British Conquest of India- 1 UPSC Notes | EduRev

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A NEW PHASE IN EUROPE'S EASTERN TRADE

  • India's trade relations with Europe go back to the ancient days of the Greeks. During the Middle Ages trade between Europe and India and South-East Asia was carried on along several routes. 
  • The Asian part of the trade was carried on mostly by Arab merchants and sailors, while the Mediterranean and European part was the virtual monopoly of the Italians. The trade remain highly profitable. 
  • The old trading routes between the East and the West came under Turkish control after the Ottoman conquest of Asia Minor and capture of Constantinople in 1453. 
  • The West European states and merchants therefore began to search for new and safer sea routes to India and the Spice Islands in Indonesia, then known as the East Indies. 
  • The first steps were taken by Portugal and Spain whose seamen, sponsored and controlled by their governments, began a great era of geographical discoveries. 
  • In 1492 Columbus of Spain set out to reach India and discovered America instead. 
  • In 1498, Vasco da Gama of Portugal discovered a new and all-sea route from Europe to India. 
  • He sailed round Africa via the Cape of Good Hope and reached Calicut. He returned with a cargo which sold for 60 times the cost of his voyage. 
  • These and other navigational discoveries opened a new chapter in history of the world. The 17th and 18th centuries were to witness an enormous increase in world trade. The vast new continent of America was opened to Europe and relations between Europe and Asia were completely transformed. 
  • Portugal had a monopoly of the highly profitable Eastern trade for nearly a century. In India, she established her trading settlements at Cochin, Goa, Diu and Daman. 
  • Under the viceroyalty ofAlfonso d'Albuquerque, who captured Goa in 1510, the Portuguese established their domination over the entire Asian coast from Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to Malacca in Malaya and the Spice Islands in Indonesia. 
  • In the latter half of the 16the century, England and Holland, and later France, all growing commercial and naval powers, waged a fierce struggle against the Spanish and Portuguese monopoly of world trade. 
  • In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was formed. 
  • The main interest of the Dutch lay not in India but in the Indonesian Islands where spices were roduced. 
  • They also established trading depots at Surat, Broach, Cambay and Ahmedabad in Gujarat in West India, Cochin in Kerala, Nagapatam in Madras, Masulipatam in Andhra, Chinsura in Bengal, Patna in Bihar and Agra in Uttar Pradesh. 
  • An English association or company to trade with the East was formed in 1599 under the auspices of a group of merchants known as the Merchant Adventurers. 
  • The company, popularly known as the East India Company, was granted a royal charter and the exclusive privilege to trade in the East by Queen Elizabeth on 31 December, 1600. 
  • In 1608 it sent Captain Hawkins to Jahangir's court to obtain royal favours. 
  • Consequently, the English Company was given permission by a royal farman to open factories at several places on the west coast. 
  • The English were not satisfied with this concession. In 1615 their ambassador Sir Thomas Roe reached the Mughal court. 
  • Roe succeeded in getting an imperial farman to trade and establish factories in all parts of the Mughal Empire. 
  • Farman means a royal edict, or a royal order. 
  • In 1662 the Portuguese gave the island of Bombay to King Charles II of England as dowry for marrying a Portuguese princess. 
  • Eventually, the Portuguese lost all their possessions in India except Goa, Diu and Daman.

THE GROWTH OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY'S TRADE AND INFLUENCE, 1600-1714

  • From the very beginning, it tried to combine trade and diplomacy with war and control of the territory where their factories were situated. 
  • The English opened their first 'factory9 in the south at Masulipatam in 1611. 
  • But they soon shifted the centre of their activity to Madras, the lease of which was granted to them by the local Raja in 1639. 
  • Here the English built a small fort around their factory called Fort St. George. 
  • In Eastern India, the English Company had opened its first factories in Orissa in 1633. In 1651 it was given permission to trade at Hugli in Bengal. 
  • In 1698, the Company acquired the zamindari of the three village Sutanati, Kalikata and Govindpur where it built Fort William around its factory. The villages soon grew into a city which came to be known as Calcutta. 
  • In 1717 the Company secured from Emperor Farrukh Siyar a farman confirming the privileges granted in 1691 and extending them to Gujarat and the Deccan. 
  • But during the first half of the 18th century Bengal was ruled by strong Nawabs such as Murshid Quii Khan and Alivardi Khan. 
  • They exercised strict control over the English traders and prevented them from misusing their privileges.

THE ANGLO-FRENCH STRUCK IN SOUTH INDIA

  • For nearly 20 years from 1744 to 1763 the French and the English were to wage a bitter war for control over the trade, wealth and territory of India. 
  • The French East India Company was founded in 1664. It was firmly established at Chandranagar near Calcutta and Pondicheny on the east coast. 
  • It had also acquired control over the islands of Mauritius and Reunion in the Indian Ocean. 
  • The French East India Company was heavily dependent on the French Government which helped it by giving it treasury grants, subsidies and loans, and in various other ways. 
  • Dupleix, the French Governor-General at Pondicheny at this time, now evolved the strategy of using the well-disciplined, modem French army to intervene in the mutual quarrels of the Indian princes and by supporting one against the other, securing monetary, commercial or territorial favours from the victor. 
  • In 1748, a situation arose in the Camatic and Hyderabad which gave full scope to Dupleix's talents for intrigue. In the Camatic, Chanda Sahib began to conspire against the Nawab, Anwaruddin, while in Hyderabad the death ofAsafJah, Nizam-ul-Mulk, was followed by civil war between his son Nasir Jang and his grandson Muzaffar Jang. 
  • Robert Clive, a young clerk in the Company's service, proposed that French pressure on Muhammad Ali, besieged at Trichinopoly, could be released by attacking Arcot, the capital of Camatic. 
  • In the end, the French Government, weary of the heavy expense of the war in India and fearing the loss of its American colonies, initiated peace negotiations and agreed in 1754 to the English demand for the recall of Dupleix from India. This was to prove a big blow to the fortunes of the French Company in India. 
  • The decisive battle of the war was fought at Wandiwash on 22 January, 1760 when the English general Eyre Coot, defeated Lally. Within a year the French had lost all their possessions in India. " 
  • The war ended in 1763 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

BRITISH OCCUPATION OF BENGAL

  • The beginnings of British political sway over India may be traced to the battle of Plassey in 1757, when the English East India Company's forces defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal. 
  • This farman of 1717 was a perpetual source of conflict between the Company and the Nawabs of Bengal. 
  • For one, it meant loss of revenue to the Bengal Government. Secondly, the power to issue dastaks for the Company's goods was misused by the Company's servants to evade taxes on their private trade. 
  • Matters came to a head in 1756 when the young and quick-tempered Siraj-ud-Daulah succeeded his grandfather, Alivardi Khan. He demanded of the English that they should trade on the same basis as in the times of Murshid Quii Khan. 
  • Siraj was willing to let the Europeans remain as merchants but not as masters. He ordered both the English and the French to demolish their fortifications at Calcutta and Chandranagar and to desist from fighting each other. 
  • Nevertheless the English Company demanded the absolute right to trade freely in Bengal irrespective of the Bengal Nawab's orders. This amounted to a direct challenge to the Nawab's sovereignty. 
  • Siraj-ud-Daulah seized the English factory at Kasimbazar, marched on to Calcutta, and occupied the Fort William on 20 June, 1756.
  • The English officials took refuge at Fulta near the sea protected by their naval superiority. Here they waited for aid from Madras and, in meantime, organised a web of intrigue and treachery with the leading men of the Nawab's court. 
  • Chief among these were Mir Jafar, the Mir Bakshi, Manick Chand, the Officer-in-Charge of Calcutta, Amichand, a rich merchant, Jagat Seth, the biggest banker of Bengal, and Khadim Khan, who commanded a large number of the Nawab's troops. 
  • From Madras came a strong naval and military force under Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive. Clive reconquered Calcutta in the beginning of 1757 and compelled the Nawab to concede all the demands of the English. 
  • They met for battle on the field of Plassey, about 30 km from Murshidabad, on 23 June. 1757. The fateful battle of Plassey was a battle only in name. 
  • The battle of Plassey was followed, in the words of the Bengali poet Nabin Chandra Sen. by “a night of eternal gloom for India"
  • The English proclaimed Mir jafar the Nawab of Bengal and set out to gather the reward. Mir Jafar was called a puppet ruler of Bengal. 
  • The battle of Plassey was of immense historical importance. It paved the way for the British mastery of Bengal and eventually of the whole of India. 
  • The rich revenues of Bengal enabled them to organise a strong army and meet the cost of the conquest of the rest of the country. 
  • Mir Jafar soon discovered that it was impossible to meet the full demands of the Company and its officials who, on their part, began to criticise the Nawab for his incapacity in fulfilling their expectations. 
  • And so, in October, 1760, they forced him to abdicate in favour of his son-in-law, Mir Qasim, who rewarded his benefactors by granting the Company the zamindari of the district of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, and giving handsome presents totaling 29 lakhs of rupees to the high English officials. 
  • Mir Qasim however, belied English hopes, and soon emerged as a threat to their position and designs in Bengal. 
  • He was an able, efficient, and strong ruler determined to free himself from foreign control. 
  • These years have been described by a recent British historian, Percival Spear, as "the period of open and unashamed plunder"
  • In fact the prosperity for which Bengal was renowned was being gradually destroyed. 
  • Mir Qasim was defeated in a series of battles in 1763 and fled to Awadh where he formed an alliance with Shuja-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh, and Shah Alam II, the fugitive Mughal Emperor. 
  • The three allies clashed with the Company's army at Buxar on 22 October, 1764 and were thoroughly defeated. 
  • This was one of the most decisive battle of Indian history for it demonstrated the superiority of English arms over the combined army of two of the major Indian powers. 
  • It firmly established the British as masters of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and placed Awadh at their mercy. 
  • In 1763, the British had restored Mir Jafar as Nawab and collected huge sums for the Company and its high officials. 
  • On Mirjafar's death, they placed his second son Nizam-ud-Daulah on the throne and as a reward to themselves made him sign a new treaty on 20 February, 1765. 
  • From Shah Alam II, who was still the titular head of the Mughal Empire, the Company secured the Diwani, or the right to collect revenue of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa.
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