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Rise of British Power in Bengal

The British first came to India as traders in the 17th Century. However, by the middle
of the 19th century, the British succeeded in eliminating all their rivals and
established an all-India empire. In their scramble for political power, the conquest of
Bengal proved to be an important milestone for the British. It set the stage for further
conquests and the establishment of the British as the rulers of India.
In 1600CE, a company popularly known as the English East India Company was
established by a small group of British merchants. The Queen of England, Elizabeth
I, granted the Company the exclusive right to trade with the East.
A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
The Company made enormous profits by buying Eastern goods and then selling
them at high prices in the European market. The Queen received a share of the
Company’s profits.
The English East India Company set up its factory in Surat in 1612 CE. A factory
was a trading settlement consisting of a warehouse for goods, an office for keeping
records and residential quarters for the servants (employees) of the Company.
Nothing was manufactured in these factories.
By 1623 CE, the British had established factories in Surat, Broach, Ahmadabad,
Agra and Masulipatam. Sir Thomas Roe, the British ambassador to the court of
Jahangir, had obtained many trade concessions for the Company from the Mughal
In 1639 CE, Madras was given to the British by a Local ruler. They established a
trading settlement which they fortified and named Fort St George.
In 1688 CE, Charles II gave the Company, at a nominal rent of 10 pounds per year,
the island of Bombay (which he had received as dowry when he had married a
Portuguese princess). In course of time, Bombay became the chief settlement of the
British on the western coast.
In 1690 CE, a British trading settlement was established and fortified in Calcutta. It
was named Fort William.
Madras, Bombay and Calcutta became the headquarters of the British settlements in
the southern, western and eastern regions, respectively. Each of these
headquarters, known as Presidencies, was placed under the charge of a Governor.
By the beginning of the 18th century, several British trading companies had joined
together and formed one company called the United East India Company.
In 1717, the Mughal Emperor, Farrukhsiyar, granted the Company the right to carry
on duty-free trade in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (now Odisha). The Company made
enormous profits. In course of time, the Company began to interfere in the local
politics of the Indian rulers. By supporting one against another, they made territorial,
monetary and political gains. Their interference soon turned into active involvement
and they established the foundations of British rule in Bengal by the middle of the
18th the century.
The French East India Company was formed in 1664 CE. Its headquarters was
based in Pondicherry (now Puducherry). It also established trade settlement in Surat,
Masulipatam, Chandernagore and Mahe. When the French arrived in India, the
British were already well settled along the coastal regions.
By the 18th century, the two major European powers in India were the British and the
French. The Portuguese, by the beginning of the 17th century, had lost their influence
as well as their monopoly over India trade. The Dutch had also been edged out of
the competition by the British and the French.
The French and the British were both equally determined to establish trade
monopoly in India. An intense competition followed. They became arch-rivals in trade
and this rivalry eventually led to wars. A power struggle became inevitable as their
commercial rivalry intensified and the French tried to secure and use political
influence to ruin British trade.
The commercial rivarlry between the British and the French in India was aggravated
by the fact that these two countries were political rivals in Europe as well. Taking
advantage of the decline of the Mughal power and the unstable political conditions in
the country, they fought three wars in India to establish their supremacy. These wars
are referred to as the Carnatic Wars.(Carnatic was the name given to the
Coromandel Coast and its hinterland).
The outcome of the three Carnatic wars saw the British establish their political
influence over the Carnatic. The Third Carnatic War shattered French dreams of
building an India empire. Freed of all European rivals, the English East India
Company, with the help of the army and its vast resources in India, now set out to
conquer India.
Bengal in the 18th century was the richest and the most fertile province in India.
Known as ‘the paradise of the earth’, the province of Bengal attracted traders from
Holland, France and England. European trading companies from these countries
established trading settlements in Bengal, which became a profitable base for their
trade and commerce.
The largest and the most prosperous of these European settlements was the British
settlement at Calcutta. In 1717, the Mughal emperor, Farrukhsiyar issued a farman,
granting the English East India Company the right to carry on duty-free trade in
Bengal, i.e. to export and import goods from and to Bengal without paying any taxes
to the government. They were given the right to issue passes or dastaks for the free
movement of their goods.
The employees of the Company were permitted to carry on private trade but they
were not entitled to the Company’s privilege of duty-free trade. They had to pay
taxes like other Indian merchants.
In 1756, the Nawab of Bengal, Alivardi Khan, died and was succeeded by his
grandson, Siraj-ud-Daulah, who wanted to curb the growing power of the British.
Siraj-ud-Daulah’s task was not an easy one, since he had many enemies both within
and outside his court, and that made his position insecure and unstable.
Siraj ordered the British to pay taxes to him like all other Indian merchants. The
British refused to do so. This angered the young Nawab.
In anticipation of a war with the French, who had a trading settlement in
Chandernagore, the British began to fortify Calcutta. This amounted to an attack on
the Nawab’s sovereignty.
Siraj was willing to let the Europeans stay in his kingdom as traders but certainly not
as masters. He ordered both the British and the French to dismantle their
fortifications and not fight their private wars his territory. The French agreed. The
British refused.
Siraj-ud-Daulah was enraged. The British had openly challenged his authority and he
was determined to teach them a lesson.
Capture of Calcutta
Siraj marched towards Calcutta with a large army and captured Fort captured Fort
William in June 1756.
Recovery of Calcutta
Robert Clive, the hero of Arcot, arrived from Madras with a strong military force and
reconquered Calcutta by January 1757. The Nawab was complelled to restore
trading privileges and possessions to the East India Company and concede the right
to fortify Calcutta.
Siraj-ud-Daulah had given in to all demands of the British Company. The British,
however, were not satisfied. They had greater ambitions. Their objective was to
replace Siraj-ud-Daulah with a puppet ruler.
Conspiracy to Replace Siraj-ud-Daulah
Robert Clive now hatched a plot with some of the influential men in the nawab’s
court to overthrow Siraj-ud-Daulah. Mir Jafar, the commander-in-chief of the nawab’s
forces, would be made the nawab of Bengal in return for a large amount of money
and important trading privileges.
When the negotiations with Mir Jafar were finalized, a secret treaty was signed and
the British presented Siraj-ud-Daulah with an impossible set of demands. War
became inevitable.
Battle of Plassey
Robert Clive led the British forces to Plassey (near Murshidabad, the capital of the
nawab of Bengal). Siraj-ud-Daulah also advanced at the head of a large army of
50,000 men.
The Battle of Plassey was fought on 23 June 1757. A major part of the nawab’s army
under the command of Mir Jafar did not take any part in the battle. Realizing that he
had been betrayed, the nawab fled from the battlefield. He was captures and put to
death. Mir Jafar was proclaimed the nawab of Bengal.
 The English East India Company was granted the undisputed right to free trade in
Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
 The Company was given the zamindari of the 24 Parganas.
 Mir Jafar paid the Company and its officials over 300 lakh rupees.
The Battle of Plassey was a major turning point in the history of India.
 It paved the way for the establishment of British rule in Bengal and, eventually,
the rest of India.
 It transformed a trading company into a political power.
 The nawab of Bengal was reduces to a puppet in the hands of the British, who
became the virtual rulers of Bengal.
 It placed at the disposal of the British the vast resources of Bengal. These
resources helped them to win the Tird Carnatic War and finance military
expeditions in other parts of India in the future.
Mir Jafar was aweak ruler. He had the responsibility of ruling Bengal but virtually no
power to do so. The British used their control over the nawab to drain the wealth of
Bengal.The Company and its officials openly and shamelessly plundered Bengal.
When Mir Jafar was unable to meet the demands of the British, they deposed him
and made his son-in-law, Mir Qasim, the new nawab of Bengal in 1760. Mir Qasim
rewarded the Company by granting it the zamindari of the districts of Burdwan,
Midnapur and Chittagong.
Do you think the history of India would have been different if Mir Jafar had not
betrayed Siraj-ud-Daulah? Why? What conclusions can you draw about Mir Jafar’s
character form his actions in the conspiracy and the Battle of Plassey?
Mir Qasim was a competent and efficient ruler, determined to free himself from
foreign control. He soon came into conflict with the British.
To strengthen his position, he improved the financial position of Bengal and raised a
modern, disciplined and well-equipped army trained by the Europeans. This made
the British increasingly hostile.
The employees of the Company misused their trade privileges. They sold their duty-
free trade permits to Indian merchants who also used them to carry on duty-free
trade. This deprived the nawab of large revenues and was unfair to those local
merchants who had to pay heavy duties.
To put an end to the corrupt practices of the British, Mir Qasim abolished all duties
on internal trade. This made the British furious.
They refused to accept an equal status with the Indian merchants.
In 1763, war broke out between Mir Qasim and the British. The Nawab was
defeated. Mir Jafar was reinstated on the throne.
Mir Qasim was determined to recover his throne. He escaped to Awadh, where he
formed an alliance with Shuja-ud-Daulah, the nawab of Awadh and the Mughal
emperor, Shah Alam II.
The combined forces of the three allies clashed with the Company’s troops at Buxar
in 1764, and were decisively defeated by the British.
 The victory of the British in the Battle of Buxar firmly established them as masters
of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
 It gave them the political influence and control over Awadh and the Mughal
 It laid the foundation of British rule in India.
 At this time, Robert Clive returned to India as Governor of Bengal.
The Treaty of Allahabad (1765)
In 1765, Clive signed the Treaty of Allahabad with Shuja-ud-Daulah and Shah Alm II.
According to the terms of this treaty:
 Awadh was returned to Shuja-ud-Daulah. However, the two districts of Kora and
Allahabad were taken away from the nawab.
 The Nawab of Awadh had to pay awar indemnity of 50 lakh rupees to the
Robert Clive had made a fortune in India-has jagir yielded an annual income of
$40,000. This helped to raise his social standing and he was made a Peer! Robert
Clive had to face a Parliamentary enquiry when he returned to England for abuse of
power in Bengal. However this charge was rejected.
The British agreed to defend the nawab of Awadh against his enemies. The nawab
would have to pay for the cost of the British troops. Awadh became a buffer state
between the British possessions in Bengal and the Marathas.
Of 26 lakh rupees. In return, the emperor (the nominal head of the Mughal empire)
granted the Company the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, i.e. the right to collect
revenue from these provinces and judge civil cases. The Company’s control over
Bengal was made legal.
The puppet nawabs of Bengal continued to sit on the throne but they had no military
and administrative powers.
After Mir Jafar’s death in 1765, his son was made the nawab of Bengal. He had to
sign a treaty with Clive, according to which he had to disband most of his army. He
also had to transfer the ‘Nizamat’ power (general administration and criminal justice)
to a deputy nawab appointed by the British. The deputy nawab could not be
dismissed by the nawab. The nawab was given an allowance of 53 lakh rupees
which was sudsequently reduced. Thus, the English East India Company became
the real ruler of Bengal from 1765.
1848-56 Lord Dalhousie
Governors of Bengal
1757 – 60 Robert Clive
1760-65 Henry Vansittart
1765-67 Robert Clive
1767-69 Harry Verelst
1769-72 Cartier John
1772-73 Warren Hastings
Governors General of India
1773-85 Warren Hastings
1785-86 Sir John Mac Pherson
1786-93 Lord Cornwallis
1793-98 Sir John Shore
1798-1805 Lord Wellesley
1805-07 Sir George Barlow
1807-13 Lord Minto
1813-23 Marquess of Hastings
1823-28 Lord Amherst
1828-35 Lord William Bentinck
1836-42 Lord Auckland
1842-44 Lord Ellenborough
1844-48 Lord Hardinge
1848-56 Lord Dalhousie
Clive introduced Dual Government in Bengal in 1765. Bengal now had two masters-
the in 1765. Bengal now had two masters – the nawab and the Compnay.
The nawab was responsible for general administration, maintenance of law and
order and justice (i.e., criminal cases). The Company had military power and the
right to collect and use the revenue of Bengal. This arrangement was known as Dual
The Company enjoy power without any responsibilities. The nawab, on the other
hand, was burdened with the responsibility of administration without the resources
necessary for running it efficiently i.e. responsibility without power.
The revenue was collected by Indian officials appointed by the Company. The greed,
corruption and oppression of these officials reduces the peasants to conditions of
utter misery. The Company took no interest in the welfare of the people.
The conditions of the people worsened when Bengal was hit by a terrible famine in
which one third of the population perished. Nobody cared, neither the Company nor
the nawab, who in any case had neither the authority nor the resources to lessen the
miseries of the people. The Company, through its power to nominate the deputy
nawab, only interfered in the general administration without assuming any
The evils of the Dual Government began to manifest themselves. The administration
and economy collapsed. In 1772, the Court of Directors of the Company appointment
Warren Hastings as Governor of Bengal. In 1773, by the Regulating Act, he was
made the Governor General of British territories in India. The Governor General was
now the most important functionary of the East India Company.
End of Dual Government (1772)
Warren Hastings abolished the Dual
Dual Government in Bengal (1765-72)
Nawab (Nizamat powers)
1. General administration 1. Collection of revenue
2. Maintenance of law and order 2. Justice (civil cases)
3. Justice (criminal cases) 3.Defence and military power
4.The nawab had the responsibility of 4.The financial resources were in the
administration without the financial hands of the Company that did not have
resources necessary to run it efficiently. anyresponsibility.
Government, and Bengal was brought under the direct and complete control of the
Company. The nawab was deposed and pensioned off. The treasury was shifted
from Murshidabad to Calcutta, which now became the capital of Bengal, and later, of
Warren Hastings was a competent administrator. He introduced many reforms in the
administration and laid the foundations of an organized system of government in
The dual system of government in the Mughal provinces worked very successfully
durning Akbar’s reign. Why in your opinion, did the Dual Government introducted by
Clive fail?
We should always be honest and trustworthy. Being honest means we must not tell
lies or cheat others. Dishonesty can lead to greed and corruption which might
hamper the progress of the society.
What are the ways in which you can create a corruption-free society?
7.1 A portrait of Siraj-ud-Daulah, the young
7.2 A painting depicting the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, granting the Diwani of
Bengal to Robert clive, the Governor of the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
7.3 Time line
1717 CE: The Mughal emperor issued a farman to English East India Company to
carry on duty-free trade in Bengal.
1757 CE: Battal of Plassey
1764 CE: Battal of Buxar
1765: Dual government in Bengal was introduced
1772: Warren Hastings became the Governor General of Bengal and abolished Dual
Government in Bengal
Important Words
Farman was a licence which granted the English East India Company the right to
carry on duty-free trade in Bengal, to export goods from and import them into Bengal
without paying any taxes to the government.
Buffer state is a small state between two powerful states that helps keep peace
between them.
Diwani is the right given to coolect revenue of a particular area.
Dual Government was a form of government introduced in Bengal by Robert Clive
in 1765, wherein there two masters of the state.
A. Fill in the blanks:
1. -, - and - became the headquarters of the British settlements in the southern,
western and eastern, respectively.
2. In 1717, the Mughal emperor granted the Untited East India Company the right to
carry on duty-free trade in -, - and-.
3. The French east India Company was established in -.
4. The British and the French fought the - Wars in India to establish their monopoly in
5. Bengal in the 18th century was the - and the most - province in India.
6. In - Robert Clive recovered Calcutta which had been captured by Siraj-ud-Daulah
in -.
7. Mir Jafar was deposed because he was unable to meet the demands of the -.
8. In 1765, Awadh was returned to - but - and - were taken away and given to-.
9. Shah Alam II granted the Company the - of - , - and - in 1765.
10. Warren Hastings deposed and pensioned off the Nawab of Bengal and brought
Bengal under the - and - control of the Company.
B. Match the following:
Carnatic Wars Warren Hastings
Farman Duty-free trade
Robert Clive Reconquered Calcutta
Battle of Plassey Siraj-ud-Daulah
Battle of Buxar Anglo-French rivalry
Governor of Bengal Mir Qasim

C. Choose the correct answer:

1. The English East India Company was established in the year 1600/1700/1800 CE.
2. The English East India Company set up its first factory in Surat/Agra/Broach.
3. The largest and the most prosperous European settlement in Bengal was the
British settlement at Calcutta/Burdwan/Murshidabad.
4. Alivardi Khan was succeed by Mir Qasim/Siraj-ud-Daulah/Shuja-ud-Daulah.
5. Robert Clive hatched a plot with Mir Jafar/Mir Qasim/ Alivardi Khan to replace
6. The Battle of Plassey was fought in 1757/1764/1772.
7. The Dual Government in Bengal was introduced by Robert Clive/Warren Hastings/
Lord Cornwallis.
D. State wheather the following are true or false:
1. The Carnatic Wars were fought between the British and the French.
2. The employees of the Company were entitled to both private trade as well as duty-
free trade.
3. The English East India Company was given the right to issue passes or dastaks
for the free movement of their goods.
4. The British army was defeated in the Battle of Buxar.
5. The Treaty of Allahabad was signed between the British Company and Mir Qasim.
6. Warren Hastings laid the foundations of an organized system of government in
E. Answer the following questions in one or two words/sentences:
1. Who granted the English East India Company the exclusive right to trade with the
East? [2]
2. Name the British trading settlements in (a) Madras (b) Calcutta. [2]
3. What important right did the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar grant the English East
India Company? [2]
4. Why were European trader attracted to the Bengal province in the 18 th century?
5. What privileges did the farman of 1717 confer on the English East India
Company? [2]
6. Why did the farman of 1717 become a bone of contention between then nawabs
of Bengal and the British Company? [2]
7. Why did the British fortify trade settlement in Calcutta? [2]
8. Why did Siraj-ud-Daulah attack Calcutta in 1756? [2]
9. What important trading right was granted to the English East India Company after
their victory in the Battle of Plassey? [2]
9. State the political significance of the battle of Buxar. [2]
10. Name the India Signatories of the treaty of Allahabad. [2]
11. In which year was the Dual Government abolished and by whom? [2]
F. Answer the following questions briefly:
1. The Battle of Plassey was a major turning point in the history of India. In this
context answer the following questions:
a. Give an account of the events leading from the conspiracy to replace Siraj-ud-
Daulah to his eventual defeat in the Battle of Plassey. [4]
b. State the results of Battle of Plassey. [3]
c. Why is this battle considered a major turning point in the history of India?
2. Mir Qasim was a competent ruler, determined to free himself from foreign control.
In this context answer the following:
a. What steps did Mir Qasim take to strengthen his position? Why did he all duties on
internal trade [4]
b. Trace the events from the outbreak of war (1763) between Mir Qasim and the
British up to the Battle of Buxar in 1764. [3]
c. Explain the importance of the Battle of Buxar. [3]
3. With reference to the Treaty of Allahabad and its impact answer the following:
a. Mention the terms of agreement between Robert Clive and Shuia-ud-Daulah in
this treaty. [3]
b. Explain how the treaty between Robert Clive and the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam
II legalized the English East India’s Company’s control over Bengal. [3]
c. Give an account of the events that followed the death of Mir Jafar leading to the
establishment of the Company as the real ruler of Bengal. [4]
4. With reference to the establishment of Dual Government in Bengal (1765-72)
answer the following:
a. Why was the government introduced in Bengal by Robert Clive referred to as
‘Dual Government’?
b. What were the advantages and disadvantages of this system for the Company
and the Nawab respectively? [4]
c. The evils of the dual Government led to the collapse of this administration and the
economy. Explain. [3]
G. Picture study:
This picture portrays a momentous event in 1765, involving a British Governor and a
Mughal emperor where in the Mughal emperor is conveying the grant of the diwani to
the Governor.
1. Identify the Mughal emperor and the British governor.
2. What is the significance of this grant of the diwani?
3. Give a brief account of the battle that preceded this event. When did it take place?
What is the important of this battle?
Use your imagination:
Imagine yourself to be a peasant living in Bengal under the Dual Government.
Describe a day in your life.
Project work:
Dramatize the conflict between (i) Siraj-ud-Daulah and the English East India
Company, and (ii) Mir Qasim and the English East India Company. The class can be
divided into groups. Each group can be assigned a specific responsibility, e.g. script,
dialogue, costumes, acting, narration, music, etc.
Websites: (Accessed on 15
december 2016),html (Accessed on 2 May 2015) (Accessed on 15
December 2016)