This article throws light on the top five wars that happened during the governance of Hastings.

The wars are: 1. Rohilla War or Ruhela War 2. First Anglo-Maratha War 3. Anglo-Mysore War Relations: First Anglo Mysore War 4. Second Anglo-Mysore War 5. Fourth Anglo-Mysore War

War # 1. Rohilla War or Ruhela War:

It was the policy of the Company to maintain friendly relations with the Nawab of Oudh in order to make Oudh a bulwark against attacks from the Marathas and the Afghans.

It was in furtherance of this policy Hastings returned Korah and Allahabad to the Nawab of Oudh in return for fifty lakhs of rupees.


This policy ultimately drew the Company into a war with the Rohillas. Rohilkhand, a fertile tract of land, lying at the base of the Himalayas, north-west of Oudh, was ruled by a confederacy of the Afghan Rohillas and the bulk of the population of Rohilkhand was Hindu.

The Rohilla Sardar Hafiz Rahmat Khan and other Afghan Chiefs under his leader­ship were apprehensive of Maratha invasion of Rohilkhand. Like­wise Suja-ud-daulah, the Nawab of Oudh was afraid of the Marathas. This common fear of the Marathas led Hafiz Rahmat Khan and Suja-ud-daulah to enter into a treaty (Treaty of Benares, 1772) in pre­sence of Sir Robert Barker, which provided that if the Marathas would invade Rohilkhand Suja-ud-daulah would ward off the Mara­tha invasion for which service the Rohillas would pay forty lakhs of rupees to Suja-ud-daulah.

In 1773 the Marathas actually invaded Rohilkhand but were repulsed by the combined forces of Oudh and the Company. Suja-ud-daulah now demanded forty lakhs from Hafiz Rahmat Khan early in 1774 on the strength of the treaty of Benares. The Rohilla Chief, however, evaded payment of the stipulated forty lakhs.

The nawab of Oudh now decided to coerce Hafiz Rahmat Khan with the help of the Company, to pay the stipulated amount. A British contingent was accordingly sent under the command of Colonel Champion and the troops of Oudh also joined it and marched into Rohilkhand on April 17, 1774.


The battle was fought at Miranpur Katra on April 23, 1774 and the Rohillas were completely defeated despite demons­tration of great bravery and resolution. Hafiz Rahmat Khan died in action after putting up a valiant defence. Twenty thousand Rohillas were expelled from the country and Rohilkhand was annexed to the King­dom of Oudh except a very small part of Robilkhand which was left under the possession of Faiz-ullah Khan, son of Ali Muhammad Rohi­lla, the founder of the Rohilla power. Faiz-ullah Khan was given only the portion which constituted his patrimony. It was also decided that he would not maintain more than five thousand troops and should the Nawab of Oudh require the help of these troops Faiz-ullah Khan would send them to his assistance.

About the justifiability and morality of Hastings’ conduct in participating in the Rohilla War by sending Company’s troops to the assistance of the Nawab of Oudh has been a matter of great contro­versy among writers from the contemporary time till today. In the impeachment of Warren Hastings in 1786 in the British Parliament the first charge against him was allowing the Company’s troops “to be used as mercenaries in support of the Nawab of Oudh.”

Burke, Francis, Macaulay and Lyall are of the opinion that the motive behind Hastings’ rendering military assistance to Nawab Asaf-ud-daulah was to get some money. The morality of Hastings’ action in sending troops against a people who had done no harm to the British has been questioned by many of the contemporary writers and politicians and also by those of posterity.

Burke castigated Warren Hastings at the time of impeachment and accused him of bartering the lives and liberties of an indepen­dent people to the Nawab of Oudh and Macaulay accused him of looking on when the Rohilla “villages were burnt, their children but­chered and their women violated”. Likewise Colonel Pearse called the whole proceedings as un-British while Colonel Champion who led the British army himself wrote of the destruction and devastation of the Rohilla country and of the cries of widows and fatherless children that had rent the air.


Forrest, Strachey and others after examining the correspondence of Warren Hastings with the Court of Directors and the replies given by him to the charges at the time of impeachment have come to conclusion that Hastings was guided by the policy of rendering British territories secure and hence supportable.

They also argue that the Rohillas were neither capable nor willing to fight the Marathas who had posed a great danger to Oudh and the Company’s territories. To allow the Marathas to entrench them-selves in Rohilkhand would not only jeopardize the security of Oudh but also the British terri­tories. The money (forty lakhs) received for the transaction was an additional bargain in the Rohilla policy of Warren Hastings. Strachey also pointed out that the extreme financial strait of the Company and the contemporary standard of morality justified the policy. Further it has also been argued that after annexation of Rohilkhand to Oudh there was no internal trouble in that country nor was the area attacked by the Marathas and all this was a point merit of Hastings’ policy towards the Rohillas.

As to the accusation that violation of the stipulations of the treaty between the Nawab of Oudh and Rohilla Chief Hafiz Rahmat Khan in presence of the British General, Sir John Strachey says that mere presence of General Barker was not ipso facto a guarantee that the British would protect the treaty. Strachey’s argument that the Rohillas being usurpers in the sense that they had by force established their rule in Rohilkhand is a presence argument inasmuch as the Nawab of Oudh had no better claim over his Kingdom. Both the Rohillas and the Nawab of Oudh had usurped Mughal authority and set themselves up as independent rulers.

Penderal Moon’s defence of Hastings by saying that the atro­cities alleged to have been committed on the Rohillas were not any­thing specially condemnable for, after all the Nawab of Oudh would not like the country annexed to his Kingdom to be devastated to his own disadvantage. Nothing could, perhaps, be more illogical than this argument of Penderal Moon.

All things considered, it cannot be gainsaid that even if we do not raise the question of immorality of the whole proceedings, from political point of view Warren Hastings’ Rohilla policy was unwise. That the Marathas did not invade Rohilkhand after its annexation to Oudh was not due to any wisdom of the policy but to the internal dissensions of the Marathas after the death of Madhav Rao.

That there was no danger from the north-west was due to rise of the Sikhs in the Punjab. Thus to maintain that Warren Hastings’ Rohilla policy brought peace to Oudh or Rohilkhand is to put a wrong interpre­tation to the political situation of the time. On the contrary Hastings’ policy of basing his frontier policy on the allegiance of the Nawab of Oudh to the Company was fraught with danger. This is borne out by later attempts of the Nawab of Oudh to free himself from the British influence. Nawab Suja-ud-daulah’s reorganization of his army with the help of the French is a proof of this attitude of the Nawab There are also proofs of Suja-ud-daulah’s attempt to enlist external help against the British. His sudden death saved the British inter­ests and the hostilities with them which would have been otherwise inevitable.

Sir Alfred Lyall rightly remarks that “the expedition against the Rohillas was wrong in principle, for they had not provoked us and Vezir could only be relied upon to abuse his advantages”.

We may, therefore, conclude that Warren Hastings’ Rohilla policy demonstrated his eagerness for obtaining money, indeed for the Company, by means fair or foul, his callousness at the inhuman atrocities perpetuated on the Rohillas, allowing use of the British troops as mercenaries and he cannot escape condemnation from moral, human as well as political points of view.

War # 2. First Anglo-Maratha War:

The fourth Peshwa young Madhav Rao-I died in A.D. 1772. This threw the Maratha State into a great turmoil and internal dissen­sions appeared among the Marathas due to the weakness of Narayan Rao, brother of Mandhav Rao-I, and the ambition Raghunath Rao better known as Raghoba to occupy the position of the Peshwa. Madhav Rao though young was a strong administrator and an astute politician and successfully kept his uncle Raghoba at bay. Narayan Rao lacked the astuteness of his brother and to put a stop to Raghoba’s machinations put him under arrest which led him to hatch a con­spiracy with a group of disgruntled soldiers and got Narayan Rao murdered before his very eyes (Aug. 30,1773). Soon Raghoba be­came the Peshwa but things were not all smooth for him.

At the time of Narayan Rao’s murder his wife was in the family way. She gave birth to a male child. The Maratha leaders led by a Brahmin named Nana Fadnavis at once declared the new-born child of Narayan Rao as the Peshwa and set up a Council of Regency to carry on with the administration. Raghoba in the circumstance had to give up the post of Peshwas and left Poona and appealed to the English for help. By the treaty of Surat, 1775, the English agreed to help Raghoba with 2500 troops the cost of which was to be borne by him. For this help Raghunath Rao agreed to cede Salsette and Bassein, and part of the revenues of Surat and Broach to the English. He also agreed not to enter into alliance with the enemies of the, Company and to include the British in any peace that he might con­clude with the Poona Government The Council of the Bombay Presidency recognized Raghunath, i.e. Raghoba as the Peshwa.

Soon after the signing of the treaty of Surat the English took possession of Salsette and Bassein and the allied armies of the English and Raghoba met the Poona troops at Arras and defeated them. The treaty of Surat and the war on the Marathas of Poona, that is, the Marathas who stood by the side of the infant son of Narayan Rao under the leadership of Nana Fadnavis, had been undertaken by Bombay Council without any orders from the Supreme Council at Calcutta which was given powers over the Bombay and Madras Councils by the Regulating Act of 1773.

Despite Warren Hastings’ willingness to ratify the treaty of Surat entered into by the Bombay Council with Raghoba, the majority took decision condemning the action of the Bombay Council and termed their action as “impolitic, dangerous, unauthorized and unjust” and ordered it to recall the Company’s troops. Some-time afterwards Colonel Upton was sent to Poona to negotiate a peace with Poona regency. The result of Col. Upton’s negotiations was the signing of the treaty of Purandhar with the Marathas of Poona. As a conse­quence the treaty of Surat was annulled but the retention of. Salsette and the revenues of Broach was confirmed. The Poona regency agreed to pay a compensation Of Rs.12 lakhs to the English for the war and the English renounced the cause of Raghoba who was pensinoned off at Kopargaon. The pension was determined at Rs.25,000/- annually to be paid from the Peshwa’s treasury.

The treaty of Purandhar was not accepted by the Bombay Coun­cil and they gave shelter to Raghoba directly violating the treaty and in spite of Col. Upton’s protest

In the mean-time the war of American Independence had star­ted and France joined on the side of the Americans. The Poona Regency Council also did not fulfil the provisions of the treaty of Purandhar, on the contrary warmly received Chevalier de’ St. Lubin, a French adventurer.

This alarmed the Governor-General Warren Hast­ings for the Poona Government offered a port in Western India to the French. In the meantime the Court of Directors approved of the treaty of Surat which altered the entire situation. The Bombay Council immediately declared war against the Marathas and Warren Hastings sent a force of 600 Europeans and 3,300 sepoys to the assis­tance of Bombay Council under Colonel Cockburn (Jan., 1779).

The British troops met the Marathas at Telegaon and suffered defeat. In the treaty of Wadgaon the British had to surrender Raghunath Rao to the Marathas as also all territories acquired by the Bombay Govern­ment since 1773 were to be surrendered, Scindia was to receive a share of the revenue of Broach, and the Bengal army sent by Hast­ings was to be recalled.

The treaty of Wadgaon was very much, humiliating to the English and Hastings refusing to accept the terms of the treaty sent General Goddard against the Marathas. Goddard marched towards Poona with his vast army through Central India. In 1780 Goddard occupied Ahmedabad and towards the end of the same year succeeded in occupying Bassein. But soon after the English army suffered a defeat while attempting to advance towards Poona (April, 1781).

In the meantime Hastings had sent Capt. Popham to the assis­tance of the Rana of Gohad who was an enemy of Scindia and a friend of the English. Popham succeeded in occupying the Gwalior fort. On the other hand General Camac defeated Scindia in the battle of Sipri (Feb., 16, 1781). These victories recovered the lost pres­tige of the English and made them a terrible force to reckon with by the Marathas. Mahadji Scindi was so long inimical to the English now aiming at the leadership of the Maratha confederacy and to that end wanting a free hand in northern India changed his strategy and sought friendship of the English.

It was through negotiations started by him with the English that the treaty of Salbai was signed between the Poona Government and the English (May, 1782) but it was not ratified by Nana Fadnavis before February 26, 1783. By this treaty the English possession of Salsette was confirmed, Raghoba was gran­ted suitable pension, Madhab Rao Narayan, son of Narayan Rao, was recognized as the rightful Peshwa, Scindia got back all the terri­tories west of the Jamuna and Hyder Ali, although not a party to the treaty, had to give up the territories conquered from the Nawab of Arcot.

The first Anglo-Maratha War ended with the signing of the treaty of Salbai (1782). The significance of the treaty was more deep-laid than apparent. It re-established the status quo. The treaty was not very impressive in so far as the material gains of the Company were concerned.

The First Anglo-Maratha War put Warren Hastings to great financial strain and he was compelled to resort to various objec­tionable and illegal methods to gain money. Yet if we look below the surface, the Anglo-Maratha War ending in the Treaty of Salbai. marked a turning point in the history of the British ascendancy in India.

The treaty initiated a period twenty years’ peace with the Marathas which gave the British to fight with the French, and Tipo of Mysore, Nizam and the Nawab of Oudh under their control. But Dodwell’s remark that “It beyond dispute, the dominance of the British as controlling factor in Indian policies, their subsequent rise in 1818 to the position of the paramount power, being an inevitable result of the position gained by the treaty of Salbai is regarded by modern historians as an over-estimation of the position acquired by the British as a result of the treaty of Salbai. The British had yet to reckon with their greatest enemy in the south, namely, the Mysore state and to be on the guard against the activities of the powers that were rising in Punjab, Nepal and Burma.

War # 3. Anglo-Mysore War Relations: First Anglo Mysore War:


The rise of Hyder Ali in Mysore could not be looked upon with equanimity by the British, the Niazam and the Mara­thas. Mysore became a great stumbling block to the rising British in India. But hostilities with Mysore had been commenced by the Marathas. In 1765 the Marathas invaded Mysore and compelled Hyder to make over Guti, Subnoor and a compensation of rupees 32 lakhs.

In the next year the Nizam enlisted the support of the British by promising Northern Circars to the Madras Government for his designs against Mysore. The Marathas, the Nizam and the English combined to attack Mysore. Hyder Ali bought off the Marathas by a fat bribe. The unpredictable Nizam also left the British side and joined on the side of Hyder.

But it did not take long before the Nizam again left Hyder Ali who, however, fought valiantly and with determination single handed against the British. Hyder defeated the forces of the Bombay Government and recovered from them Mangalore and also succeeded in defeating be army of the Madras Govern­ment. He even marched with a strong force very near to Madras and compelled the Madras Government to sign a treaty of friendship with him for mutual military assistance (1769).

There was mutual restoration of conquests and prisoners of war. It was clearly stipu­lated that in case of a third power invading Mysore, the British would come to its assistance. But in 1771 when the Marathas invaded My­sore the British violating their pledge in 1769, did not come to the assistance of Mysore. Hyder Ali did not forget this betrayal on the part of the Madras Government.

War # 4. Second Anglo-Mysore War:

In the War of American Independence France joined on the side of the Americans. To safeguard British interests from the French designs in India Warren Hastings ordered the seizure of all French settlements in India including the port of Mahe on the coast of Mala­bar which lay within the Mysore territories. From the point of view of Hyder Ali’s interests occupation of Mahe by the British was least desirable.

Further, Hyder’s contention was that protection of Mahe against any possible French attack was the duty not of the British but of Hyder himself. But Warren Hastings feared that Hyder Ali who was inimically disposed towards the British, might allow the port of Mahe to be used by the French against the. British. Further an English army matched through a part of Hyder’s territory to occupy Guntur. All this made Hyder Ali the more inimical to the English and began preparations for taking revenge against them.

Hyder Ali joined in the combination of forces of the Nizam and the Marathas, and obtained promise of French help against the English. In 1780 the combined army marched against the English and completely annihilated the Company’s troops sent under the com­mand of Sir Hecttor Munro and captured Arcot. Alfred Llyall re­marks that “by the summer of 1780 the fortunes of the English in India had fallen to their lowest watermark”.

Warren Hastings was not the person to accept this ignominy. He sent Sir Eyre Coote, then Commander-in-Chief of British India, the victor of the battle of Wandiwash and above all a member of the Supreme Council. He was commissioned to “stand forth and vindicate in his own person the rights and honour of British arms”. Hast­ings also by his subtle diplomacy detached the Nizam, the Raja of Berar and Mahadji Scindia from the anti-British combination. Un­daunted by these desertions, Hyder continued to fight the English single-handed, with his usual firmness and vigour.

But he was defeated in the battle of Porto Novo in 1781. At Pollilore and Scholinghur Hyder met with two more successive reverses. The English captured Trincomali the best port in Ceylon, belonging to the Dutch as also Sadras and Pulicat in South India and the Dutch settlements in Bengal and Bihar. Colonel Braithwaite was defeated at the hands of Hyder’s son Tipu. Shortly after, early in 1782 a French squadron appeared in Indian waters under the command of Admiral Suffren, followed by the arrival of a French troop numbering 2000 under the command of Du Chemin.

But Hyder could not make use of this French assistance, for he died in the same year (Dec., 1782). Sir Eyre Coote also retired on grounds of ill health leaving the command of the Company’s troops in the hands General Stuart and died (April, 1783) within a few months of Hyder’s death.

Hyder’s worthy son Tipu did not give the English the rest that they had thought they earned with Hyder’s death. Tipu carried on with the war against the English. In the same year by the Treaty of Versailles, 1783, the War of American Independence came to an end and peace was signed between the English and the French.

This gave the English a better opportunity to deal with Tipu. Colonel Fullerton occupied Coimbatore and was about to attack Tipu’s capital when Lord MacCartney, Governor of Madras, ordered Fullerton to desist. A treaty between the English and Tipu followed, called the Treaty of Mangalore (1783) which provided for mutual restoration of conquests. Governor-General Warren Hastings was not happy with terms of the treaty of Mangalore, but ultimately he ratified it Thus ended the Second Anglo-Mysore War.

Lord Mornington, later Marquess of Wellessley came as Gover­nor General in 1798. He was a stout annexationist and was deter­mined to build up an Empire in India and at once started his work towards that end with the help of his brother Arthur Wellessley, the future Duke of Wellington. They first turned towards Tipu of Mysore.

By the treaty of Seringapattam signed after the end of the Third Anglo-Mysore War in 1792, Tipu had to surrender to the English half of his dominion and pay a compensation of more than £ 30, 00,000 and hand over two of his sons as hostages to Cornwallis’ camp. Lord Cornwallis was elated at the result of the war and with great optimism expressed himself by saying: “We have effectively crippled our enemy, without making our friends (Nizam and Mara­thas) too formidable”. But events soon showed that Cornwallis’ opti­mism was wrong, the hope of a lasting peace was belied.

Tipu was not a man who would accept the humiliation of Seringapattam for long. He had suffered indeed at the hands of the English but he instead of smoking under his misfortune, he exerted all his activity to repair the ravages of war.

War # 5. Fourth Anglo-Mysore War:

Tipu expeditiously repaired his fortresses, added to his fortifica­tions, remounted his cavalry and recruited and disciplined more men in his infantry, punished the refractory chiefs, encouraged agricul­ture and soon restored the lost prosperity of the country.

He wanted to fight the English diplomatically as well, and entered into an alliance with Revolutionary France which was engaged in a deadly war with England, and even enlisted himself as a member of the Jacobin Club. He also permitted nine French men who were serv­ing in his army to elect citizen Ripaud, a lieutenant in the French navy as their President and hoist Flag of the French Republic and plant a Tree of Liberty at Seringapattam.

He also sent emissaries to Arabia, Kabul, Mauritius, Constantinople, and Versailles for securing allies. The French Governor of the Isle of France accepted the proposals of Tipu and went to the extent of inviting volunteers for expelling the English from India. Actually, a few French volunteers came to assist Tipu and landed at Mangalore in 1798.

Lord Wellesley lost no time on his arrival at Madras on April 26, 1798 to take note of the hostile preparations of Tipu and despite suggestion of the Madras Council to the contrary, declared war against him. Wellesley in his effort to revive the Anglo-Maratha-Nizam triple alliance bound the Nizam in a subsidiary alliance in 1798, Septem­ber. The Marathas did not agree to enter into alliance with the English yet Wellesley engaged to give the Peshwa a share of the con­quest of the war.

The Fourth Anglo-Mysore war was decisive although of very short duration. Tipu was defeated by the English, at Sedaseer and again not far from Seringapattam. Tipu returned to his capital at Seringapattam which the English took after defeating Tipu who died in defence of his city after a gallant fight, May 4, 1799.

The fall of Tipu removed the most inveterate and dreaded foe of the English and a leading Indian power. Mysore lay at the feet of the English. Family of Tipu was interned at Vellore. Welles­ley took a diplomatic step by offering Soonda and Harponelly to the Marathas but the offer was refused; The Nizam was given the districts of Gooty and Gurramkonda and a part of the district of Chitaldung.

The English took Kanara, Wynaad, districts of Coimbatore and Daraporam, the town and island of Seringapattam. A boy of the old Hindu reigning dynasty of Mysore was given the rest of the kingdom of Mysore. On grounds of misgovernment Mysore was brought under the Company’s administration by Lord Bentinck but was later restored to the ruling family by Ripon in 1881.

Needless to point out that settlement of Mysore by Wellesley brought substantial territorial, economic, military and commercial benefits to the Company. It extended the dominions of the Company “From Sea to Sea across the base of the peninsula”. Wellesley was rewarded for the achievement with elevation to the rank of Marquess.