heere, if it agrees with your Lordships good liking that I may have procured a liberty to make and stampe a sort of copper and tinne money which is very requisite for these parts. They call it pice whereof 13¾ make a shilling: that of tin are called bazarookoes, whereof 16 goes for one pice. There being much cozenage used both in the one and the other. I shall therefore humbly recommend to your Lordship that a certaine quantity of copper bee sent hither in plates, such as the company use to send to Suratt. I doe assure your Lordship it will make some additions to His Majesties treasurie and revenue

However, Gary’s attempt came to nothing because of the transfer of the island from the King to the EIC.


Map of the Indian Mints Producing Coins of the Bombay Presidency

Map of Bombay Mints



[1] Keay J. (1991), The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company. HarperCollins

[2] Foster (1911). The English Factories in India 1634-1636. Clarendon Press, Oxford, p 224.

[3] Henry Gary 1668. Quoted by Foster (1927). The English Factories in India 1668-1669. Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 52.