The last powerful Mughal ruler was Aurangzeb and after his death in 1707, many Mughal governors (subadars) and big zamindars began asserting their authority and establishing regional kingdoms.
- By the second half of the eighteenth century, Britishers who originally came to India as traders started to emerge as a new power on the political horizon.
Logo of British East India Company
East India Company comes East
In 1600 royal charter granted to East India Company granted the sole right to trade with the East.
- East India Company bought goods at a cheap price and sold them at a higher price in Europe.
Routes to India in the 18th Century
- Cotton and silk produced in India had a big market in Europe.
- Pepper, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon were in great demand.
- East India Company and its officials accumulated wealth by the trade of India and caught the attention of other European powers.
- English East India company had to compete with other European companies such as Franch, Dutch, and Portuguese.
- Because of the powerful naval force, the British won over other European powers and became the champion of the struggle of monotony of trade.
East India Company begins Trade in Bengal
In 1651, the first English factory was set up on the banks of river Hugli.
- Aurangzeb issued a Farman granting the company the right to trade duty-free.
- The company tried to press for more concessions and manipulate existing privileges.
- For trading purpose, the passes were issued to company officials but they misused these passes for private trade and accumulate wealth in the name of the company.
- Soon because of private trade company suffered and went into loses. To cure this anomaly British government made strict rules.
How did Trade Lead to Battles?
The conflict between the Company and the nawabs of Bengal intensified.
- The Bengal nawabs refused to grant the Company concessions, demanded large tributes for the Company’s right to trade, denied it any right to mint coins, and stopped it from extending its fortifications.
- They also claimed that the Company was depriving the Bengal government of huge amounts of revenue and undermining the authority of the nawab.
- The conflicts led to confrontations and finally culminated in the famous Battle of Plassey.
The Battle of Plassey
The Battle of Plassey was a decisive victory of the British East India Company over a much larger force of the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies on 23 June 1757, under the leadership of Robert Clive.
- In 1756, Alivardi Khan died and Sirajuddaulah became the nawab of Bengal.
- The Company tried to help one of Sirajuddaulah’s rivals to become the nawab.
- After Sirajuddaulah came to know about the Company’s strategy, he asked them to stop meddling in their political affairs, stop fortification, and pay the revenues.
- In 1757, Robert Clive led the Company’s army against Sirajuddaulah at Plassey. The main reason for the defeat was that the forces led by Mir Jafar never fought the battle.
- The Battle of Plassey became famous because it was the first major victory the Company won in India.
An oil-on-canvas painting depicting the meeting of Mir Jafar and Robert Clive after the Battle of Plassey
- The prime objective of the Company was the expansion of trade. If it can be done without conquest, through the help of local rulers, then territories need not be taken over directly.
- But, very soon the Company discovered that this was rather difficult. In 1765, the Mughal emperor appointed the Company as the Diwan of the provinces of Bengal.
- It allowed the Company to use the vast revenue resources of Bengal. From the early eighteenth century, the Company’s trade with India had expanded.
- Goods from India had to be brought with gold and silver imported from Britain.
The Battle of Buxar
- After the defeat at Plassey, Sirajuddaulah was assassinated and Mir Jafar was made the Nawab.
- Mir Jafar was just a puppet in the hands of Britishers.
- In 1764, the battle of Buxar was fought between Britishers and Mir Qasim, when Mir Qasim denied the privileges given to Britishers.
- Mir Qasim abolished the trade duty for everyone and transferred his capital from Murshidabad to Mungair. But this was against the interest of the British and they declared war.
Battle of Buxar, 1764: The Defining Battle of India
- In this battle Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal; Shujauddaula, the Nawab of Awadh and Shah Alam the Mughal King fought against British and British forces were led by Hector Munro.
- In this battle British become victorious and they decided to control the territory by their own.
- In 1765, the Mughal emperor appointed the company as the Diwan of the provinces of Bengal and they also got the Diwani rights of Bihar and Odisha.
Company officials become “nabobs”
- After the Battle of Plassey, the Company officials forced the actual nawabs of Bengal to give land and vast sums of money as personal gifts.
- When Robert Clive left India, his Indian fortune was worth £401,102. In 1764, he was appointed as the Governor of Bengal and was asked to remove corruption in Company administration.
- Many Company officials died an early death in India due to disease and war. Some of the officials came from humble backgrounds and their desire was to earn enough in India, return to Britain and lead a comfortable life.
- Those who managed to return with wealth were called “nabobs” – an anglicized version of the Indian word nawab
Company Rule Expands
After analysing the process of annexation of Indian states by the East India Company from 1757 to 1857, certain key aspects emerge.
- The Company rarely launched a direct military attack on an unknown territory. It alternately used a variety of political, economic and diplomatic methods to extend its influence before annexing an Indian kingdom.
- After the Battle of Buxar, the Company appointed Residents in Indian states. They were political or commercial agents and their job was to serve and further the interests of the Company.
- The subsidiary alliance means Indian rulers were not allowed to have their independent armed forces. They were to be protected by the Company, but had to pay for the “subsidiary forces” that the Company was supposed to maintain for the purpose of this protection.
- If the Indian rulers failed to make the payment, then part of their territory was taken away as a penalty.
Tipu Sultan- ‘The Tiger of Mysore’
Tipu Sultan: Tiger of Mysore
- Tipu Sultan was the son of Haidar Ali, ruler of Mysore.
- Tipu Sultan ruled Mysore from 1782 to 1799.
- Four wars were fought between Britishers and Mysore and were known as the Anglo- Mysore wars (1767-1769, 1780-84, 1790-92 and 1799).
- In 1799, the Britishers won the battle of Seringapatam against Mysore.
- Tipu Sultan was killed defending his capital Seringapatam.
War with the Marathas
- The Company from the late eighteenth century was planning to destroy Maratha power.
- The Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Marathas were defeated and their dream of ruling from Delhi was shattered.
- They were divided into many states under different chiefs (sardars) belonging to dynasties such as Sindhia, Holkar, Gaikwad and Bhonsle.
- These chiefs were held together under a Peshwa (Principal Minister) who became its effective military and administrative head based in Pune.
- Marathas were indulged in a series of wars. The first war ended in 1782 with the Treaty of Salbai, there was no clear victor.
- The Second AngloMaratha War (1803-05) was fought on different fronts, resulting in the British gaining Orissa and the territories north of the Yamuna river including Agra and Delhi. Finally, the Third Anglo-Maratha War of 1817-19 crushed Maratha power.
The Claim to Paramountcy
- Paramountcy a new policy was initiated under Lord Hastings (GovernorGeneral from 1813 to 1823). The Company claimed that its power was greater than that of Indian states.
- In the late 1830s, the East India Company became worried about Russia. It imagined that Russia might expand across Asia and enter India from the northwest.
- The Company fought a prolonged war with Afghanistan between 1838-1842 and established indirect Company rule there. Punjab was annexed in 1849, after two prolonged wars.
The Doctrine of Lapse
- Under Lord Dalhousie who was the Governor-General from 1848 to 1856 the final wave of annexations occurred.
- The Doctrine of Lapse is a policy devised by him that declared that if an Indian ruler died without a male heir his kingdom would “lapse”, that is, become part of Company territory.
- In 1856, the Company took over Awadh. Enraged by the humiliating way in which the Nawab was deposed, the people of Awadh joined the great revolt that broke out in 1857.
Setting up a New Administration
- Warren Hastings (Governor-General from 1773 to 1785) played a significant role in the expansion of Company power.
- During his time, the Company had acquired power in Bengal, Bombay, and Madras.
- British territories were broadly divided into administrative units called Presidencies. There were three Presidencies: Bengal, Madras, and Bombay.
- Each was ruled by a Governor. From 1772 a new system of justice was established. According to the new system, each district needed to have two courts: a criminal court ( faujdari adalat ) and a civil court (diwani adalat).
- The Brahman pandits have different interpretations of local laws based on different schools of the dharmashastra.
- To bring uniformity, in 1775 eleven pandits were asked to compile a digest of Hindu laws. By 1778 a code of Muslim laws was also compiled for the benefit of European judges.
- Under the Regulating Act of 1773, a new Supreme Court was established, while a court of appeal – the Sadar Nizamat Adalat – was also set up at Calcutta.
- The Collector was the principal figure in an Indian district. His job was to collect revenue and taxes and maintain law and order in his district with the help of judges, police officers, and darogas.
The Company Army
- In India, colonial rule brought some new ideas of administration and reform. The Mughal army composed of cavalry (sawars: trained soldiers on horseback) and infantry, that is, paidal (foot) soldiers.
A Sawar of Bengal in the service of the company.
- The army of the Mughal was dominated by cavalry. In the eighteenth century, changes occurred when Mughal successor states like Awadh and Benaras started recruiting peasants into their armies and training them as professional soldiers.
- The East India Company adopted the same method which came to be known as the sepoy army (from the Indian word sipahi, meaning soldier).
- In the early nineteenth century, the British began to develop a uniform military culture. Soldiers were subjected to European-style training, drill, and discipline that regulated their life far more than before.
- The East India Company was transformed from a trading company to territorial colonial power.
- In the early nineteenth century, new steam technology arrived.
- By 1857 the Company came to exercise direct rule over about 63 percent of the territory and 78 percent of the population of the Indian subcontinent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1. Write a short note on Tipu Sultan.
Ans: Tipu Sultan was the son of Haidar Ali, ruler of Mysore. He was known as the “Tiger of Mysore”. He ruled Mysore from 1782 to 1799. Four wars were fought between the British and Mysore and were known as the Anglo- Mysore wars(1767-1769, 1780-84, 1790-92and 1799). In 1799, the Britishers won the battle of Seringapatam against Mysore where Tipu Sultan was killed.
Q.2. What was the Doctrine of Lapse? Which kingdoms did the Company annex by applying this Doctrine?
Ans: The Doctrine of Lapse was the culmination of the Company’s territorial expansion policy. It was implemented by Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India from 1848 to 1856. According to the doctrine if an Indian ruler died without a male heir his kingdom would ‘lapse’, that is, become a part of Company territory. Several kingdoms were annexed by applying this doctrine - Satara, Sambalpur, Udaipur, Nagpur, Jhansi, and Awadh.