Read this article to learn about the establishment and expansion of British dominion in India!
The earliest English settlement in eastern India dates back to 1633 when they established their factories at Hariharpur and Balasore in Orissa.
The first English factory in Bengal was established at Hugli in 1651 under permission of Sultan Shuja, the Viceroy of Bengal who granted them the privilege of trading in return for a fixed annual payment of duties worth Rs.3000.
Soon they established their factories at Qasim Bazar, Patna and other regions nearby. The main items of English trade were silk, cotton piece goods, saltpetre and sugar. Through a series of Farman in 1651, 1656 and 1672 the British were exempted from custom duties in return for fixed sums to be paid by the Company to the Indian authorities.
In 1698, the English obtained the Zamindari of the villages of Sutanuti, Kalikata and Govindpur on payment of Rs. 1200. Here the English built Fort Williams around its factory and Sir Charles Eyre was the first president of the Fort Williams.
In 1717, the Company secured valuable privileges under a royal Farman by the Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar which granted the Company the freedom to export and import their goods in Bengal without paying taxes and also the right to issue passes or dastaks for free movement of goods.
The Company’s servants were permitted to trade but were not covered by this Farman. As a result, they had to pay the same taxes as Indian merchants. This Farman became the perpetual source of conflict between the Company and the Nawabs of Bengal.
This also meant a loss of revenue to the Bengal government. The officials of the Company on the other hand misused the dastaks to evade taxes on their private trade. Both Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan had objected to misuse of the dastaks by the Company officials. The Company in turn left no opportunity to defy the authority of the nawabs.
Conflict began when Siraj-ud-Daula succeeded Alivardi Khan to the throne of Bengal. The new Emperor faced serious challenge from his rivals Ghasiti Begum of Dacca and Shaukat Jang of Purnea and was also suspicious of the English. He was strictly against the royal Farman and wanted to trade with the English on the same basis as in the times of Murshid Quli Khan without any privileges.
The English on the other hand prepared themselves for yet another round of Anglo-French struggle in Europe. The French had established their settlement at Chandernagore. The main causes of dispute between Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula and the English were the misuse of the dastaks by the servants of the Company, the refusal to pay taxes on their goods to the Nawab and the levying of duties on the Indian goods entering Calcutta which was in their control.
Problem arose when the English began to fortify Calcutta as part of the preparations of war with the French without the permission of the Nawab. Siraj- ud-Daula asked both the French and the English to pull down their fortifications and considered them an attack on the Nawab’s sovereignty. The French Company complied but the English refused to obey the orders.
Siraj-ud-Daula was young and short-tempered and could not tolerate this defiance. He responded by seizing the English factory at Qasim Bazar and subsequently Fort Williams was captured at Calcutta on 20th June 1756. It was during this occupation of Calcutta that the so-called Black-Hole incident occurred.
It is known that about 146 English prisoners were confined on one hot summer night in a small room of Fort Williams and only twenty-three of them survived. This is remembered as a tragedic episode. Leaving Calcutta in the hands of Manikchand, Siraj-ud-Daula returned to Murshidabad to celebrate his victory, letting the English escape with their ships. He committed the mistake of underestimating the enemy.
Meanwhile the English escaped to Fulta, a small island and awaited aid from Madras. A strong naval and military force arrived from Madras under Col. Clive and Admiral Watson. Hugli was plundered and Calcutta re-occupied in the beginning of 1757.The Nawab was forced to sign the Treaty of Alinagar on 9th February 1757, wherein all the demands of the English were conceded. The nawab was asked to restore the rights and immunities of the Company and to compensate them for the losses they had suffered in the war.
The Battle of Plassey (1757):
By that time the English had decided to remove Siraj from the position of the nawab and place a puppet in his place. They conspired with the leading men of the Nawab’s court such as Manikchand, the official in-charge of Calcutta, Aminchand, a rich merchant, Jagat Seth, a well-known banker, Mir Jafar, the Mir Bakshi, and Rai Durlabh, the Nawab’s general.
It was decided to place Mir Jafar on the throne of Bengal. On 23rd June 1757, the rival forces met each other in the battlefield of Plassey about thirty kilometres from Murshidabad. A major part of the Nawab’s army led by the traitors Mir Jafar and Rai Durlabh did not participate in the fighting. A handful of Nawab’s forces fought under the leadership of Mir Madan and Mohan Lai and were defeated. The Nawab tried to flee but was captured and put to death. Mir Jafar was proclaimed the Nawab of Bengal.
Importance of the Battle of Plassey:
The battle of Plassey was only a battle in name and it was of immense historical importance because it paved the way for the conquest and mastery of Bengal by the English and subsequently the whole of India. It boosted the morale of the English Company and the rich revenues helped them to organize a strong army for defence. Most importantly it provided an opportunity to the officials of the Company to amass untold wealth at the cost of the people of Bengal.
K.M. Pannikar believes that Plassey was a transaction in which the rich bankers of Bengal and Mir Jaffar sold out the Nawab to the English. Plassey proved a battle with far-reaching consequences in the fate of India. “There never was a battle”, writes Col. Malleson, “In which the consequences were so vast, so immediate and so permanent.”
Mir Jafar (1757-1760):
Mir Jafar rewarded the Company by granting them the undisputed rights to free trade in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the Company also got the zamindari of 24 Parganas near Calcutta. Besides, Mir Jafar also paid large sums as gifts and bribes to the officials of the Company. The Company was compensated for the losses suffered at Siraj-ud-daula’s capture of Calcutta. All French settlements in Bengal were surrendered to the English.
It was also understood that British merchants and officials would no longer be asked to pay duties on their private trade. Mir Jafar found the English yoke galling and intrigued with the Dutch to oust the English from Bengal. Clive thwarted this design and defeated the Dutch at Bedara (November 1760).
The Nawab soon realized that he has struck a bad bargain with the English. His treasury was almost emptied by the demands of the Company. The Company also became greedy and placed more demands to be fulfilled.
His incapability to fulfil demands led to his forceful abdication in October 1760 in favour of his son-in-law Mir Qasim. Mir Qasim (1760-1763). The new Nawab rewarded the Company by granting them the zamindari of the districts of Burdwan, Midnapur and Chittagong.
He also paid them huge sums of money as bribes and booty. Mir Qasim was an efficient and strong ruler determined to improve the affairs of the state and transferred his capital from Murshidabad to Munger (1762). He realized that in order to maintain his independence he must have a full treasury and an efficient army. He also checked the misuse of the Farman of 1717 by the Company officials to evade internal custom duties.
He therefore took the extreme step of abolishing all duties on internal trade and benefitting his own subjects by giving them the concession that the English had forcefully snatched. The problem remained as Mir Qasim regarded himself as an independent ruler while the British wanted him to be a puppet in their hands.
The Battle of Buxar:
The war between the Company and Mir Qasim began in 1763 and in a series of encounters the Nawab was defeated. He fled to Awadh and formed an alliance with Shuja-ud-Daula the Nawab of Awadh and the fugitive Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II in a final attempt to oust the English from Bengal. The three allies clashed with the Company’s army at Buxar on 22nd October 1764 and were completely defeated.
It was the most decisive battle in the history of the Indian sub-continent and it established the British firmly in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa and placed Awadh at their mercy. Never after the battle of Buxar did the Nawabs of Bengal challenge the might of the English.
If the Battle of Plassey had made the English a powerful factor in the politics of Bengal, the victory of Buxar made them a great power of Northern India and contenders for the supremacy of the whole country. The English now faced the Afghans and the Marathas as serious rivals in the final struggle for the empire of Hindustan. If Plassey had imposed the European yoke on Bengal, the victory of Buxar riveted the shackles of bondage.
Mir Jafar (1763-1765):
Mir Jafar was reinstated for the second time in 1763 as the Nawab of Bengal after the outbreak of the war between the English forces and Mir Qasim. He died in 1765.
Najm-ud-daula, son of Mir Jafar, was made the Nawab of Bengal in 1765 and remained a puppet in the hands of the British during the period of ‘Dual system of Government.’ He signed a treaty with the Company and became a titled pensioner on fifty-three lakhs of rupees per year which was subsequently reduced.
On Najm-ud-daula’s death in 1766, his minor brother Saif-ud-daula was proclaimed his successor. The new nawab’s pension was reduced by Rs. 12 lakhs. He signed a treaty (1766) by agreeing that the protection of the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and the force sufficient for that purpose, be left entirely to the Company’s discretion and good management.
He died in 1770. His successor was his minor brother Mubarak-ud-daula who had to submit to a further cut of Rs. 10 lakh in his pension. In 1772 he was pensioned off when the Company took over the direct charge of Bengal.
Clive’s second term as the Governor and Commander-in-chief of the British possessions in Bengal constitutes a landmark in the history of Bengal because it led to that administrative transition which prepared the ground for the introduction of British system of administration in India. Clive’s first and foremost task was to settle and define relations with the defeated powers.
Settlement with Oudh:
Clive proceeded Oudh and concluded with Shuja-ud-Daula, the Nawab Wazir of Oudh, the Treaty of Allahabad (16 August, 1765). By this treaty, Shuja-ud-Daula was confirmed in his possessions on the following conditions:
1. That the Nawab surrenders Allahabad and Kara to Emperor Shah Alam;
2. That he agrees to pay Rs. 50 lakhs to Company as war indemnity;
3. That he confirms Balwant singh, Zamindar of Banaras, in full possession of his estate.
Further, the Nawab entered into an offensive and defensive treaty with the Company binding him to render gratuitous military help to the Company in time of need and the Company to help the Nawab with the troops for the defence of his frontier on the latter agreeing to pay the cost of its maintenance.
Settlement with Shah Alam II:
By the second treaty of Allahabad (August 1765) the Emperor Shah Alam was taken under the Company’s protection and was to reside at Allahabad. He was assigned Allahabad and Kara ceded by the Nawab of Oudh. The Emperor in turn issued a Farman dated 12 August 1765 granting to the Company in perpetuity the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in return for the Company making an annual payment of Rs. 26 lakhs to him and providing for the expenses of the Nizamat.
Thus, the friendly treaty with Oudh made the Nawab a friend of the Company and created Oudh into a buffer state. The Emperor’s Farman legalised the political gains of the Company in Bengal.
Settlement of Bengal:
Clive concluded a treaty with the Nawab of Bengal, Najm-ud-daula, at Allahabad (August 1765) which led to the setting up of the infamous Dual system whereby the Company acquired real power while the responsibility for administration rested on the shoulders of the Nawab of Bengal.
The Nawab of Subedar of Bengal, as Viceroy of the Mughal Emperor, exercised two functions: (1) the Diwani, i.e. revenue and civil justice and (2) the Nizamat, i.e. military power and criminal justice. Earlier in February 1765, Najm-ud-Daula was allowed to succeed as Nawab of Bengal (after the death of Mir Jafar) on the condition that he practically surrendered the Nizamat functions, i.e. the military defence and foreign affairs of the provinces entirely into the hands of the Company.
The fireman issued by Emperor Shah Alam on 12 August 1765 granted the Diwani functions to the Company. Thus, the Company acquired the Nizamat functions from the Subedar of Bengal and the Diwani functions from the Emperor.
For the exercise of Diwani functions, the Company appointed two Deputy Diwans, Mohammad Reza Khan for Bengal and Raja Shitab Rai for Bihar, the Company itself being the actual Diwan. Mohammad Reza Khan also acted as Deputy Nazim.
Thus the whole administration, Nizamat as well as Diwani, was exercised through Indian agency, though the actual power rested with the Company. This system of government came to be known as Dual system or Dyarchy, i.e., rule of two, the Company and the Nawab.
Effects of the Dual system:
i. Owing to the inefficiency of the Nizamat, the administration of law and order virtually broke down and the administration of justice was reduced to a farce.
ii. The peasants of Bengal suffered from the evils of over-assessment, harshness of collection and was subjected to the worst exactions by the land revenue officials. This led to decline of agriculture.
iii. The legitimate use of dastaks (issue of pass chits exempting the goods mentioned in it from duty) by the Company’s servants worked against the interests of the country and its misuse ruined the country’s merchants and traders. Thus, trade and commerce was disrupted.
iv. By monopolising the internal trade of Bengal, the Company’s servants forced the prices of raw material like cotton and silk to the disadvantages of Indian producers. The artisans no longer found their traditional occupations profitable and deserted them. Thus textile industry languished.
v. Moral degradation also set in the Bengal society. The incentive of work being no longer there, the society became static and showed unmistakable signs of decay.
Governors of Bengal:
Roger Drake (1756-57):
Capture of Calcutta by Siraj-ud-Daula and Black Hole Episode. Recapture of Calcutta by Clive and the Battle of Plassey.
Robert Clive (1757-60):
Replacement of Mir Jafar by Mir Qasim as the Nawab of Bengal (1760) and reinstatement of Mir Jafar (1763); Battle of Buxar (1764) and succession of Najm-ud-Daula after the death of his father Mir Jafar.
Robert Clive (1765-67):
Coming back to Bengal in 1765 to serve his second term as Governor of Bengal, Clive consolidated the gains of the Company and regulated the foreign relations on a secure basis. By the treaty of Allahabad (1765) concluded with Shuja-ud-Daula of Oudh and the Emperor Shah Alam II, Clive defined and settled the relations with the defeated powers.
He was responsible for setting up of the infamous Dual system in Bengal whereby the Company acquired real power while the responsibility for administration rested on the shoulders of the Nawab of Bengal. Verelst (1767-69) and Cartier (1769-72).
Warren Hastings (1772-73):
He abolished the Dual system of administration, pensioned off the nawab, took over the direct charge of administering Bengal and concluded the Treaty of Banaras (1773) with the Nawab of Oudh. By this treaty, Allahabad and Kara was handed over to the Nawab for Rs. 50 lakhs.
The Nawab if paid a subsidy, the English Company was to lend him the aid of British troops whenever required.
Trends of British Expansion:
The British expanded in India through a series of encounters and wars with the French and the local rulers. The most important encounters in this regard are the Carnatic Wars, Anglo-Mysore Wars and Anglo-Maratha Wars.
(a) Anglo-French Rivalry:
Both the English and the French East India Companies began as trading companies in India. But gradually they were drawn into the internal politics in India. To protect their own trading interests, both the English and the French engaged in opportunities of trade and looked for huge profit margins.
These mercantilist companies engaged in competition with each other and wanted to sell their manufactures in India and buy raw material at cheap rates. For achieving their aims they needed political control over the country they traded with. In most of the European conflicts England and France were on opposite sides. India too became the scene of their rivalry.
First Carnatic War (1746-48):
First Carnatic War was an extension of the Anglo-French War in Europe as the Austrian War of Succession broke out in 1740. English navy under Barnett took the offensive when it captured some French ships. Dupleix, the French Governor-General of Pondicherry sent an urgent appeal for help to La Bourdonnais, the French Governors of Mauritius.
In the ensuing battle the English fleet was defeated and Madras was captured by the French. The First Carnatic war is memorable for the battle of St. Thome fought between the French and the Indian forces of Anwaruddin, the Nawab of Carnatic (1744-49). Differences had arisen between the Nawab and the French over the custody of Madras. The French won with their superior generalship of Dupleix.
The First Carnatic War came to an end with the termination of hostilities in Europe. Under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle (1748) which brought the Austrian War of Succession to a conclusion, Madras was handed back to the English.
Second Carnatic War (1749-54):
By the Second Carnatic War, the political ambitions of Dupleix had reached high levels. He began to increase his power by interfering in local dynastic politics in Southern India. The much sought after opportunity was provided in the disputed succession to the thrones of Hyderabad and Carnatic.
Muzaffar Jang, the grandson of the late Nizam of Hyderabad was contesting the throne with the second son of the Nizam, Nasir Jang. In the Carnatic, right of Nawab Anwaruddin was disputed by Chanda Sahib, the son-in-law of the former Nawab, Dost Ali. These conflicts were soon merged into one in the following years and several alliances were formed.
Dupleix took this opportunity to support Muzaffar Jang for the Subahdarship of the Deccan and Chanda Sahib for the Carnatic. The English supported the other parties. The parties supported by the French won the ensuing battles and secured the throne.
French power was thus established in the South. Muzaffar Jang rewarded Dupleix by appointing him as the governor of all the Mughal territories south of the river Krishna. The Nizam surrendered some districts in the Northern Circars to the French. Further, at the request of the new Subahdar, a French army under Bussy was stationed at Hyderabad.
The English captured Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic (1751) in a bid to divert pressure on Trichinopoly which was besieged by the French and the army of Chanda Sahib. The capture of Arcot encouraged the English to push their schemes with greater vigour and demoralised the French and Chanda Sahib.
In 1752, the French force outside Trichinopoly surrendered to the English. Chanda Sahib was treacherously killed by the Raja of Tanjore and Mohammad Ali, the candidate supported by the English was installed the Nawab of Carnatic. The French disaster at Tirichinopoly sealed the fate of Dupleix as he was recalled by the Directors of the French Company.
Thus in this struggle the French predominant position in the Deccan Peninsula was definitely undermined. The English now had an edge over the French.
The Third Carnatic war (1758-63):
The Third Carnatic War began with the Seven Years war at Europe. In 1757, the French government sent Count De Lally to India. In the meantime the British had won Bengal by defeating Siraj-ud- Daula at Plassey in 1757. This enhanced their confidence and gave them immense financial resources. Count De Lally attacked Tanjore in 1758. But the campaign damaged French reputation.
Next the plan to siege Madras was given up due to strong presence of naval forces of the English. Bussy, the French incharge of Hyderabad was called by Lally and doing this he committed the gravest mistake. The French fleet was thoroughly defeated by the English. At the battle of Wandiwash, the French were defeated in 1760 by Sir Eyre Coote.
The French in January 1761 ignominiously retreated to Pondicherry which capitulated to the English after a blockage of eight months by the English (1761). Mahe and Jinji were lost by the French in quick succession. Thus the French position in India was lost beyond redemption. The third and the final round of the Anglo-French struggle proved decisive. Pondicherry and some other French settlements were later returned to the French by the Treaty of Paris (1763).
(b) Anglo-Mysore Wars and the Conquest of Mysore:
First Anglo Mysore War (1767-69):
A tripartite alliance was formed against Haider Ali by the British, the Nizam Ali of Hyderabad and the Marathas. Haider Ali succeeded in breaking the alliance by buying the Marathas, alluring the Nizam with territorial gains and together with the latter launched an attack on Arcot (Haider already had territorial disputes with the ruler of Arcot) After a see-saw struggle for a year and a half, Haider suddenly turned the tables on the English and appeared at the gates of Madras.
The panick-stricken Madras government concluded the humiliating treaty known as Treaty of Madras on 4th April 1769 on the basis of mutual restitutition of each other’s territories and a defensive alliance between the two parties committing the English to help Haider in case he was attacked by another power.
The Second Anglo Mysore War (1780-84):
The main cause which led to the second war were the growth of mutual distrust between the English and Haider Ali who accused the Company of not observing the terms of the defensive treaty by refusing to help him when the Marathas attacked Mysore in 1771. Further, Haider found the French more helpful in meeting his military demands.
The outbreak of the American war of independence and French alliance with the American colonists made Warren Hastings extremely suspicious of Haider’s relations with the French. British capture of Mahe, a French settlement within Haider’s protection led to the formation of an alliance by Haider with the Nizam and the Marathas against the Company (English) in 1779.
In July 1780, Haider attacked Carnatic and captured Arcot, defeating an English army under Colonel Baillie. The English, meanwhile detached the Marathas and the Nizam from the side of Haider. Haider boldly faced the English but was defeated at Porto Novo (1781).
In 1782, Haider inflicted a humiliating defeat on the English army under Col. Braithwaite. Haider died on 7 December 1782, leaving the task unfinished to his son, Tipu, who continued the war for another year but absolute success eluded both sided. The war came to an end with the two sides concluding peace by the Treaty of Mangalore (March 1784) on the basis of mutual restitution of each other’s territories.
The Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-92):
The cause for this war was an attack on Travancore by Tipu, who had differences with the Raja of Travancore in 1790. The English itching for a war sided with the ruler of Travancore and declared war against Tipu. Supported by the Maratha and Nizam’s troops, the English army led by Cornwallis advanced towards Seringapatam (1792).
Tipu offered tough resistance but realised the impossibility of carrying further the struggle. The Treaty of Seringapatam (March 1792) resulted in the surrender of nearly half of Mysore an territory to the victorious allies. The British acquired Baramahal, Dindiguland Malabar while the Marathas got territory on the Tungabhadra side and the Nizam acquired territories from the Krishna to beyond the Pennar. Tipu had also to pay a war indemnity of over three crores of rupees. Cornwallis summed up the Company’s gains: “We have effectively crippled our enemy without making our friends too formidable.”
The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799):
Wellesley, the Governor-General wanted Tipu Sultan to give up his friendship with the French. Tipu was also in correspondence with Zaman Shati of Kabul, inducing him to invade the Punjab. With the Marathas and the Nizam to support him in the field of battle, and with his own forces from Madras and Bombay converging, Wellesley declared war on Tipu in February, 1799.
Seringapatam was taken in May 1799. Tipu Sultan died fighting. Wellesley restored the kingdom to the old Wodeyar dynasty, after appropriating large tracts of it for distribution among the Marathas, the Nizam and the Company. The new dependent state of Mysore which was now governed by a subsidiary treaty was surrounded on all sides by British territory.
(c) Anglo-Maratha Wars and the Conquest of Maharashtra:
First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-82):
The internal dissensions of the Marathas and the growing ambition of the English brought the beginning of the Anglo-Maratha struggle. The mutual differences of the Maratha leaders gave the English the much sought after opportunity to establish a kind of dual government as in Bengal.
The fifth Maratha Peshwa, Narayan Rao, succumbed to the intrigues of his uncle Raghunath Rao, another claimant for the gaddi. The birth of a posthumous son to Narayan Rao drove Raghunath Rao to the point of desperation and he signed with the Bombay government the Treaty of Surat (1775) hoping to gain the coveted gaddi with the help of English subsidiary troops.
By this treaty, Raghunatha Rao also promised to cede Salsetteand Bassein, and refrain from entering into alliance with the enemies of the Company. In the war that followed, fortune wavered on both sides till the two parties realised the futility of the struggle by concluding the treaty of Salbai (1782).
By the Treaty of Salbai (1782), status quo was maintained which gave the British 20 years of peace with the Marathas. The treaty also enabled the British to exert pressure on Mysore with the help of the Maraihas in recovering their territories from Haider Ali.
The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1806):
The death of two shrewd statesmen Mahadji Sindhia in 1794 and Nana Fadnavis in 1800 left a void difficult to fill. There was fierce rivalry for power between Daulat Rao Sindhia (successor of Mahadji Sindhia) and Jaswant Rao Holkar. Both tried to secure ascendancy at Poona.
In 1802, Holkar succeeded in defeating the troops of the Peshawar and Sindhia almost within sight of Poona. Thereupon, Baji Rao II fled to Bassein and concluded a subsidiary alliance with the British on December 31, 1802. By this Treaty.
1. The Peshawar agreed to receive a subsidiary force of not less than 6,000 and to cede in perpetuity to the Company territories yielding an income of 26 lakhs of rupees;
2. The Peshawar also surrendered the city of Surat and to give up all claims for chauth on the Nizam’s dominions and also agreed not to resort to arms against the Gaekwar;
3. The British were to control his foreign relations. He thus sacrificed his independence and received British protection. British troops restored him to Poona, and Holkar withdrew. The treaty also made the Company arbiter in the disputes between the Peshawar and other Maratha chiefs and the Peshawar and other Indian rulers.
The national humiliation was too much for the Marathas. The Sindhia and the Bhonsle challenged British power, while the Gaekwar and Holkar kept aloof. General Arthur Wellesley in the South and Lord Lake in the North fought the armies of the two Maratha chiefs. General Wellesley defeated the combined armies of Sindhia and Bhonsle at Assaye in September, 1803.
The Bhonsle Raja precipitately withdrew and was defeated again by Arthur Wellesley at Argaon in November. The two Maratha chiefs accepted humiliating treaties. By the Treaty of Deogaon (17 December, 1803) the Bhonsle Raja ceded to the Company the provinces of Cuttack and the whole of territory west of the river Wardha.
He also agreed to receive a subsidiary force. The Sindhia concluded the Treaty of Surji Arjangaon (30 December, 1803) by which he ceded to the Company the Ganga Yamuna doab territories as also Ahmadnagar and Broach and gave up all his claims on the Mughal Emperor, the Peshawar, the Nizam and Gaekwar. By another, Treaty of Burhanpur concluded in 1804, Sindhia agreed to have a subsidiary alliance under the Company over lordship.
In April 1804, Holkar was drawn into a conflict with the Company. Some hasty and uncalculated moves on the part of the Company’s Generals gave an initial advantage to Jaswant Rao Holkar, but he was defeated by Frazer and Lake in November 1804. It was Sir George Barlow who concluded with Hokar the Treaty of Rajpurghat (25 December 1805) by which the Maratha chiefs gave up his claims to places north of the river Chambal, over Bundelkhand, over the Peshawar and other allies of the Company. This treaty marked the end of the Second Anglo-Maratha War.
The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818):
The third and the final phase of the Anglo-Maratha struggle began with the coming of Lord Hastings as Governor-General in 1813. The Peshwa was restless under the British yoke. He was compelled to sign a new Treaty of Poona (June 13, 1817), by which he had to give up the headship of the Maratha confederacy and he was to conduct relations with other states through the British Resident.
He had also to cede the Konkan and his rights in Malwa, Bundelkhand and in Northern India. Appa Sahib, Regent at Nagpur. Likewise concluded a humiliating subsidiary treaty.
The Treaty of Gwalior (1817) was concluded by Hastings with Daulat Rao Sindhia as a part of the preparations for launching his campaign against the Pindaris. The Pindari War of Hastings was consequently merged in the Third Anglo- Maratha War.
Exasperated the Peshwa made the last bid to throw off the British yoke. Daulat Rao Sindhia, Appa Sahib of Nagpur, Malhar Rao Holkar II also rose in arms. The Peshwa was defeated at Khirki, Bhonsle’s army routed at Sitabaldi and Holkar’s army crushed at Mahidpur. The Peshawar’s army was finally defeated as Ashti. He surrendered to the British on June 18, 1813.
Thus all Maratha opposition to the British power ended. A new settlement was made with the Maratha Chiefs. The Peshawar surrendered his name and authority forever, and in return was given eight lakhs of rupees as pension and made to retire to Bithur near Kanpur. A small district was, however, reserved at Satara for the descendant of Shivaji as the Raja of Satara. The remaining portions of the Peshawar’s territory were annexed to the Presidency of Bombay.
(d) The Anglo-Nepal War, (1814-16):
The dispute between the Company and the Nepalese arose out of the latter’s occupation of the districts of Butwal (north of Basti district) and Sheoraj (further east of Butwal). The English reoccupied the districts without an open conflict.
In May 1814 the Gurkhas once again attacked the three police stations of Butwal. Lord Hastings took it as a challenge to the Company’s authority and resolved to launch an offensive against the Gurkhas along the whole frontier from the Sutlej to the Kosi. David Ochterlony’s victory at Makwanpur in 28 February 1816, led to the conclusion of the treaty of Sagauli.
The Nepal ruler surrendered to the Company the districts of Garhwal and Kumaon, including a great portions of the Tarai. The Tarai boundary was marked by pillars of masonry. The Gurkhas agreed to accept a British Resident at Kathmandu and permanently withdrew from Sikkim.
Thus the northern frontier was given settled limits. The English obtained the sites for the hill stations and summer capitals of India-Simla, Mussoorie, Ranikhet, Landourand Nainital. Besides, the route for communications with the remote regions of Central Asia was opened.
Consolidation of British Rule (1818-1858):
First Burmese War (1824-26):
The Government of India under Lord Amherst (1823-1828) was alarmed at the Burmese conquest of Assam and Manipur. In September, 1823, the Burmese attacked the island of Shapuri near Chittagong, belonging to the Company, and made hostile moves on the Company’s territories in Bengal. Lord Amherst declared war on February 24, 1824.
The war dragged on for more than two years. Rangoon fell on May 11, 1824, and Prome (the capital of Lower Burma) on April 25,1825. Hostilities were ended up by the treaty of Yandaboo concluded on February 24, 1826.
By this treaty the king of Ava agreed to cede the provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim to the British, give up all claims to Assam, abstain from interference in Cachar and Jaintia, recognize the independence of Manipur, enter into a commercial treaty, agree to the appointment of a British Resident of Ava, and pay as indemnity of a crore of rupees.
Second Burmese War (1852):
Under Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856) the Second Burmese War was fought in sharp contrast to the first. While the first war had been provoked by military threats and the aggressive policy of the Burmese, the Second Burmese War was the result of ill-treatment of some European merchants at Rangoon and insults heaped on the captain of British frigate who had been sent to remonstrate.
Lord Dalhousie’s thorough – going preparations for the campaign yielded good results. The lower valley of the Irrawaddy was occupied in a few months and as the king of Ava refused to enter into negotiations, it was annexed by proclamation on December 20, 1852, under the name of Pegu.
Third Burmese War (1885):
Under Lord Dufferin (1884-88) the third Burmese War was fought. The real cause of the third Burmese War was the attempt of King Theebaw of Burma to secure French help against the British by giving them special privileges and concessions.
The Burmese could not stand before the British armies and surrendered. King Theebaw was sent to India and Upper Burma was annexed to India in 1886.
North-West Frontier and the Company:
The British secured control over India’s eastern border provinces in the two Burmese Wars. The defence of the territories in the north-west, however, proved to be a more difficult problem. Beyond and to the west of the British frontier line along the Sutlej laid the powerful Sikh kingdom of the Punjab, the principality of Sind and the country of Afghanistan.
Of all these Afghanistan was of strategic importance. The Company’s government, therefore, could not afford to have a hostile Amir in Afghanistan. It was, therefore, safe for India to convert Afghanistan into a buffer state. From the early years of the nineteenth century, Russia was actuated by designs of expansion in the east. This problem was further complicated by Afghanistan’s border disputes on her east with the Punjab. Peshawar was the bone of contention between them.
The Afghans were determined to recover Peshawar, as it was conquered by Ranjit Singh in 1834. By the Tripartite Treaty of June 26, 1838, Dost Muhammad was to be overthrown and Shah Shuja, an Afghan prince living in exile, at Ludhiana was to be placed on the throne of Afghanistan with the Sikh military and British financial support. When Lord Auckland found that Ranjit Singh was not keeping his promise, he decided that the British should undertake the military duty also.
The First Anglo-Afghan War:
The British army crossed the Bolan Pass and captured Kandahar, Gazni and Kabul (1839). Shah Shuja was enthroned. His rule, however, proved to be unpopular and the Afghans rose in revolt. The British envoy Sir Alexander Burnes and his predecessor Sir William McNaughton were both murdered and the retreating British Indian army perished in the defiles of Afghanistan.
Lord Ellenborough (1842-1844) took energetic steps to restore British authority in Afghanistan. Two forces converged on Kabul-one from Jalalabad and the other from Kandahar – and Kabul was captured. Then the British forces withdrew leaving Dost Muhammad to take possession of his throne who proved to be a capable ruler and maintained friendly relations with the British Government.
The Annexation of Sind (1843):
The conquest of Sind followed in the wake of the Afghan War and was morally and politically its sequel. In September 1842, Sir Charles Napier replaced Major Outram as the Company’s resident in Sind. He was given full civic and military authority and placed in charge of all troops of upper and lower Sind.
Earlier in February 1839, the Amirs of Sind accepted a treaty by which a British subsidiary force was to stationed at Shikarpur and Bukkar and the Amirs of Sind were to pay three lakhs annually for the maintenance of the Company’s troops.
Napier told the Amirs that he was convinced that the charges of disloyalty against them during the Afghan war were well founded. So the treaty with them must be revised. Before the Amirs could indicate their ascent to these terms, Napier acted as if they had refused them. In February 1843, Napier defeated a Baluchi army at Miani and won another victory at Dabo. By April the whole of Sind had capitulated. The Amirs were exiled and Sind was annexed.
The British treatment of the Amirs was high-handed. Outram condemned it; so did the Court of Directors. Even Napier had frankly admitted: “We have no right to seize Sind, yet we shall do so and a very advantageous, useful human piece of rascality it will be.”
Anglo-Sikh Wars and the Conquest of Punjab:
After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839 there was anarchy in Punjab. The process of disintegration of the kingdom started when Kharak Singh, the successor of Ranjit Singh and his only son Naunihal Singh was killed in 1840. Sher Singh, another son of Ranjit Singh emerged successful with the help of the Sikh army and was proclaimed the Maharaja in January 1841 but he too was murdered in September 1843.
In September 1843 Dalip Singh, a minor son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was proclaimed the Maharaja with Rani Jindan as regent and Hira Singh Dogra as Wazir. After the murder of Hira Singh, and the next Wazir Jawahar Singh, Lai Singh won over the army to his side and became the Wazir in September 1845. Teja Singh was the new Commander of the forces
The First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846):
The English were closely watching the happenings in the Punjab and cast longing eyes on the fertile plains on the other side of the Sutlej. The appointment in 1843 of Major Broad foot as Company’s Agent at Ludhiana for dealing with the Sikhs affairs worsened Anglo-Sikh relations.
Alarmed at the British moves and preparations, the Sikh troops crossed the Sutlej on December 11, 1845 and took offensive against the English troops commanded by Sir Hugh Gough. Four battles were fought at Mudki, Ferozeshah, Buddewal and Aliwal but did not decide the issue.
The final battle of Sobraon (10 Feb, 1848) proved decisive. The English army occupied Lahore and dictated peace terms in the capital of Ranjit Singh on 9 March 1846. By the Treaty of Lahore, Dalip Singh, the infant son of Ranjit Singh was recognized as Raja with Rani Jindan as Regent and Lai Singh as the Wazir; the Jullundur Doab was added to the British territory; the Sikh army was limited to a specified number; a British Resident (Sir Henry Lawrence) was appointed at Lahore to assist the Sikh Council of Regency; a British force was sent to garrison the Punjab on behalf of the child-Raja and a heavy war indemnity of one and half crores of rupees was imposed on the Lahore durbar. Half a crore was paid, and in lieu of the balance the Lahore durbar offered to cede Kashmir.
The Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849):
The few months following the treaty of Lahore greatly disillusioned Rani Jindan and Lai Singh and revealed to them the true intentions of the English. The discontentment of the Sikh Sardars with the British control over Punjab, the desire of the Sikh army to avenge their humiliation of the first war and the treatment of Rani Jindan by the British (she was removed from Lahore to Shekhupura on a charge of conspiracy against the British Resident) were the main causes for the Second Anglo-Sikh War.
The immediate occasion for the Company’s invasion of the Punjab was provided by the revolt of Mulraj, the Governor of Multan. A large army under Lord Gough fought on indecisive battle at Ramnagar on 16 November 1848. At the battle of Chilianwala (January 13, 1849) the Sikh soldiers covered themselves with glory. It was a drawn battle. The final and decisive battle was won by the English at Gujrat (a town near the Chenab) in 1849, and the whole of Punjab lay prostrate at their feet.
The war resulted in the annexation of Punjab on March 29, 1849, by Lord Dalhousie and Dalip Singh was pensioned off and sent to England along with his mother Rani Jindan. The administration of the Punjab was entrusted to a Board of Commissioners (Henry Lawrence, John Lawrence and Charles G Mansel). It was abolished in 1853 and in its place a Chief Commissioner for Punjab was appointed. Sir John Lawrence was the first Chief Commissioner of Punjab.