GS Mains History Q&A: 3

Q.3 ​No battle in the history of India had an impact that was so vast, so immediate and so permanent as the Battle of Plassey. In this context, analyze how the British position in India changed thereafter?


The beginnings of British political sway over India may be traced back to the battle of Plassey in 1757, when the English East India Company’s forces defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal.

The East India Company had secured valuable privileges in 1717 under royal farman by Mughal Emperor which had granted the company the freedom to export and import their goods in Bengal without paying taxes and the right to issue passes or dastaks for the movement of such goods. The Company’s servants were also permitted to trade but not covered by the farman. They were required to pay the same taxes as Indian merchants. The misuse of farman was a perpetual source of conflict between the company and the Nawabs of Bengal.

The breaking point came when without taking the Nawab’s permission, the Company began to fortify Calcutta in struggle with French who were stationed in Chandernagore

The Nawab acted with undue haste and seized the English factory at Kasim bazar and occupied Fort William at Calcutta.The English were allowed to escape in their ships. Company officials waited for aid from Madras near Fulta. From Madras came a strong naval and military force under Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive .

Clive reconquered Calcutta in beginning of 1757 and compelled the Nawab to concede all demands of English.

English joined a conspiracy to place Mir Jafar on the throne of Bengal, they presented Nawab with impossible set of demands.Both realised war has to be fought between them.They met on fields of Plassey on 23 June 1757. The fateful battle was a battle only in name.English lost 29 men whereas Nawab lost around 500 men. The major part of Nawab’s army, led by traitors Mir Jafar and Rai Durlabh took no part in fighting.

Financial and Political consequences

  • The Company was granted undisputed right to free trade in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
  • It also received the Zamindari of the 24 Parganas near Calcutta.
  • The new Nawab, Mir Jaffar, was dependent on the British for the maintenance of his position in Bengal. An English army of 6000 troops was maintained in Bengal.
  • The wealth paid to British immediately after Plassey was a sum of £800,000
  • Mir Jaffar regretted the deal that he struck with British later when he was reduced to a puppet leader only.

Position of British after the Battle

  • The battle of Plassey was of immense historical importance. It paved way for British Mastery of Bengal and eventually the whole of India. It boosted British prestige and at a single stroke raised them to the status of major contender for the Indian Empire. Before the battle, it was only just another European company trading in Bengal. But after Plassey they monopolized trade of Bengal.
  • Plassey had brought about a gradual transformation in the character of the Company. In the context of the then politics, military control was synonymous with political body. Thus, the Company played a role of commercial-cum-military-cum-political body.
  • The rich revenues of Bengal enabled them to organize a strong army and meet the cost of conquest of the rest of the country.
  • Control over Bengal played a decisive role in the Anglo French struggle where British were finally victorious.
  • The victory of Plassey enabled the Company with its servants to amass untold wealth at the cost of helpless people of Bengal.

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