History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2006: Q.2

Q.2 Examine the circumstance which led to the Third Mysore War. Could Cornwallis have avoided it?


The circumstances leading to the Third Mysore War (1790-92):

(1) Anti-Tipu alliance by Cornwallis

Governor General Lord Cornwallis worked on the anti-Tipu suspicions of the Nizam and the Marathas and arranged a Triple Alliance (in 1790) with them against Tipu.

(2) Tipu’s embassy to Turks and French

Convinced of the inevitability of a war with the English, Tipu sought the help of Turks by sending an embassy to Constantinople in 1784 and 1785 and on to the French King in 1787.

(3) Tipu’s attack on Travancore and beginning for the Third Anglo – Mysore War

The kingdom of Travancore had been a target of Tipu for conquest. Indirect attempts to take over the kingdom had failed in 1788, and Archibald Campbell, the Madras president at the time, had warned Tipu that an attack on Travancore would be treated as a declaration of war on the company. Later Cornwallis also reiterated the same.

The King of Travancore angered Tipu by extending fortifications along the border with Cochin into territory claimed by Mysore as belonging to its vassal state, and by purchasing from the Dutch East India Company two forts in the Kingdom of Cochin. Tipu considered Cochin state as his tributary state and thus considered the act of the Travancore Raja as violation of his sovereign rights.

Tipu attacked Travancore in April 1790. The English sided with Travancore and thus started the Third Anglo – Mysore War.
Supported by the Nizam and Maratha troops and led by Cornwallis himself, English defeated Tipu.

War ended with Treaty of Seringapatam in 1792 and Tipu had to give half of his territory to English.

Could Cornwallis avoided the Third Mydore War?

Corwallis could have avoided the War as Tipu did not attack the British and the matter was between Travancore and Mysore. The English involvement was clearly against the peace treaty of Mangalore (signed in 1784 after the Second Anglo-Mysore War).

Asking for help from France by Tipu was only a reaction against the formation of anti-Tipu alliance by Cornwallis. Anti-Tipu alliance by Cornwallis had violated terms of the treaty of Mangalore.
The real motive of war was the fulfilment of British imperial design for which British were itching for war against Tipu.

But avoiding war did not mean, no war in future as Tipu was also preparing for the war. Tipu had deep hatred of the British, and declared not long after signing the 1784 Mangalore treaty that he intended to continue battle with British given the opportunity.
Since, British had already warned that attack on Travancore would be considered as attack on the Company, the war with the British was expected when Tipu attacked Travancore.

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