Regional Kingdom of Bengal

Alivardi Khan ruled till 1756 and was succeeded by Siraj-ud-Daulah. The latter placed Mir Madan as Diwan in place of Mir Jafar. Mir Jafar conspired with the British.

  • The Battle of Plassey was fought in 1757 between Siraj-ud-Daulah and Britishers who were led by Robert Clive.
  • The latter won and made Mir Jafar Nawab of Bengal and posted an English resident at Nawab’s court.

Significance of Bengal for Europeans

  • Bengal was a source of tradable goods for British (Calcutta), Dutch (Chinsura) and French (Chandernagar) companies that had settlements here along Hooghly river.
  • To gain access to textiles and handicrafts, European companies spread inland and established trading stations in places like Dacca and Patna.
  • Advanced well-developed system of water transport and high-yielding rice production led to high revenue yield and supplied rice to other parts of India.
  • Saltpetre was supplied from Bengal for the production of gunpowder in Europe. Also, saltpetre being a bulky and heavy commodity could be used to stabilise ships by acting as ballast material. Patna emerged as major center of saltpetre trade.
  • Cotton textile and silk industry was also very developed in Bengal and were exported by sea to Europe and the Middle East.
  • Bengal had strong centralised administration and skilled bureaucracy, an established system of taxation and revenue, and wide networks of banking, credit, and trading.
  • In south India, trading stations were mostly concentrated on coasts, they also lacked stable governments and administration. This ensured that European penetration of Bengal was on a much larger scale.

Conflict Between EIC And Nawabs

  • Rise of EIC  in Bengal: By the 1750s, Calcutta had emerged as the most important Indian trading port of Company and presidency town with a Governor and Council and an extensive fort complex (Fort William). Royal Farmans granted by Mughal emperors and Royal Charters by the British government had given considerable authority to the East India Company and almost independent authority over Calcutta.
  • Mughal Farman of 1717 by Farrukshiyar granted an exemption to EIC’s merchandise from custom duties against an annual payment of Rs 3,000. With a Dastak (handwritten permit) EIC’s goods could pass without inspection through the toll station.
  • The company purchases in India were called investments. It purchased goods with ‘ready money’ via a contract with Dadni merchants (brokers). The Dadni system was replaced by a system of Gomastas where Indian agents of the Company made purchases under direct supervision of EIC’s European servants.
  • Misuse of Dastaks: EIC’s officers misused this privilege for their private trade. This private trade increased considerably when the Gomasta system came into force. EIC paid very low salaries to its servants in India, assuming servants got rich by private trade.
  • Impact of misuse: Increase in private trade by Company’s servants eroded the revenue base of Nawabs of Bengal. Indian traders were also rendered uncompetitive against English traders.
  • Carnatic Wars in Bengal: The hostilities between English and French Companies after Austrian War of Succession (Carnatic Wars) had been fought in Carnatic against Nawab of Carnatic’s order. However, such conflict was not seen in Bengal. This reflects that these companies paid heed to Nawab of Bengal’s authority.
  • Fortification and use of arms: EIC’s attempt to fortify Fort William and use of arms did not go down well with the Nawabs. Nawabs were very wary of a trading company amassing such military powers.
  • Earlier Nawabs like Alivardi Khan, Murshid Quli Khan, and Shuja-ud-din were alarmed by the rapid expansion of Company’s trade and abuse of exemptions. However, they stayed away from confrontation.

Reign of Siraj-ud-daula

  • Siraj got the seat of Nawab after a war of succession with Shaukat Jang, faujdar of Purnea.
  • Tried to reorient civilian and military organisations by appointing persons of his choice, and this caused discontent among the old nobility.
  • Mir Jafar (army general during Alivardi’s reign), Rai Durlabh (Leading Hindu nobility), Jagat Seths and large zamindars of Western Bengal were most opposed to Siraj.

Conflict with English:

  • Company did not attend his accession ceremony in 1756 or pay respect at his court to pledge their trade.
  • Right to trade in salt, betel nut, and tobacco was reserved by Nawab and was awarded to the highest bidder by him. Misuse of private traders of EIC by trading in salt questioned Nawab’s monopoly.
  • Fortifications by EIC without permission.
  • Misuse of Dastaks.
  • Attack on Calcutta: Nawab wanted to assert his sovereign power over the trading company.
  • Robert Clive: The impact of attack on Calcutta gave an opportunity to EIC to end its neutrality and enter into direct conflict with the Nawab. Admiral Watson and Robert Clive came to Calcutta from Madras as Heads of the Navy and Military in 1756, respectively, and recaptured Calcutta.
  • Clive eliminated the French from Chandernagar by using their naval superiority and greater capital resources.
  • Entered a treaty with Siraj that restored EIC’s settlements and privileges.
  • Clive entered secret negotiations with military commanders, nobility, bankers, merchants, traders, and military commanders with Siraj’s army.
  • Robert Clive and Battle of Plassey: Company’s forces under Robert Clive easily defeated Siraj’s army due to the withdrawal of a large force under command of Mir Jafar. Siraj was killed and Mir Jafar was appointed as Nawab of Bengal.
  • Mir Jafar paid heavy payments to EIC as war indemnities (3 million sterlings) and conceded territory around Calcutta to EIC.
  • Treaty of 1760: Mir Jafar was removed as the Nawab of Bengal and the English helped Mir Kasim to become Nawab. In return, he agreed to cede the Company, and districts of Burdwan, Midnapur, and Chittagong. Mir Kasim shifted the capital from Murshidabad to Munger in Bihar.
  • Battle of Buxar: EIC heavily misused Dastaks granted by Farrukhsiyar which led to a tussle between Mir Kasim and the company. A conflict over transit duty led to the outbreak of wars between the English and Mir Kasim in 1763. The disputes then culminated in the Battle of Buxar wherein the combined armies of Mir Kasim, Nawab of Awadh and Shah Alam II were defeated by Hector Munro at Buxar in 1764.

Treaty of Allahabad (1765)

  • English signed the Treaty of Allahabad with Mughal emperor Shah Alam II and Robert Clive, after the Battle of Buxar.
  • This treaty marked the beginning of Dual Government in Bengal in India.
  • EIC was granted Diwani rights (right to collect) taxes on behalf of the Mughal Emperor from Bengal (Bengal-Bihar-Odisha).
  • In return, EIC was to pay an annual tribute of 26 Lakhs to Mughal Emperor for the maintenance of the court in Allahabad. Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II was given control over the districts of Kara and Allahabad (Earlier under the control of Awadh).
  • Under the treaty, Shuja-ud-Daula was allowed to retain Awadh. He was asked to pay a war indemnity of 50 lakhs to East India Company.
  • Shuja entered an alliance with EIC to defend each other’s territory.
  • EIC was allowed to carry duty-Free trade throughout Awadh.

See also:

Awadh & LucknowNizams of Deccan
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