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Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest | History for UPSC CSE

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Do you know when Indian rulers lost a battle against the East India Company, they used to pay the compensation amount in lakhs in 1700s to the company? Imagine the wealth our country had during that time which was eventually looted by the British. In this EduRev document you will read about the conditions that prevailed when the Company entered India and how the great Mughal empire came to decline and how weak was the administration during that period.

Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest | History for UPSC CSE

  • The first half of the eighteenth century saw the decline of the mighty Mughals, who had been the envy of their contemporaries for almost two centuries.
  • The reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707) proved to signify the beginning of the end of Mughal rule in India. It is argued that Aurangzeb's misguided policies weakened the stability of the state and the decline gained momentum after his death due to wars of succession and weak rulers.
  • Though Muhammad Shah ruled for a long spell of 29 years (1719-48), a revival of the imperial fortunes did not take place as he was an incompetent ruler.

Challenges before the Mughals

➢ External Challenges

The north western borders had been neglected by the later Mughals and not much el ort was expended in protecting the border.

Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest | History for UPSC CSE

Nader Shah on Peacock Throne

  • Nader Shah - Nadir Shah, the Persian emperor, attacked India in 1738-39, conquered Lahore and defeated the Mughal army at Karnal on February 13, 1739. Later, Muhammad Shah was captured, and Delhi looted and devastated. According to an estimate, apart from the Peacock Throne and the Kohinoor diamond, seventy crore rupees were collected from the official treasury and the safes of the rich nobles
  • Ahmad Shah Abdali (or Ahmad Shah Durrani) - who was elected the successor of Nadir Shah after the latter's death in 1747, invaded India several times between 1748 and 1767. He continuously harassed the Mughals who tried to buy peace in 1751-52 by ceding Punjab to him. In 1757, Abdali captured Delhi and left behind an Afghan caretaker to watch over the Mughal emperor. Before his return, Abdali had recognised Alamgir II as the Mughal emperor and the Rohilla chief, Najib-ud-Daula, as Mir Bakhshi of the empire, who was to act as personal 'supreme agent’ of Abdali.
  • In 1761, Abdali defeated the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat. The last of Abdali's invasions came in 1767.

Weak Rulers after Aurangzeb—An Internal Challenge

➢ Bahadur Shah I (1709-March 1712)

  • After a nearly two-year-long war of succession, the 63-year-old Prince Muazzam, the eldest son of Aurangzeb, became the emperor, taking the title Bahadur Shah. He was later called Bahadur Shah I). He had killed his brothers Muhammad Azam and Kam Bakhsh in the war of succession. Khafi Khan gave the title of Shah-i-Bekhabar to Bahadur Shah.
  • He adopted a pacific policy with the Marathas, the Rajputs and the Jats. Shahu, the Maratha prince, was released from Mughal captivity, and Rajput chiefs were confirmed in their respective states. However, the Sikh leader Banda Bahadur attacked the Muslims in Punjab and hence the emperor took action against him. Bahadur Shah I died in February 1712.

➢ Jahandar Shah (March 1712-February 1713)

  • With the help of Zulfikar Khan, Jahandar Shah became the emperor. Zulfikar Khan was appointed prime minister; he introduced izara system to improve the financial condition of the empire. Jahandar Shah abolished Jaziya.
  • Farrukhsiyar (1713-1719) After killing Jahandar Shah with the help of Sayyid brothers— Abdulla Khan and Hussain Ali (known as King Makers ). Farrukhsiyar became the new emperor. He followed a policy of religious tolerance by abolishing Jaziya and pilgrimage tax. In 1717, he gave
  • Rafi-ud-Darajat (February 28 to June 4,1719) - He ruled for the shortest period among the Mughals.
  • Rafi-ud-Daula (june 6 to September 17,1719) - The Sayyid brothers placed Rafi-ud-Daula with the title Shah Jahan II on the throne. The new emperor was an opium addict.

➢ Muhammad Shah (1719-48)

  • Raushan Akhtar - given title Muhammad shah and Rangeela
  • In 1724, Nizam-ul-Mulk became the wazir and founded the independent state of Hyderabad.
  • In 1739, Nadir Shah defeated the Mughals in the Battle of Karnal

➢ Ahmad Shah (1748-1754)

  • Udham Bai, the ‘Queen Mother’. Udham Bai, given the title of Qibla-i-Alam,

➢ Alamgir II (1754-1758)

  • Ahmed Shah Abdali, the Iranian invader, reached Delhi in January 1757. During his reign, the Battle of Plassey was fought in June 1757.

Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest | History for UPSC CSE

➢ Shahjehan III (1758-1759)

➢ Shah Alam II (1759-1806)

  • His reign saw two decisive battles—the Third Battle of Panipat (1761) and the Battle of Buxar (1764).
  • Treaty of Allahabad (August 1765), he was taken under the East India Company’s protection and resided at Allahabad. He also issued a farman granting to the Company in perpetuity the Diwani (the right to collect revenue) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

➢ Akbar II (1806-37)

  • He gave the title of Raja to Ram mohan Rai. 
  • In 1835, the coins bearing the names of Mughal emperors were stopped.

➢ Bahadur Shah II (1837-1857)

  • Bahadur Shah Zafar-the last Mughal emperor.
  • Captured by the English and sent to Rangoon where he died in 1862.
  • Mughal Empire came to an end on November 1, 1858 with the declaration of Queen Victoria

Question for Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest
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➢ Causes of Decline of Mughal Empire

  • Empire-related or Mughal-centric view sees the causes of the decline within the structure and functioning of the empire itself.
  • Region related view finds the causes of Mughal decline in the turmoil and instability in the different parts of the empire.
  • Emperors who came after Aurangzeb proved to be incapable, weak and licentious monarchs who hastened the process of disintegration of the empire and, finally, its collapse.

Major Factors Which Contributed to Downfall

➢ Shifting Allegiance of Zamindars

  • The zamindars were hereditary owners of their lands who enjoyed certain privileges on hereditary basis, and were variously known as rais, rajas, thakurs, khuts or deshmukhs.
  • They helped in the collection of revenue and in local administration and increased during Aurangzeb's reign.

➢ Jagirdari Crisis

  • Mughal rule has often been defined as “the rule of the nobility” 
  • Divisiveness among the nobility on the basis of religion, homeland and tribe.
  • Mutual rivalry, jealousy and contest for power among the various groups during the rule of the later Mughals an the absence of a strong central leadership) contributed to the decline of the empire.

➢ Rise of Regional Aspirations

  • The Rajput struggle against the empire and the growing ambition and power of the Marathas, thus, adversely affected the Mughal.

➢ Economic and Administrative Problems

  • The expenditure of the state much exceeded its income.

➢ Rise of Regional States

  • Successor States- The Mughal provinces that turned into states after breaking away from the empire. Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad.
    Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest | History for UPSC CSE
  • Independent Kingdoms- These states came into existence primarily due to the destabilisation of the Mughal control over the provinces, Mysore, Kerala and the Rajput states.
  • The New States - These were the states set up by the rebels against the Mughal empire, Maratha, the Sikh and the Jat states.

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➢ Hyderabad

  • The founder of the Asaf-Jah house of Hyderabad was Kilich Khan, popularly known as Nizam-ul- Mulk.
  • The idea of an independent state in the Deccan-Zulfikar Khan.
  • He killed Mubariz Khan in the Battle of Shakr-Kheda (1724). full-fledged viceroy of the Deccan.
  • In 1725, he became the viceroy and conferred on himself the title of Asaf-Jah.

➢ Awadh

  • The founder of the independent principality of Awadh was Saadat Khan, popularly known as Burhan-ul-Mulk.
  • He was succeeded by Safdar Jang as the Nawab of Awadh

➢ Bengal

  • Murshid Kuli Khan was the founder of the independent state of Bengal.
  • Succeeded in 1727 by his son Shujaud- din. His successor, Sarfaraz Khan, was killed in 1740 by Alivardi Khan, the deputy governor of Bihar at Gheria.

➢ The Rajputs

  • The Rajputs tried to re-establish their independence in the 18th century. This forced the Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah I to march against Ajit Singh (1708), who had formed an alliance with Jai Singh II and Durgadas Rathor. But the alliance was broken and the situation was saved for the Mughals. At one time the Rajputs controlled the entire territory extending from the south of Delhi up to the western coast.

➢ Mysore

  • This territory located at the junction of the Eastern and Western Ghats was ruled by the Wodeyars.
  • Mysore state was brought under the rule of Haider Ali

➢ Kerala

  • Martanda Varma established an independent state of Kerala with Travancore as his capital. He extended the boundaries of his state from Kanyakumari to Cochin.

➢ The Jats

  • Churaman and Badan Singh succeeded in setting up the Jat state of Bharatpur. But it was under Suraj Mai that Jat power reached its zenith.
  • State included territories from Ganga in the east to Chambal in the south and included the Subahs of Agra, Mathura, Meerut and Aligarh.
  • The Jat state suffered a decline after the death of Suraj Mai in 1763.

➢ The Sikhs

  • Guru Gobind Singh transformed the Sikhs into a militant sect in defence of their religion and liberties.
  • Banda Bahadur, later assumed the leadership of the Sikhs in 1708.
  • 12 misls or confederacies which exercised control over different parts of the kingdom.
  • The credit for establishing a strong kingdom of Punjab goes to Ranjit Singh. He was the son of Mahan Singh, the leader of the Sukarchakiya misl. Ranjit Singh brought under control the area extending from the Sutlej to the Jhelum. He conquered Lahore in 1799 and Amritsar in 1802.
  • The Treaty of Amritsar with the British, Ranjit Singh acknowledged the British right over the cis- Sutlej territories.
  • The Tripartite Treaty in 1838 with Shah Shuja and the English Company whereby he agreed to provide passage to the British troops through Punjab with a view to placing Shah Shuja on the throne of Kabul. Ranjit Singh died in 1839

Question for Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest
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➢ The Marathas

  • Under the capable leadership of the Peshwas, the Marathas uprooted the Mughal authority from Malwa and Gujarat and established their rule.
  • Their authority was challenged by Ahmed Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat (1761).

➢ Rohilakhand and Farukhabad

  • The states of Rohilakhand and the kingdom of the Bangash Pathans were a fall out of the Afghan migration into India.
  • Ali Muhammad Khan set the petty kingdom, Rohilakhand.
  • This was the area of the Himalayan foothills between Kumaon in the north and the Ganga in the south.
  • Mohammad Khan Bangash, an Afghan, set up an independent kingdom to the east of Delhi in the area around Farrukhabad

➢ Nature and Limitations of Regional States

  • The polity that emerged in these states was regional in character, and functional with the collaborative support of the different local groups like the zamindars, merchants, local nobles and chieftains.
  • The provincial rulers failed to develop a system based on sound financial, administrative and military organisation.
  • The jagirdari crisis intensified as income from agriculture declined, and the number of contenders for a share of the surplus multiplied.

➢ Socio Economic Conditions

  • Agriculture- Though agriculture was technically backward, it was worked by the hard labour of peasants.
  • Trade and Industry- India was known as a sink of precious metals.
    (i) Items of Import From the Persian Gulf Region— pearls, raw silk, wool, dates, dried fruits, and rose water; from Arabia—coffee, gold, drugs, and honey; from China— tea, sugar, porcelain, and silk; from Tibet—gold, musk, and woollen cloth; from Africa— ivory and drugs; from Europe— woolen cloth, copper, iron, lead and paper. Items of Export Cotton textiles, raw silk and silk fabrics, hardware, indigo, saltpetre opium, rice, wheat, sugar pepper and other spices, precious stones, and drugs.
  • Important Centres of Textile Industry
    (i) Dacca, Murshidabad, Patna, Surat, Ahmedabad, Broach, Chanderi, Burhanpur, Jaunpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, Agra, Multan, Lahore, Masulipatnam, Aurangabad, Chicacole, Vishakhapatnam, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Madurai, etc.; Kashmir was a centre of woollen manufactures.
  • Ship-building Industry Maharashtra, the Andhra region and Bengal were the leaders in shipbuilding. Indian shipping also flourished on the Kerala coast at Calicut and Quilon. The Zamorin of Calicut used the Muslim Kunjali Marakkars
  • Status of Education
    (i) The Hindu and Muslim elementary schools were called pathshalas and maktabs respectively. The education was confined to reading, writing, and arithmetic.
    (ii) Chatuspathis or Tools, as they were called in Bihar and Bengal, were the centres of higher education. Some of the famous centres for Sanskrit education were Kasi (Varanasi), Tirhut (Mithila), Nadia and Utkala. Madrasas  were the institutions of higher learning for Persian and Arabic. Azimabad (Patna) was a famous centre for Persian education.

Question for Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest
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➢ Societal Set up

  • Many Castes, Many Sects
    (i) The family system was primarily patriarchal and caste was the central feature of the social life of the Hindus.
    (ii) The sharif Muslims consisting of nobles, scholars, priests and army affairs often looked down upon the ajlaf Muslims or the lower class Muslims.
  • Position of Women in Society
    (i) Upper class women remained at home, lower class women worked in fields and outside their homes supplementing the family income.
    (ii) purdah, sati, child marriage, polygamy did exist which hindered the progress of women.
  • Menace of slavery
    (i) Higher classes of Rajputs, Khatris and Kayastha kept women slaves for domestic work.

➢ Development in Art, Architecture and Culture

  • At Lucknow, Asaf-ud-Daula built the bara Imambara in 1784.
  • Sawai Jai Singh built the pink city of Jaipur and five astronomical observatories at Delhi, Jaipur, Benares, Mathura and Ujjain. He also prepared a set of time-tables called Jij Muhammad-shahi, to help the people in the study of astronomy.
  • In the south, in Kerala, the Padmanabhapuram Palace, famous for its architecture and mural paintings.
  • Kanchan Nambiar was a noted Malayalam poet.
  • The Tamil language was enriched by sittar poetry. Thayumanavar (1706-44), one of the best exponents of sittar poetry, protested against the abuses of temple-rule and the caste system.
  • Heer Ranjha, the romantic epic in Punjabi literature, was composed by Warris Shah. In Sindhi literature, Shah Abdul Latif composed Risalo, a collection of poems.

As said in the previous document on how the company benefited by wars between different kingdoms. This document might have cleared your doubts and questions. In the next EduRev document, you will read about major events and treaties on how the company got control over Bengal region and what different administrative and economic changes were introduced.

The document Spectrum Summary: India on the Eve of British Conquest | History for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
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