Abstract The East India Company’s “regulated” trade monopoly more effectively served Britain’s national interest during the French wars than might be inferred from contemporary complaints and recent scholarship. The Board of Control’s assessment of India’s importance to the British balance of payments in the 1780s was well informed and was borne out by subsequent developments. British net inflows from India remained substantial through 1765–1812 and were arguably least dispensable. British trade with Asia most frequently outgrew the worldwide totals and retained some of the acquired gains to the end of the period. The real constraints faced by private traders should be weighed against the external economies and scale advantages rendered by the East India Company to a wider range of British interests.