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  • Jeffrey Ram


Updated: Mar 30, 2022


Toronto, Canada Jeffrey S. Ram, Editor March 16, 2022



The English entered India as traders and became suzerain through conquests, subsidiary alliances, and annexations. After the Mutiny of 1857, also considered a War of Independence, all the territories and powers of the East India Company were vested in the queen. On August 15, 1947, the English left after partitioning the British Indian Empire of their conquered nations between India and Pakistan.

THE BEGINNING: The East India Company was formed on December 31, 1600, to traffic and trade freely “into and from the East Indies.”

Captain Hawkins visited the court of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who permitted the English company to settle at Surat. In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe went to the court of Emperor Jahangir. He obtained an imperial farman (order) to trade and establish factories in all parts of the Mughal empire.

The English bought the site of Madras in 1640. English also received permission to have a fortified factory called Fort St. George. Factories were set up at Balasore, Hariharpore (1633), and Hugli (1651). King Charles II rented the Island of Bombay to the English Company in 1661. In 1690, the English got permission from Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to build a factory on the site of Calcutta.

THE ANGLO-FRENCH STRUGGLE FOR SUPREMACY: The rivalry between the English and French East India Companies resulted in three Carnatic Wars. Dupleix, the Governor of Pondicherry, won the First Carnatic War (1746-48) and captured Madras. The war ended with the Treaty of Aix-La Chapelle of 1748. The English got back Madras, and the French got back Louisburg in North America.

The Second Carnatic War (1748-54) between the French and the English was indecisive and ended with a treaty. Both English and French retained their possessions. The French were defeated in the Third Carnatic War (1756-63). The Peace of Paris (1763) returned the French possessions to them, but they were not allowed to fortify them. The English Company became dominant in the Carnatic region, and the French territorial ambitions were shattered.

BATTLE OF PLASSEY IN BENGAL: Clive won the battle and put Mir Jafar on the throne in Bengal. The English Company received 24 Parganas and one crore rupees from the Nawab. Plassey sowed the seeds of British supremacy in India.

BATTLE OF BUXAR (October 1764): The English defeated the Nawab of Bengal, Nawab Wazir of Oudh, and the Mughal Emperor. By the Treaty of Allahabad, the Nawab Wazir agreed to pay Rs.15 lakh as war indemnity and made a defensive alliance with the English Company. The Company got the right to carry on their trade duty-free throughout the Nawab's dominions.

The Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II, granted the Diwani (revenue collection) of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to the English Company. Because of his accomplishments, Lord Clive is considered the founder of the British Empire in India.

THE MYSORE WARS: In the First Mysore War (1766-69), the English defeated the ruler of Mysore, Haidar Ali, and the Nizam. The English Company agreed to pay tribute to Nizam for the area known as Northern Sircars received by the English. The English also made an offensive and defensive alliance with Haidar Ali.

Haidar Ali died in the middle during the Second Carnatic War (1780-84) between Haidar Ali and the English. His son, Sultan Tipu, continued the war, which ended with the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784. Both parties got back their territories and exchanged the prisoners.

In the Third Carnatic War (1790-92), the English defeated Tipu with the help of Marathas and Nizam. By the Treaty of Seringapatam, Tipu gave up half of his territory. It was divided among the Marathas, Nizam, and the Company. The English got Malabar, Coorg, Dindigal and Baramahal.

As Tipu was conspiring with the French against the English, Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General of Bengal (1798-1805), won over the Nizam, who entered into a subsidiary alliance with the English Company in September 1798. In the Fourth Mysore War (1799), Tipu died fighting. Wellesley annexed large territories, including Kanara, Coimbatore, and Seringapatam. Nizam was rewarded with some territory, and a child of the previous Hindu royal family was put on the throne of Mysore.

SUBSIDIARY ALLIANCES: Lord Wellesley used the system of subsidiary alliances to bring many Indian States under the English Company’s control. The ruler who entered into a subsidiary alliance gave money or some territory to the English Company to maintain its army and agreed to deal with other states only through the English. In case of a dispute with any state, the English Company was to be his arbitrator. He had to expel all non-English Europeans employed in his army or civil service. The English Company agreed to defend the state from external attack or internal trouble. The subsidiary alliances helped the Company financially and enabled it to become a great power in India.

TANJORE, SURAT, AND CARNATIC: Raja of Tanjore entered into a subsidiary alliance with Wellesley in October 1799. The Nawab of Surat was granted a pension, and the English Company took over the control of his country. After the death of the Nawab of Carnatic, Wellesley took over the control of the civil and military government in July 1801.

OUDH (AWADH): Wellesley forced the Nawab of Oudh to surrender to English Rohilkhand and the southern districts between the Ganges and the Jamuna. The area was about half of his dominions.

SECOND MARATHA WAR (1802-4): By the Treaty of Bassein (December 31, 1802, the Peshwa entered into a subsidiary alliance with the English and agreed to give them districts yielding 26 lakh rupees annually to maintain their army. Maratha chiefs, Bhonsle and Scindhia, attacked the English and were defeated. Both entered into subsidiary alliances with the English. To meet the expenses of the English army, Bhonsle gave Cuttack to the English, and Scindhia surrendered Broach, Ahmednagar, and the territory between the Ganges and the Jamuna, which included Agra and Delhi.

WAR WITH NEPAL (1814-16): English were successful in capturing Almora and defeating Amar Singh, the Gurkha leader. By the Treaty of Sagauli, the Gurkhas surrendered most of their claims in Terai on their Southern border and the provinces of Garhwal and Kumaon. The Gurkhas also agreed to have an English resident in their capital.

THIRD MARATHA WAR (1817-18): The armies of the Peshwa, Apa Sahib Bhonsle, and Holkar were defeated in battles by the English. The office of Peshwa was abolished, and Peshwa Baji Rao was pensioned off. A member of the line of Shivaji’s family was put on the throne in Satara. Apa Sahib was deposed and replaced by a new Raja. Bhonsle’s Narbada territories were annexed. Holkar entered into a subsidiary alliance with the English, gave up some territories for the upkeep of the English army, and no longer had any claims on the Rajput states.

The English victory against the Marathas forced the princes and the people of India to recognize the paramountcy of the East India Company. Soon the Rajput states also entered into subsidiary alliances with the English.

FIRST BURMESE WAR (1824-26): The Burmese were defeated and signed the Treaty of Yandaboo (1826). The Burmese king agreed to give the English the provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim. The Burmese were also to withdraw from Assam and Cachar. They acknowledged Manipur’s independence and agreed to have a British Resident and pay a war indemnity.

COORG AND SINDH: William Bentinck annexed the state of Coorg and forced the Amirs of Sindh to sign a commercial treaty with the English. Lord Ellenborough conquered and annexed Sindh in August 1843.

ANGLO-SIKH WARS: The Treaty of Amritsar (1809), signed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the English, fixed the river Sutlej as the boundary line between the Maharaja’s territory and the English Company’s territory. The Sikh states on the east of the Sutlej came under English protection.

The Sikhs were defeated in the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846). The Treaty of Lahore (1846) put Punjab under English protection. It gave English the Cis-Sutlej States, the Jullunder Doab, and Hazara. English were also to receive an indemnity of 1.5 crores of rupees. The Sikh army was reduced, and an English Resident was placed at Lahore. As Sikhs were able to pay only half of the indemnity amount, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was sold to Gulab Singh. Maharaja Dalip Singh was recognized as the ruler of Punjab.

The Second Sikh War (1848-49) ended with the English victory, and on March 29, 1849, Punjab was annexed by Lord Dalhousie. Maharaja Dalip Singh was deposed and given a pension.

The North-West Frontier, now the western frontier of present-day Pakistan, became part of British India when the British East India Company annexed Punjab.

Second Burmese War (1852): After the Burmese defeat in the war, no treaty was signed, but Lord Dalhousie annexed Pegu by a Proclamation.

The doctrine of Lapse: In 1834, the Directors of the English Company decided that permission to adopt to a ruler without a natural heir “should be the exception and not the rule.” Dalhousie used this doctrine to annex many states. He annexed Satara (1848), Jaitpur and Sambhalpur (1849), Baghat (1859), Udaipur (1852), Jhansi (1853), and Nagpur (1854).

Annexation of Berar: As the Nizam owed a lot of money to the English, he gave Berar to the English to maintain the English army and pay the debt.

Annexation of Oudh (Awadh): In 1856, Dalhousie forced Wajid Ali Shah to abdicate and annexed Oudh.

With his annexations and conquests, Lord Dalhousie established the English company as the paramount power in India. Dalhousie is, therefore, called the builder of the British Empire in India. Many historians claim that “Lord Dalhousie made the India and Pakistan of today.”

Third Burmese War (1885): King Theebaw was defeated and sent to India. Upper Burma was annexed to India in 1886

THE END OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE WITH THE PARTITION: The Indian Independence Act 1947 stipulated the British Empire of India's division into two parts- the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The partition of the British Indian Empire between India and Pakistan took place on August 15, 1947.

Today the autocrats in Delhi and Islamabad play with the lives of people of various nations within their empires and cruelly suppress them with the help of their armies and the central government agencies. The British should have divided their empire between the United States of India and the United States of Pakistan with more power for the states. The greater authority would have enabled the nations of these states to protect their people from the central governments' misrule and oppression.



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