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East India Company & British Rule


  • On 31 December 1600, The British East India Company received a Royal Charter from the British monarch Elizabeth I to trade with East Indies. The company went to colonise the Indian Subcontinent.
  • On arriving in India, the East India Company had to face Dutch and French opposition as they were the main contestants for political supremacy over India. But the British were successful in destabilizing them and soon the company’s functions expanded into political ambition.
  • Robert Clive led the English forces to capture Arcot and other regions. He was instrumental in laying the foundation of the British Empire in India. In the Carnatic wars between the French and the Britishers, The latter finally defeated the French in the battle of Wandiwash to gain control over south India.

East India Company (EIC):

  • The East India Company was also known as the Honourable East India Company or Simply, the John Company informally.
  • It was a joint Stock company established with the purpose of trading with East Indies. The company was initially set to trade with the maritime Southeast Asia but it ended up trading with China and India.
  • It was originally chartered as the ‘’Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies’’. Its shares were owned by aristocrats and rich merchants of Britain.
  • Although started as a trading company, it paved the way for the creation of British Raj in India.
  • It mainly traded in Cotton, indigo dye, silk, salt, saltpetre, opium, and tea. Saltpetre was an ingredient in gunpowder.
  • Within 1610, the first company factory in South India was setup in Machilipatnam (Andhra Pradesh) along the Coromandel Coast.
  • The EIC generated a huge profit from its trade with India.
  • The EIC was engaged in frequent battles with the other European players like the Portuguese and the Dutch, who had established themselves earlier in the subcontinent.
  • The British who came to India for trade eventually became the political master of India. From Battle of Plassey to annexation of Punjab in 1849, the entire Indian sub-continent had been brought under British control. Apart from outright wars they employed methods like Subsidiary Alliance and Doctrine of Lapse to expand and consolidate their empire in India.

British Conquest of Bengal

  • Nawab Alivardi Khan was an independent ruler of Bengal Between 1740-1756. He, in fact, extended protection to the European merchants in carrying on their trade.
  • Alivardi Khan nominated his grandson (daughter’s son) Siraj-ud-Daula as his heir since he had no son. He died in April 1756.
  • In the meantime the Company constructed fortifications at Calcutta and violated the terms under which they were allowed to trade.
  • Siraj-ud-Daula took prompt action and occupied and English factory at Kasimbazar and later captured Calcutta in June, 1756.

Black Hole tragedy(20 June 1756):

  • English prisoners were said to have been crowded into a small chamber which had a single, tiny, window on a hot summer night of 20 June 1756.
  •  As a result several English prisoners died of suffocation and wounds. In December, 1756, Colonel Clive and Admiral Watson reached Bengal from Madras and Captured Calcutta.
  • Mir Jafar, brother in law promised him the same state of Bengal. Mir Jafar, nevertheless, also assured his support to Siraj-ud-Daula against the English.

Battle of Plassey(1757):

  • The Battle of Plassey was fought at Palashi, on the banks of Bhagirathi River near Calcutta on June 23, 1757.
  • After three hours of intense fighting, there was a heavy downpour. One of the reasons for the defeat of Nawab was the lack of planning to protect their weapons during the heavy downpour which turned the table in favour of the British army apart from the major reason being the treachery of Mir Jafar.
  • Siraj-Ud-Daula’s army with 50,000 soldiers, 40 cannons and 10 war elephants was defeated by 3,000 soldiers of Robert Clive. The battle ended in 11 hours and Siraj-Ud-Daula fled from the battle post his defeat.
  • According to Robert Clive, 22 men died and 50 were injured from the British troops. The Nawab army lost about 500 men, including several key officials and many of them even suffered several casualties.

Battle of Buxar(1764):

  • The combined armies of Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Awadh and Shah Alam II were defeated by the English forces under Major Hector Munro at Buxar on October 22, 1764 in a closely contested battle.
  • The importance of this battle lay in the fact that not only the Nawab of Bengal but also the Mughal Emperor of India was defeated by the English. The victory made the English a great power in northern India and contenders for the supremacy over the whole country.
  • After the battle, Mir Jafar was again made the Nawab and Robert Clive concluded two important treaties at Allahabad in August 1765—one with the Nawab of Awadh and the other with the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II.

The Carnatic wars

First Carnatic War(1746-1748):

  • The French and the British companies clashed at Carnatic. Dupleix was then the chief official of the French Company at Pondicherry.
  • The French opened hostilities by sacking fort St. George and expelled all Englishmen. The Nawab of Carnatic sent an army but was defeated.

Second Carnatic War(1749-1754):

  • Fought between: Different claimants to the posts of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the Nawab of the Carnatic; each claimant being supported either by the British or the French.
  • People involved: Muhammad Ali and Chanda Sahib (for the Nawabship of the Carnatic or Arcot); Muzaffar Jung and Nasir Jung (for the post of the Nizam of Hyderabad).
  • Muzaffar Jung became Hyderabad’s Nizam. Muhammad Ali became the Nawab of the Carnatic

Third Carnatic War(1756-1763):

  • In 1758, the French army under French General, Count Thomas Arthur de Lally captured the English forts of St. David and Vizianagaram in 1758.
  • Now, the English became offensive and inflicted heavy losses on the French fleet under Admiral D’Ache at Masulipatnam.
  • The decisive battle of the Third Carnatic War was won by the English on January 22, 1760 at Wandiwash (or Vandavasi) in Tamil Nadu.

Conquest of Mysore

First Mysore War(1767-1769):

  • Mysore was a powerful state under Hyder Ali (1722-1782).
  • Mysore under Haider Ali gained some success against the Britishers.
  • Hyder Ali occupied almost the whole of Carnatic under Treaty of Madras (1769).

Second Mysore War(1780-1782):

  • Haidar Ali forged an alliance with the Marathas and the Nizam against the British.
  • He attacked the Carnatic and captured Arcot and defeated the English army under Colonel Baillie in 1781.
  • In the meantime, the English (under Sir Eyre Coote) detached both the Marathas and the Nizam from Haidar’s side, but the undeterred Haidar faced the English boldly only to suffer a defeat at Porto Novo (present day Parangipettai, Tamil Nadu) in November 1781.
  • The war proved indecisive and ended with the Treaty of Mangalore (March 1784).

Third Carnatic war(1790-1792):

  • Tipu Sultan invaded the nearby state of Travancore, which was a British ally.
  • The war ended with the defeat of Tipu Sultan and the signing of the Treaty of Seringapatam.
  •  According to the treaty, Tipu had to surrender half of his kingdom to the British East India Company and its allies.

Fourth Carnatic War(1799):

  • The British defeated Tipu Sultan. Tipu died while defending his capital.
  • Nearly half of Mysore territory was divided between the British and the Nizam.

Conquest of Maharashtra

First Anglo Maratha War (1775–1782)

The British were defeated and the Treaty of Salbai was signed.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1806) 

The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818)

The British stood victorious.

Annexation of Awadh (1856)

  • The kingdom of Awadh was annexed by the British on account of ‘misgovernance’.
  • Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh was accused by the British of having misgoverned his state. His state was therefore annexed in 1856 by Lord Dalhousie.
  • Awadh was the only Indian state whose ruler Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was dispossessed on the ground of “misgovernnance”.

 Conquest of Sind (1843)

  • Since 18th century, Sind was being ruled by some Baluchi chiefs collectively known as “Amirs of Sind“.
  • General Charles Napier captured the Sind province in 1843 through the Battle of Miani.

Conquest of Punjab

  • After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, there was a state of anarchy in Punjab.
  • Conquest of Punjab was completed in 1849.
  • British efforts to control Punjab resulted into two wars.
  • First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–1846), the British defeated Sikh troops and the Treaty of Lahore was signed.
  • To avenge the defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh war, Sikh troops started a number of revolts leading to the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849). The war ended with whole up Punjab under British control.