British occupation of Bengal

Battle of Plassey paved the way for the British East India Company to mastery Bengal and eventually led to the whole of India. The Bengal's rich revenues enabled British to organise a strong army and meet the cost of the conquest of the rest of the country. Control over Bengal played a decisive role in the Anglo-French struggle. The victory of Plassy enabled the East India company and it's servants to amass untold wealth at the cost of the helpless people of Bengal.

British Conquest of Bengal


  • The English East India Company was founded by a royal charter on 31 December 1600, as a joint-stock company of London merchants uniting to combat Dutch competition in Eastern trade.
  • It was given a monopoly of all trade from England to the East and was permitted to carry bullion out of the country to finance its trade.
  • No mandate was given at that time to carry on conquest or colonisation
  • The Company formally started trading in India from 1613 after settling scores with the Portuguese.

British and Mughal Nawabs

  • Jahangir gave Farman to establish their factories or warehouses in India, the first factory being set up in Surat in the western coast. In 1617 Jahangir received Sir Thomas Roe as a resident English envoy in his court.
  • Misuse of the trading privileges granted by the Mughal authorities to the East India Company has started and soon reached to its peak.
  • This defrauding of the Mughal treasury of enormous amounts of revenue became a major cause of friction between the Company and the local Mughal ruler in Bengal. And created the context for the emergence of the Company as the imperial power in India.
  • In 1690 Aurangzeb's Farman had granted them right to duty-free trade in Bengal in return for an annual payment of Rs. 3,000.
  • The foundation of Calcutta in 1690 and its fortification in 1696 were followed by the grant of zamindari rights in three villages of Kolikata, Suranuri and Gobindapur two years later.
  • After death of Aurangzeb, Farman issued from emperor Farruksiyar in 1717 gave the Company the right to carry on duty-free trade, to rent thirty-eight villages around Calcutta and to use the royal mint. But this farman also became a new source of conflict between the Company and Bengal ruler, Murshid Quli Khan.
  • Murshid Quli Khan refused to extend its duty-free provision to cover also the private trade of the Company officials, also denied permission to the Company to buy the thirty-eight villages and refused to offer the minting privileges.
  • EIC started misusing of dastaks, and the nawab resented the loss of revenue. Hence, from 1717 friction between EIC and Bengal Nawabs started.

British and French angle in Bengal

  • The outbreak of the Austrian Succession War in Europe in 1740 brought in hostilities between the English and the French Companies to India.
  • In Bengal, the new Nawab Alivardi Khan kept both of them under control and forbade them from getting involved in any open hostilities.
  • But French victories in south India made the English apprehensive in Bengal. Hence, In 1755 the English began renovating the fortifications in Calcutta without the nawab's permission and in utter defiance of his authority began to offer protection to fugitives from his court.

British and Bengal Nawabs

  • Siraj-ud-daula became nawab in 1756 and threatened the lucrative English private trade by stopping all misuse of dastaks.
  • Grant of asylum to Krishna Ballabh who was charged with fraud by the nawab and The new fortifications at Calcutta challenged to the authority of the nawab and his sovereignty.
  • When the Company failed to listen to warnings, Siraj showed his strength by taking over the factory at Kasimbazar and later attack on Calcutta and its capture on 20 June.
  • All above situations precipitated crisis among them.

Battle of Plassey (1757)

  • Robert Clive returned from Madras after defeating French at Chandernagore and decided on a coup d'etat in Bengal.
  • Clive made relation with already disaffected faction at the nawab's court, consisting of merchants, bankers, financiers and powerful zamindars, like the Jagat Seth brothers, Mahtab Rai and Swarup Chand, Raja Janki Ram, Rai Durlabh, Raja Ram-Narain and Raja Manik Chand and followed as a conspiracy to replace Siraj with Mir Jafar, his commander-in-chief, who was the choice of the Jagat Seths, without whose support any coup d'etat was virtually impossible.
  • In Battle of Plassey, Siraj was finally defeated by Clive and new Nawab Mir Jafar became a puppet in the hands of the English. However, It was hardly a battle, as the largest contingent of the Nawabi army remained inactive under Mir Jafar's command.
  • The Battle of Plassey (1757) thus marked the beginning of political supremacy of the English East India Company in India.

Aftermath of Battle of Plassey

  • English army and navy each received the hefty sums of EIC275,000 for distribution among their members.
  • Between 1757 and 1760, the Company received Rs 22.5 million from Mir Jafar; Clive himself got in 1759 a personal jagir worth EIC34,567.
  • Changing structure of company s trade: Prior to 1757 the English trade in Bengal was largely financed through import of bullion from England; but after that year not only bullion import stopped, but bullion was exported from Bengal to China and other parts of India, which gave a competitive advantage to the English Company over its European rivals.
  • Hence, after some time Mir Jafar found it difficult to meet the financial demands of the Company and was removed from the throne to be replaced by his son-in-law Mir Kasim in October 1760. Unable to stop the misuse of dastaks, the Mir Qasim abolished internal duties altogether, so that the Indian merchants could also enjoy the same privilege.
  • The English did not like this act and again replaced him with Mir Jafar.
  • In December 1763 Mir Kasim fled from Bengal and tried to form a grand alliance with the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II and Shuja-ud-daula of Awadh to fight in Battle of Buxar.

Battle of Buxar (1764)

Factors Responsible

(a) Political

1. The BoP didn't answer the question clearly - who is the boss of Bengal? So Mir Qasim thought that he had repaid EIC for their help in his accession, but EIC thought that he should be a puppet. 2. Colonial outlook of EIC -- This made a conflict inevitable with anyone who stood in their way.

(b) Economic

1. Issue of dastaks. Continuous exploitation and demand of EIC.

Shuja-ud-daula's Participation

1. He fought because he was promised Bihar and a payment of Rs. 30 mm on the successful campaign. This would also have propelled him high in the political arena of the age. 2. In the end, he had to pay Rs. 5 mm to the company, host a British resident, agreed to a mutual defence pact with the company and had to give duty-free trade rights to the company throughout Oudh (the tensions created by which led to the ultimate annexation of Oudh itself) and to cede Allahabad and Kara to the company.

Circumstances Leading to Battle of Buxar

1. Mir Qasim wanted to be an independent Nawab. He knew that for this, he had to get away from the influence of the EIC and rebuild his strength. So he shifted his capital to Munger, built an arms depot there, recruited, maintained and trained a large force there and rooted out corruption in his department. He began to act independently. Then there was the issue of misuse of dastaks.

2. But both sides didn't want a conflict at that stage. The Nawab didn't feel strong enough and EIC didn't want to lose the gains from Plassey. So they tried to negotiate and reach an agreement.

3. But the high handed behaviour of some officials and issue of dastaks finally broke the waters.


(a) Political

1. Firmly established company's authority beyond any doubt. No question was left as to who is the boss. De jure as well as de facto power. Exposed the weakness of Indian powers.

2. Dual Rule in Bengal

  • The company got the diwani rights of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa. This led to a situation where all revenues went to the company and all administrative responsibilities were left with the nawab.
  • In 1765, the company could be imposed a treaty on the nawab where he was made to abandon his army, govern through a deputy subehdar who was to be appointed by the company and couldn't be removed without its consent. This gave the company nizamat or police and judicial powers as well.
  • Soon entire administration began to be run by the company's Indian agents called gomasthas. Open plunder was the outcome and massive Bengal famine of 1770 struck. Even Oudh was made dependent on British. He was to pay for British troops while EIC promised to aid him. Thus they created a buffer state.
(b) Economic

1. The company got the diwani rights. Due to resources, the company became powerful. 2. Drain of wealth, EIC used these revenues to pay for their imports.

Related Topics

Annexation Policies
Annexation under various Governor General

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