of India: The Colonial Period
1640, the East India Company established an
outpost at Madras. In 1661 the company obtained
Bombay from Charles II and converted it to a
flourishing center of trade by 1668. English
settlements developed in Orissa
and Bengal. In 1690 Job
Charnock, an agent of the East
India Company established a factory
in Bengal; almost a decade later the factory
was fortified and called Fort William. Three
adjoining villages Sutanati,
Kalikata and Gobindpore
were developed into a single area called Calcutta.
Calcutta became a trading centre for East India
On June 23rd, 1757 at Plassey,
between Calcutta and Murshidabad,
the forces of the East India Company under Robert
Clive met the army of Siraj-ud-Daula,
the Nawab of Bengal.
Mir Jafar, one of the Nawab's
trusted lieutenants, joined the British; a large
number of the Nawab's soldiers were bribed to
throw away their weapons, and surrender prematurely.
Siraj-ud-Daula was defeated.
The Battle of Plassey, which
marked the first major military success for
British East India Company.
During the major part of the1700s the French
and English fought a series of battles for supremacy
in the Carnatic region. In the Third
Carnatic War (a.k.a battle of Wandiwash),
the British East India Company defeated the
French forces at the ending almost a century
of colonial conflict in India.
In June 1763 led by Major Adams
British army defeated Mir Kasim
the Nawab of Bengal.
Mir Kasim fled to Patna to
seek asylum, from Nawab Shujauddaulah
and the (merely a figurehead) Emperor
Shah Alam II. After winning the Battle
of Buxar, the British obtained the
right to collect land revenue in Bengal,
Bihar and Orissa.
Next, Robert Clive was appointed
the governor and commander in chief of the English
army in Bengal in 1765.
Hastings was appointed the Governor
of Bengal in 1772. Under the
Regulating Act of 1773 passed by British parliament,
a Council of four members was appointed, and
Hastings was empowered to conduct
the Company's affairs with the Council's advice.
His task was to consolidate the Company's rule
in Bengal. He brought about several administrative
and judicial changes. However He faced stiff
resistance from the Marathas
in the north and Hyder Ali
in the south. In 1773 he concluded the Treaty
of Benaras with the Nawab of Avadh,
in the process blocking alliances between the
Marathas and the Nawab of Avadh.
Under Warren Hastings the British
army took part in the Rohilla War
in 1774 which brought Rohilkhand in the company's
First Anglo-Mysore War
With easy success in Bengal, the English concluded
a treaty with Nizam Ali of
Hyderabad and committed to
help the Nizam with the troops in his war against
Hyder Ali. In 1767, the Nizam,
the Marathas and the British joined forces
against Hyder Ali. But Hyder
Ali beat the English at their own game
by making peace with the Marathas and alluring
the Nizam with territorial
gains. Allying with the Nizam,
Hyder Ali launched an attack
on Arcot. The 18 month long
fight inflicted heavy losses on the British.
The panic-stricken British agreed to a treaty
which was signed on April 4, 1769, on the basis
of restitution of each other's territories.
During the period 1772-1785 the territory of
the East India Company included Bengal. Bihar,
Orissa, Benaras and Ghazipur,
besides the Northern Sircars,
the port of Salsette and the
harbours of Madras and Bombay.
The fast declining Mughal territory included
Delhi and surrounding areas. The autonomous
territory of Avadh, was bound in an alliance
with the East India Company since 1765. The
North Western part of India was under the Sikh
clans, who controlled region around the river
Sutlej. Several Muslim chiefs ruled in North
western Punjab, Multan, Sindh
and Kashmir. The Marathas dominated
over western India, parts of Central India from
Delhi to Hyderabad
and Gujarat to Cuttack.
The Deccan was ruled by Nizam
of Hyderabad. Hyder
Ali ruled over Mysore.
Tanjore and Travancore
were ruled by Hindu kings.
The British Parliament under Pitt’s
India Bill of 1784 appointed a Board
of Control, which provided for a joint government
of the Company and the Crown. In 1786, through
a supplementary bill, Lord Cornwallis was appointed
as the first Governor-General, and he became
the effective ruler of British India under the
authority of the Board of Control and the Court
The immediate cause of the war was Tipu
(son of Hyder Ali)‘s attack
on December 29,
1789 following a dispute over Cochin. The Raja
to the protection by the English. Seizing the
opportunity, the British, having made a triple
alliance with the Nizams
the Marathas, attacked Tipu Sultan.
The war between Tipu Sultan and the allies
lasted nearly two years. On January 29, 1791,
Lord Cornwallis himself took over the command
of the British troops. He captured Bangalore
in 1791 and approached Seringapatnam,
Tipu Sultan's capital. Tipu fiercely defended
the city, forcing Cornwallis to retreat. Tipu
Sultan subsequently captured Coimbatore.
Lord Cornwallis soon returned to occupy all
the forts enroute to Seringapatnam.
On February 5, 1792 Cornwallis arrived at
Seringapatnam. Tipu sued
for peace, following which the Treaty
of Seringapatnam was concluded in
March 1792. Under the treaty, nearly half
of the territory of Mysore got split up between
the victorious allies. Tipu Sultan was compelled
to pay a huge war indemnity and his two sons
were taken hostage.
Tipu Sultan - the tiger
of the Deccan
Lord Wellesley became the Governor
General of India in 1798. Tipu Sultan
tried to secure an alliance with the French
against the English in India. Wellesley
questioned Tipu’s relationship with the
French and attacked Mysore
in 1799. The fourth Anglo-Mysore War
was of short and decisive.Tipu Sultan
died defending his capital, on May 4, 1799.
the period 1814 to 1826 the British had to fight
many wars against Gurkhas (residents
of Nepal) in the North and Burmese
in the North East. Having incurred several,
the British signed peace treaties with both
these communities. Between 1817 and 1818 the
British had to fight against the Pindaris
(a horde of cruel marauders, based in Central
India who ravaged and plundered the neighbouring
regions as well as some distant areas. They
were employed by the Maratha
armies as auxiliary forces). The Pindaris
were eventually crushed by the British.
this period, the Sikh power
was growing in the North West region of Punjab.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839)
of Punjab became very powerful. Afraid of his
growing powers, the British signed a peace treaty
with Ranjit Singh. But after
the latter’s demise internal feuds grew
among the Sikhs. The British tried to take advantage
of this which led to the First Anglo-Sikh
War in 1845, followed by a
few other battles. The final battle of Sobraon
on February 10, 1846. Owing to the treachery
of their generals, the Sikhs lost all of these
battles. The British were able to capture most
of India after defeating Sikhs in the Second
Anglo- Sikh War in 1849.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
By early 1857, the kingdom of Avadh
was annexed by the British, which resulted in
the Indian Sepoys of that area losing their
privileges. This led to a simmering discontent
in the minds of the common people. However an
immediate irritant was the introduction of the
Enfield rifle, whose bullets
had to be bitten, before being loaded into the
rifle. Rumours began to spread amongst the Sepoys
that the bullets had been smeared in pig and
Naturally many of the Sepoys
refused to use the ammunition. A soldier named
Mangal Pandey was the first
tol lead his fellow soldiers to vehement protest
against this sacrilege, and as a consequence
were chained or even imprisoned. Incensed by
this move of the British, their comrades revolted
and freed them. Moreover they brutally killed
several British soldiers. This arson and genocide
went on for a few months.
The sepoys stationed at Meerut
were the first to rebel marched towards Delhi.
After capturing the city with the help of the
local garrison, the rebels proclaimed the Mughal
poet-king Bahadurshah Zafar,
the sovereign ruler of India. The uprising spread
like wildfire across central and Northern India
with sepoys and civilians alike taking part
in the ransacking and lawlessness. In the tiny
kingdom of Jhansi, Rani Laxmi Bai,
the teenaged queen (aided by other patriotic
nobles like Nana Saheb and
Tantya Tope) put up a brave
fight to save her kingdom from the British,
and lost her life in the process.
Shortly after, Cawnpore (modern
Kanpur) was captured and Lucknow
besieged. The retaliation by the British was
violent and brutal. The British recaptured Cawnpore
and Delhi in the July-September
period of 1857. Lucknow was
freed in early 1858
As a direct result of the Sepoy Mutiny, the
Indian presence in the British army was reduced
to almost a half. The Indian regiments which
had been allowed to exist separately, were now
incorporated into British regiments. Most importantly,
India came under direct Crown rule
as the British East India Company
was dispossessed of its functions and, in 1877,
Queen Victoria was crowned
Empress of India.
Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi
In the year 1853 the first railway
became operational between Bombay and Thane
and first telegraph line started between Calcutta
and Agra. These were a few
positive contributions of the British rule in
India. Though these were originally meant to
improve the mobility and communication of the
British troops, eventually they proved very
useful for the general public.
In the socio-cultural major changes and transformation
took place during this period. Raja
Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), an erudite,
cultured personality, stood firmly against all
kinds of social bigotry, orthodoxy, idol worship
and superstitions and advocated Western/English
education for the common people.
In 1828, he founded a society known as the 'Brahmo
Samaj' which believed in secularism,
equality of all religions and worship of one
supreme, formless being. Ram Mohan Roy’s
greatest achievement was the abolition of 'Sati'
(the burning of a widow on the funeral
pyre of her husband) in 1829, in which objective
he received unlimited help and cooperation of
the then Governor General Lord William
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) was
a reformer, feminist and thinker. He raised
questions and aroused public opinion about social
evils like early marriage of girls, polygamy,
child widows among others. To him goes the credit
of the enactment of the Act of 1856,
legalising widow remarriage and the Civil
Marriage Act of 1872, restricting bigamy
and child marriage and encouraging widow remarriage.
Ishwar Chandra Vidysagar