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Bengal (Battle of Plassey, Buxar & Allahabad Treaty)

1. Important Events

1757Battle of PlasseyIt marks the beginning of British rule in India. It boosted British confidence.
1764Battle of BuxarIt only confirmed the outcome of Battle of Plassey.
1765Treaty of AllahabadThis treaty brought Bengal under effective control of British East India Compnay.

2. Background

Bengal was a very prosperous region under Mughals . Almost half of the revenue of Mughal empire came from Bengal. In 1690, Aurangzeb had given trading rights to British in Bengal.

In 1717, Farrukhsiyar had given farman to EIC (East India Company) by which they could freely import and export their goods in Bengal without paying taxes and it also gave them right to issues passes or dastaks (document) for the movement of such goods.

In 1719, Murshid Quli Khan became the governor of Bengal and assumed the title of Nawab. He established an autonomous state in Bengal and continued to maintain symbolic links with the Mughal empire. Coins were minted, appointments were made and the Friday prayers were still offered in the name of Mughal rulers, but key decisions were made by Murshid Quli autonomously.

In 1734, Sarfaraz Khan came to power.

During 1739 to 1756 Alivardi Khan, a prominent military commander in Bengal, brought about a coup by overthrowing Sarfaraz Khan with the help of Jagatseth brothers. He broke all symbolic links with central Mughal rulers in contrast to the policy followed by Murshid Quli. Alivardi Khan died in 1756.

After death of Alivardi Khan, dispute arose between his daughter Ghasiti Begum and grandson Siraj-ud-Daula. In 1757 Siraj-ud-Daula comes to throne at the age of 20. Young and assertive.

3. 1757 – Battle of Plassey

An oil-on-canvas painting depicting the meeting of Mir Jafar and Robert Clive after the Battle of Plassey.

Jagath Seth brothers wanted monopoly of trading rights to British over the French. Siraj was determined to limit the influence of British and Jagat Seth Bros. He was more keen on allowing FEIC (French East India Company) to maintain their presence in Bengal to limit British influence.

Following Siraj’s denial to grant trade monopoly, Jagathseth brothers advised British to give 1) refuge to political fugitives wanted in Siraj’s court (interfering in internal affairs) and 2) fortify trading position. (which was not allowed for trading companies).

To assert his authority, Siraj imprisoned and locked down British officials in their trading port. (‘Black hole tragedy’). 20+ EIC officers died in next 2 days due to suffocation and poor conditions.

British mounted military response under Robert Clive. Private army of EIC plus British government army marched from Hyderabad to Bengal, led by Robert Clive.

Jagat Seth Brother in collaboration with BECI brought about Military coup. Mir Jafar sided with British and refused to obey Siraj’s orders. Ending the battle even before it began. Mir Jafar becomes king. Siraj surrendered. Battle didn’t much happened.

3.1 Plassey Plunder

1757 – following the Plassey defeat for Bengal, the British imposed huge financial demands on Bengal termed by the historians as ‘Plassey plunder‘. British demanded immediate war compensation of 2, 75,000 pd. A trading monopoly in Bengal. And Diwani rights for some towns around erstwhile Kolkata.
Over 1757 – 1760, an amount of 22.5 million rupees were to be paid to British.

3.2 Significance of Battle of Plassey

With the battle of Plassey, the British EIC moved towards establishing their presence in Bengal. However they were yet to establish a pan Indian empire during this period.

BEIC also got huge financial gains from Plassey and Buxar would aid in the expansion of the British East India companies trading activities in the region.

The establishment of ‘dual system of administration’ in Bengal post 1764 gave an indirect long term presence to British in the region.

4. 1764 – Battle of Buxar

In 1760, the inability of Mir Jafar to meet the huge revenue demands of the British resulted in him being replaced by Mir Qasim on the advice of Jagatseth brothers. Very soon, Mir Quasim also expressed inability to meet such unreasonable revenue demands.

In 1762, whole Jagatseth family was assassinated by Mir Quasim, following which in 1763, once again Mir Jafar was made King and Mir Quasim dethroned.

Dethroned, in 1764, Mir Quasim came to forge a regional alliance with Shuja-ud-Daula of Awadh and Shah Alam II of Delhi to overthrow British EIC from the region.

It was a battle of Delhi+Awadh+Bengal versus British East India Company British won and imposed Treaty of Allahabad in 1765.

4.1 Treaty of Allahabad

In Awadh, trading monopoly was to be granted to British. An immediate war compensation of 5million rupees was to be paid to BEIC. In Bengal, a British resident would be posted in court to oversee major economic policies. And Diwani (revenue collection) rights would be devolved to the British EIC in Bengal whereas the Nawab would largely continue his rule and policies in other spheres. Major finances were not demanded from Central empire, but Shah Alam was made to retire.

4.2 Dual System of Administration

After Treaty of Allahabad, BEIC acquired revenue collection rights in Bengal region. However, the responsibility of law & order was still with Bengal Rulers (without revenue rights i.e. without resources). This gave rise to high degree of exploitation by British.

How BEIC won, despite numerical strength was against them?

BEIC had it’s own private army. It was also supported by British army present in Hyderabad. British also enjoyed technological superiority, unified leadership and organised military. All this culminated in their victory.

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