History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2006: Q.1 (a)
Q.1 (a) “Neither Alexander the Great nor Napoleon could have won the empire of India by starting from Pondicherry as a base and contending with a power which held Bengal and command of the Sea.” Comment.
The English occupation of Bengal in 1757 enabled them to use the inexhaustible source of wealth and material resources of Bengal for fighting against the French.
Bengal was rich due to fertile land and trade. Bengal was also strategically important. It gave the English a firm base of operation on the mainland.
Bengal had an excellent harbour which was useful in trade and military supply. Ganges and its tributary in Bengal offered opportunity to the British to approach its remote parts by means of boats without any hazard. They collected Bengal gold and sent its men continuously to fight their battle in Madras.
At that time French were facing great financial difficulties. The resources that French could get from the Deccan and Carnatic with Pondicherry as a base, were quite inadequate. Deccan was less fertile than Bengal. It could finance neither wild political ambition of Dupleix nor the reckless military schemes of Lally.
French had a harbour and sea base at Mauritius, but it was distant and ill-equipped. Both for commercial purposes and for purposes of war the French seat of power was less advantageous compared to that of the English.
Command of the Sea
English held naval supremacy and the control of the Sea route from helped in defeating French because of the following reasons:
(a) This enabled British to receive man, money and provisions from Bengal and Britain,
(b) enabled transport and cover the operations of their forces,
(c) deprived French from their supplies,
(d) helped them to continue their trade.
The English command over the sea completely destroyed the design of Dupleix, Bussy and Lally.
Hence, V.A. Smith was right in saying: “Neither Alexander the Great nor Napoleon could have won the empire of India by starting from Pondicherry as a base and contending with a power which held Bengal and command of the Sea.”