Mumbai was just seven islands Colaba, Mazagaon, Mahim, Parel, Bombay Island, Worli and Old Woman’s Island. They were separated by swamps: the land was dangerous and unhealthy.In 1534, the Portuguese captured the seven islands from Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and established a trading centre there. The Portuguese called the place Bom Bahia, meaning ‘the good bay’, which the English pronounced Bombay. This trading place slowly grew, with local people trading products such as silk, muslin, chintz, onyx, rice, cotton and tobacco. By 1626, there was a great warehouse, a friary, a fort and a ship building yard. There were also new houses for the general population, and mansions for the wealthy.
In October 1626, whilst at war with Portugal, English sailors heard that the Portuguese had “got into a hole called Bombay” to repair their ships. They attacked Bombay, but the ships had already left. The English burned down buildings, and destroyed two new Portuguese ships not yet from the stocks. In May 1662, King Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, whose family offered a large dowry. Part of this gift was the Portuguese territory of Bombay. However, Charles II did not want the trouble of ruling these islands and in 1668 persuaded the East India Company to rent them for just 10 pounds of gold a year.
Within a few years the Company had transformed Bombay. Governor Gerald Aungier set about building up the port, with a new quay, warehouses and a customs house. The Company supported him and encouraged him to build a new city – they even sent him the plan of London as it was to be rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666. Aungier started a complex building programme: causeways to link the islands; forts and a castle to protect people; a church, a hospital, and a mint where coins were made. He made the city more populous by attracting Gujarati traders, Parsi ship-builders, and Muslim and Hindu manufacturers from the mainland. In 1687, the Company made Bombay their Indian headquarters. The headquarters stayed there until 1708. During Mughal attacks in 1689, city lost its major manpower but bounced back by 1700 to become ‘gateway of India’.