History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1993: Q.1 (b)
Q.1 (b) “The treaty of Bassein, by is direct and indirect operations, gave the Company the Empire of India.” Comment.
The Treaty of Bassein was concluded in 1802 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa Baji Rao II, when Peshva Baji Rao II fled to British protection after having been defeated by Holkar.
The treaty was not acceptable to leading Maratha chiefs and hence followed by 2nd Anglo-Maratha war (1803 – 1806).
Sidney Owen holds that “the Treaty by its direct and indirect operations gave the Company the Empire of India”. The reasons can be explained as the followings:
(1) The treaty was an important landmark in the history of British paramountcy in India. It put an end to the Maratha independence and gave the Company unquestionable supremacy over Maratha state and western India.
(2) As per the treaty, Peshwa had to surrender territories yielding 26 lakhs of rupees apart from surrendering Surat. Apart from expansion in the British territory, this article provided British much needed resource which helped in further expansion of the Company’s territory in India.
(3) By camping the company’s subsidiary troops at Poona the Company got a very advantageous position in case of war with the Marathas or any other rivals. This increased British Army offensive capability and increased the strenght of British in western Indian.
(4) The Peshwa had to accept the company’s arbitration in all differences between him and the other states. This increased the Company’s influence.
By providing for company’s mediation in all cases of disputes between the Peshwa and the Nizam, the state of Hyderabad almost completely passed under the company’s protection as Nizam was already under the subsidery alliance with the British.
(5) Maratha confederacy was amongst most powerful Empire in India. After the treaty of Bassien, the confederacy weakened and the Company’s position strengthened. This cleared way for the English Empire in India.
(6) The Second Anglo- Maratha War, which followed the Treaty of Bassein, which almost destroyed Maratha power and practise. The defeat of Maratha was also due to the strength obtained by the British by the Treaty of Bassein.
Inspite of all the far reaching effects of the treaty of Bassein, there has been a tendency among some of the British writers to over-estimate the importance of the treaty of Bassein. In 1803 the British suzerainty over India was not a foregone conclusion and much had to be achieved before such position was attained by the British.
Lord Castlereagh, the President of the Board of Control had criticized the treaty of Bassein by saying that it appeared “hopeless to govern the Maratha Empire through a feeble and perhaps disaffected Peshwa”. He further criticized the treaty article which provided for the Peshwa’s acceptance of the British arbitrations in his disputes with other powers. This was fraught with the danger of involving the English in the endless and complicated Maratha turbulent.