Home General Knowledge GENERAL KNOWLEDGE BOOSTER : Modern India
Monday, 02 March 2015 06:18




Modern India


Modern India { Introduction }

Vasco da Gama when landed at Calicut, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, marked the beginning of the European era in Indian history. The Portuguese by the 16th Century had already established their colony in Goa.

In the next century, India was visited by a large number of European travellers - Italians, Englishmen, Frenchmen and Dutchmen. They were drawn to India for different reasons. Some were traders, others adventurers, and quite a few fired by the missionary zeal to find converts to Christianity. Eventually England, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, floated East India Companies.

During the late 16th and the 17th Centuries, these companies competed with each other fiercely. By the last quarter of the 18th Century the English had vanquished all others and established themselves as the dominant power in India. The British administered India for a period of about two centuries and brought about revolutionary changes in the social, political and the economic life of the country.

Once the British had consolidated their power, commercial exploitation of the natural resources and native labour became ruthless. By the middle of the 19th Century arrogant exploitation of the people had tried the patience of theIndians to the limit.

The six decades between the end of the "mutinous" war of 1857 - 59 and the conclusion of First World War saw both the peak of British imperial power in India and the birth of nationalist agitation against it. With increasing intrusion of aliens in their lives, a group of middle class Indians formed the Indian National Congress (1885) - a society of English educated affluent professionals - to seek reforms from the British.

The anticolonial struggle became truly a mass movement with the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 - 1948) in 1915 who had suffered great humiliation in South Africa due to the policy of racial discrimination and later commited to rid his motherland of the ills of foreign rule.

Successive campaigns had the effect of driving the British out of India in 1947, but with independence came the independence of the country into Pakistan.

Part -1 : Battle of Wandiwash: The British defeat the French - 1760

French defeated in Battle of Wandiwash :-

English and French had their companies in India. Madras and Pondicherry were the chief trading centres for the English whereas the French centre was on the Coromandel Coast. The relations between both the companies were uncertain.

The Carnatic region was totally disturbed politically. The governor was so engrossed with Marathas and Northern India that he hardly had any time for the Carnatic. Later the Marathas killed the governor. The appointment of the new Nawab worsened the problems of the Carnatic region. But till this time the English and French did not take active interest in Indian politics.

In 1740, England and France took opposite sides in the War of the Austrian Succession. This brought the two companies in India technically in the state of war. French both by sea and land had besieged Madras. So in June 1748 to avenge the capture of Madras, a large army was sent under Rear Admiral Boscawen. But by October the War of Austrian Succession had been concluded and under the treaty Madras was restored to English.

Then during the second Carnatic War, where Duplex, governor of Pondicherry, opened negotiations with the English and the treaty was concluded. The English and the French have decided not to the quarrels of the native princes and took possession of the territories, which are actually occupied by them during the treaty.

In the third Carnatic war, the British East India Company defeated the French forces at the battle of Wandiwash ending almost a century of conflict over supremacy in India. From 1744, the French and English fought a series of battles for supremacy in the Carnatic region. This battle gave the British trading company a far superior position in India compared to the other Europeans.

Part -2  : Third battle of Panipat: 1761

Prelude to Panipat:-

  • The Mughal Empire of north-western India had been in decline for some time after Ahmad Shah's first attacks against them in 1749, eventually culminating in his sacking of Delhi in 1757. He left them in nominial control however, which proved to be a fateful mistake when his son, Timur Shah, proved to be utterly incapible of maintaining control of the Afgan troops. Soon the local Sikh population rose in revolt and asked for the protection of the Marathas, who were soon in Lahore. Timur ran for the hills of Afganistan.

  • Ahmad Shah could not allow this to go unchecked, and in 1759 rose an army from the Pashtun tribes with help from the Baloch, and invaded India once again. By the end of the year they had reached Lahore, but Marathas continued to pour into the conflict and by 1760 had formed a huge single army of over 100,000 to block him.

  • Setting up defensive works in the excellent ground near Panipat, they blocked Ahmad's access back to Afganistan. They then moved in almost 150 pieces of modern long-range rifled artillery from France. With a range of several kilometres, these guns were some of the best in the world and a powerful force that had previously made the Marathas invincible on the battlefield.


  • The Afgan forces arrived in late 1760 to find the Marathas in well-prepared works. Realizing a direct attack was hopeless, they set up for a siege. The resulting face-off lasted two months. During this time Ahmad continued to receive supplies from locals, but the Marathas own supply line was cut off.
  • Realizing the situation was not in their favour, the Marathas under Sadashiv Bhau decided to break the siege. His plan was to pulverise the enemy formations with cannon fire and not to employ his cavalry until the Muslims were throughly softened up. With the Afgans now broken, he would move camp in a defensive formation towards Delhi, where they were assured supplies.

  • The line would be formed up some 12km across, with the artillery in front, protected by infantry, pikemen, musketeers and bowmen. The cavalry was instructed to wait behind the artillery, ready to be thrown in when control of battlefield had been established.

  • Behind this line was another ring of 30,000 young Maratha soldiers who were not battle tested, and then the roughly 30,000 civilians entrained. Many were middle class men, women and children on their piligrimage to the Hindu holy places and shrines, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Aryavarta (Aryan Land). The civilians were supremely confident in the Maratha army, regarding it as one of the best in the world, and definitely one of the most powerful in Asia. Behind the civilians was yet another protective infantry line, of young inexperienced soldiers.

Battle opens

  • Before dawn on January 14, 1761 the Maratha forces emerged from the trenches, pushing the artillery into position on their pre-arranged lines, some 2km from the Afgans. Seeing that the battle was on, Ahmad positioned his 60 smoothbore cannon and opened fire. However, because of the short range of the weapons, the Maratha lines remained untouched. Ahmad then launched a cavalry attack to break their lines.

  • The first defensive salvo of the Marathas went over the Afgan's heads and inflicted very little damage, but the Afgan attack was nevertheless broken by Maratha bowmen and pikemen, along with some musketeers stationed close to the artillery positions. The second and subsequent salvos were fired at point blank range, and the resulting carnage sent the Afgans reeling back to their lines. The European-style plan had worked just as envisioned.
  • The Marathas then started moving their formation forward, led by the artillery. The Afgans responded with repeated cavalry attacks, all of which failed. About 17,000 Afgan cavalry and infantrymen lost their lives in this opening stage of the battle. Gaping holes were opened in their ranks, and in some places the Afgans and their Indian Muslim allies began to run away.

The Marathas cavalry charge

  • At this stage it looked as though Bhausaheb would clinch victory for the Marathas once again. However, some of the Maratha lieutenants, jealous of the exploits of their artillery chiefs, decided to exploit the gaps in the enemy lines  despite strict instructions not to charge or engage Afgan cavalry. They Maratha horsemen raced through their own artillery lines and charged towards the demoralised Afgans, intending to cut the faltering army in two.
  • The over-enthausiasm of the charge saw many of the Maratha horses exhausted long before they had traveled the two kilometres to the Afgan lines, some simple collasped. Making matters worse was the suffocating odour of the rotting corpses of men and animals from the fighting of the previous months.

  • In response, the Afgan officers stiffened their troops resistance. Abdali called up his reserves and cavalry of musketeers, who fired an extensive salvo at the Maratha cavalry, who were unable to withstand the rifled muskets of the Afgans.

  • With their own men in the firing line, the Maratha artillery could not respond, and about 7,000 Maratha cavalry and infantry perished before the hand to hand fighting began at around 2PM. By 4PM the tired Maratha infantry began to succumb to the onslaught of attacks from fresh Afgan reserves protected by their armoured leather jackets.

Attack from within

  • The Maratha Muslim logistics infantrymen (Rohillas), who had not been trusted to fight in the front line because their loyalty was suspect or, rather, who were suspected of being loyal to the Koran or fellow Muslims and not to their country now responded to the calls of the Afgan army for jihad and revolted. This caused brought confusion and great consternation to loyal Maratha soldiers, who thought that the enemy has attacked from behind.
  • Sadashivrao Bhau, seeing his forward lines dwindling and civilians behind, felt he had no choice but to come down from his elephant and take a direct part in the battle on horseback at the head of his troops. He left instructions with his bodyguards that, if the battle were lost, they must kill his wife Parvati bai, as he could not abide the thought of her being dishonoured by Afgans.
  • Some Maratha soldiers, seeing that their general had disappeared from his elephant, panicked and began to flee. Vishwasrao, the son of Prime Minister Nanasaheb, had already fallen to Afgan sniper fire, shot in the head. Sadashivrao Bhau and his bodyguard fought to the end, the Maratha leader having three horses shot out from under him.


  • The Afgans pursued the fleeing Maratha army and the civilians, while the Maratha front lines ramined largely intact, with some of their artillery units fighting until sundown. Choosing not to launch a night attack, made good their escape that night. Parvati bai escaped the armageddon with her bodyguards, and eventually returned to Pune.

  • The Afgan cavalry and pikemen ran wild through the streets of Panipat, killing any Maratha soldiers or civilians who offered and resistance. About 6,000 women and children sought shelter with Shuja (allies of Abdali) whose Hindu officers persuaded him to protect them.
  • Afgan officers who had lost their kin in battle were permitted to carry out masscres the next day, also in Panipat and the surrounding area. They arranged victory mounds of severed heads outside their camps. About 10,000 Maratha civilians and soldiers alike were slain this way on 15th January 1761. Many of the fleeing Maratha women jumped into the Panipat well rather than risk rape and dishonour. Many others did their best to hide in the streets of Panipat when the North Indian Hindus of the town refused to give them refuge.

  • Abdali's soldiers arrested about 10,000 women and another 10,000 young children and men brought them to their camps. The women were raped, many committed suicide because of constant rapes perpetrated on them. All of the prisoners were exchanged or sold as sex slaves to Afganistan or North India, transported on carts, camels and elephants in bamboo cages.

  • A conservative estimate places Maratha losses at 35,000 on the Panipat battlefield itself, and another 10,000 or more in surrounding areas. The Afgans are thought to have lost some 30,000.

Following the battle

  • To save their kingdom, the Mughals once again changed sides and welcomed the Afgans to Delhi. However the news soon rose that Marathas in the south had organised another 100,000 men to avenge their loss and rescue the prisoners. He left Delhi two months after the battle, heading for Afganistan with his loot of 500 elephants, 1500 camels, 50,000 horses and about 22,000 women and children.

  • The Mughals remained in nominal control over small areas of India, but were never a force again. The empire officially ended in 1857 when its last emperor was accused of being involved in the Sepoy Mutiny and exiled.

  • The Marathas expansion was stopped in the battle, and soon broke into infighting within their empire. They never regained any unity, and were soon under increasing pressure from the British. Their claims to empire were officially ended in 1818.

  • Meanwhile the Sihks, the original reason Ahmad invaded, were left largely untouched by the battle. They soon re-took Lahore. When Ahmad returned in March 1764 he was forced to break off his siege after only two weeks due to rebellion in Afganistan. He returned again in 1767, but was unable to win any decisive battle. With his own troops arguing over a lack of pay, he eventually adbandoned the district to the Sihks, who reamained in control until 1849.


Part -3 : Battle of Buxar: - The British defeat Mir Kasim - 1764

Battle of Buxar

  • The company sent in relief troops from Fort St. George of the Madras headquarters. The troops led by Robert Clive and Admiral Watson retook Calcutta on 2nd January, 1757. The treaty of Alinagar was signed between the Nawab and the Company.

  • However Clive's military ambitions were on the ascendancy. His troops captured the Frenchsettlement of Chandernagore. He tempted Siraj's uncle Mir Jafar to ally with him in exchange for the Nawab's position. On 23rd June, 1757, the Company troops marched against Siraj. Betrayed by his own men Siraj was defeated in the Battle of Plassey, which is said to have lasted only a few hours. He was soon assassinated in his capital Murshidabad. From being traders, the Company turned kingmakers in Bengal and Mir Jafar was installed as the new Nawab. Clive got his pound of flesh from the Nawab in terms of 234,000 pounds and was awarded an annual salary of 30,000 pounds per year. This made him one of the richest Britons in the world. The company also secures rights over a large area south of Calcutta. Construction of a new Fort William was started and was completed in 16 years in 1773. These events led to the rise of Calcutta and the decline of Murshidabad.

  • It is said that the origins of Calcutta's most famous public festival - the Durga Puja can be traced to the victory of the British in Plassey. Raja Naba Kissen Deb, a financial backer of the Company, threw a party in honor of Robert Clive during the occasion of Durga Puja.

  • In 1760, Mir Jafar was succeeded by his son-in-law Mir Kasim. He handed over the districts ofChittagong, Midnapore and Burdwan to the Company. Robert Clive returned to England in the same year. Mir Kasim (reign:1760 to 1763), made an attempt to recover Bengal from the hands of British. In 1764, he enlisted the help of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and Nawab Shuja Ud Daulah of Oudh. But their troops were defeated in the Battle of Buxar by the company troops led by Major Hector Munro.

  • The armies of Mir Kasim and his allies Emperor Shah Alam II and Shuja-ud-daula, Nawab of Avadh, out-matched the British in number. To Mir Kasim's force of 40,000 Robert Clive's army commanded by Major Hector Munro had about 18,000 men. Early on, East India Company forces had to retreat across the river. But they were allowed to get away; the forces retreat across the river. But they were allowed to get away; the forces regrouped and through a naval force attacked through the river route. Mir Jafar also had trained Afghan cavalry and modern cannon manned by European mercenaries and led a charge on the Company's forces. However, the Company relied on its strength of sequenced shooting-its musketeers put up volley of gunfire. This coordinated gun shooting became very much a trademark of the British way of war over the next few decades. The sheer power of gunfire ensured that attacking cavalry scattered. The establishment of British paramountcy along with the diwani(revenue administration) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was the major significance of The battle of Buxar.

Part-4  : The British get Diwani Rights in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa ; Conquest of Orissa : 1765

Battle of Buxar

Battle of Buxar, was a decisive battle fought between British and Indian forces at Buxar, a town on the Ganges River. Mir Kasim, the nawab (governor) of Bengal, wanted to rid his territory of British control. He formed an alliance with the Nawab of Oudh and Shah Alam II, the Mughal emperor. The combined Indian armies invaded Bengal and clashed with British troops, led by Major Hector Munro, in October 1764. A hotly contested battle resulted in victory for the British. As a result of this triumph, in 1765, Robert Clive signed the Treaty of Allahabad with the Nawab of Oudh and Shah Alam II. The treaty effectively legalized the British East India Company's control over the whole of Bengal.

Diwani rights

  • Shuja was restored to Awadh, with a subsidiary force and guarantee of defence, the emperor Shah Alam solaced with Allahabad and a tribute and the frontier drawn at the boundary of Bihar. In Bengal itself he took a decisive step. In return for restoring Shah Alam to Allahabad he received the imperial grant of the diwani or revenue authority in Bengal and Bihar to the Company. This had hitherto been enjoyed by the nawab, so that now there was a double government, the nawab retaining judicial and police functions, the Company exercising the revenue power. The Company was acclimatized, as it were, into the Indian scene by becoming the Mughal revenue agent for Bengal and Bihar. There was as yet no thought of direct administration, and the revenue was collected by a Company-appointed deputy-nawab, one Muhammad Reza Khan.
  • But this arrangement made the Company the virtual ruler of Bengal since it already possessed decisive military power. All that was left to the nawab was the control of the judicial administration. But he was later persuaded to hand this over to the Company's deputy-nawab, so that its control was virtually complete.
  • Inspite of all this the East India Company was again in the verge of bankruptcy which stirred them to a fresh effort at reform. On the one hand Warren Hastings was appointed with a mandate for reform, on the other an appeal was made to the State for a loan. The result was the beginnings of state control of the Company and the thirteen-year governorship of Warren Hastings.
  • Hastings's first important work was that of an organizer. In the two and a half years before the Regulating Act came into force he put in order the whole Bengal administration. The Indian deputies who had collected the revenue on behalf of the Company were deposed and their places taken by a Board of Revenue in Calcutta and English collectors in the districts. This was the real beginning of British administration in India.
Part -5 : First Mysore War: The British conclude a humiliating peace pact with Hyder Ali - 1767 -1769

The First Battle

  • The second half of the eighteenth century was a period of great confusion in Indian history which witnessed the rise of a colonial power. The only state which offered stiff resistance to their expansion was Mysore, which fought not one but four wars. Tipu participated in all those four Mysore wars, in two of which he inflicted serious blows on the English. In fact Tipu's rule starts in the midst of a war against the English and ends in the midst of war against them. His short but stormy rule was eventful for his several engagements with his neighbours, the Marathas and the Nizam, as well, whose shortsighted policy prompted them to join the colonials against Mysore.

  • In the First Mysore war Tipu, a lad of 17 years, suddenly surprised the English when he appeared at the gates of Madras in September 1767. He caused great consternation to the Governor of Madras, to the Nawab of Carnatic, Muhammed Ali, and to almost all Councilors who very narrowly escaped being taken in the country-house in the Company's garden. Happily for them a small vessel that by accident was opposite the garden furnished them with the means of escaping. Thus, it was a providential escape of the entire Madras government, which were about to be captured by Tipu, who had been in independent command of a body of troops in the First Mysore war.


Part -6 : Death of Madhava Rao Peshwa; Warren Hastings appointed as Governor of Bengal : 1772

Warren Hastings

  • Hastings, Warren (1732-1818) Governor (1772-1774) and Governor General (1774-1785) of the fort william in Bengal. Warren Hastings abandoned the policy of hesitation of his predecessors about the question of establishing political dominance in India, and bringing about a series of reforms and waging wars against the challengers to his expansionist plan and conquering new lands. He laid the foundation of British power in India. But his contributions did not refrain parliament from impeaching him under manifold charges including corruption, oppression and unauthorised wars. He was recalled in 1785 and tried in parliament, but ultimately acquitted.
  • Warren Hastings was born at Churchill in Oxfordshire on 6 December 1732. His family was in reduced circumstances so he was brought up by an uncle, who took him to London and in 1743 sent him to school at Westminster, where he proved to be an excellent scholar. On leaving school he obtained a junior appointment in the east india company's Bengal service. He arrived at Calcutta in September 1750.
  • Hastings's first appointment was at kasimbazar, a major centre for procuring silk. He was at Kasimbazar in 1756 when Nawab sirajuddaula was provoked to attack and storm Calcutta, rounding up the British at Kasimbazar in the process. On his release Hastings joined the British refugees from Calcutta. He married one of them, Mary, widow of an officer who had been killed at Calcutta. Neither the first Mrs Hastings nor the two children that she bore her husband were to live long.
  • From 1758 Hastings served as the company's Resident at murshidabad with the new nawab, mir jafar, in whose favour the British had intervened at Palashi. In 1760 a coup engineered by the British brought down Mir Jafar and replaced him with another nawab, mir qasim. Shortly afterwards, Hastings went down to Calcutta and succeeded to the council that managed the company's affairs under a new governor, henry vansittart. Hastings allied with the governor in disputes that split the council about the extent to which the nawab should be permitted to regulate the private trade of British merchants. Hastings and Vansittart favoured conciliation. Tensions with the nawab, however, erupted into armed conflict and Mir Qasim was driven out of Bengal. Vansittart resigned his governorship and returned to Britain. In January 1765 Hastings followed him.
  • In Britain Hastings sought to influence future Indian policy and to secure his return with a prestigious position. In 1768 he was appointed second in the council of the settlement at Fort St George, Madras.
  • Hastings spent two successful years at Madras. His management of the company's commercial concerns was particularly commended. In 1771 the directors of the East India Company, looking for a new governor of Bengal, chose Hastings. He returned to Calcutta on 17 February 1772.

Appointment as a Governer

  • Hastings saw himself in 1772 as governor of what he regarded as a province now fully part of the British empire. He dismissed formal acknowledgements of Mughal authority over Bengal as harmful fictions. He had orders to assert the company's direct authority over a government that had been largely delegated to Indian officials. He complied with alacrity. He had no qualms about making further incursions into areas of government allocated to the nawabs. He believed that sovereignty, a concept that he frequently invoked, was vested in the 'British nation' and that there must be no equivocation about that.
  • Hastings shared the view, universal among contemporary Europeans, that Bengal was a naturally rich province with a highly productive agriculture and skilled manufacturers that had suffered from misgovernment under its later Indian rulers and during the British take-over. It had been afflicted in 1770 by a very severe famine. The new regime's task was to enable recovery to take place. In the years after 1772 Hastings developed a distinctive point of view on how this should be done. He believed that Bengal must be governed in ways to which its people were presumed to be accustomed. Indian methods of government and Indian law must be preserved. The British should aim 'to rule this people with ease and moderation according to their own ideas, manners, and prejudices'.
  • Revenue was the central issue of early British government in India. The British were uncertain as to how much they could extract from the province without inflicting damage on it. In 1772 Hastings decided that the best way of finding out what Bengal could afford to pay was to invite competition for the right to collect revenue for a period of five years. Where the existing zamindars or hereditary revenue managers, did not make adequate offers, higher bids would be accepted. This so-called 'farming' system was adjudged even by Hastings to have been a failure. For the rest of Hastings's administration the company negotiated revenue assessments year by year, usually with the zamindars.
  • As diwan of Bengal after 1765, the company acquired responsibility for administering civil justice, cases of property and inheritance being closely involved with the payment of revenue. Criminal justice was the concern of the nawab, who enforced the Islamic criminal law. Hastings believed that the British must intervene to restore a decayed system of indigenous justice. He created new hierarchies of courts, both civil and criminal, under British supervision. The law administered by the courts was to be the law already in force in Bengal. Hastings set about obtaining translations that would make this law accessible to those Europeans who had to administer it.
  • As governor of Bengal, Hastings had not only to direct the internal administration of a huge province, but he had to conduct complex diplomacy with Indian states and on occasions with other European powers. By the 1770s it was impossible for the British in Bengal or in their other settlements at Madras and Bombay to isolate themselves from the new order of states that was replacing the Mughal empire. Hastings had no ambition to make new conquests, but he was strongly in favour of seeking influence by alliances. His ideal of peaceful influence over allies bore little relation, however, to the way events were to unfold. The company was to be repeatedly drawn into war, beginning with a war against the Rohillas in 1774 fought to strengthen the company's major ally in northern India, the nawab-wazir of Oudh in whose territory British troops were maintained.
  • In 1773 the national government in Britain intervened to impose reforms on the East India Company. Authority in Bengal was to be concentrated in a governor general and a new Supreme Council of five. A Supreme Court, staffed by royal judges, was also to be established in Calcutta. Hastings was chosen as the first governor general, but three men, John Clavering, George Monson and philip francis, were sent out to join the council directly from Britain.
  • The three new councillors from Britain began an unremitting opposition to Hastings immediately after their arrival in Calcutta on 19 October 1774. Acting together, they constituted a majority. They quickly professed to find corruption behind every policy of the old government and to believe that Hastings was allowing the resources of Bengal to be plundered and wasted. Francis, an intellectual of a calibre to match Hastings, was a particularly formidable opponent of the governor general.
  • The new councillors began by denouncing the war against the Rohillas. Hastings's revenue policy was also condemned and Indians were encouraged to bring accusations of personal corruption against him. The leading accuser was maharaja nanda kumar, who evidently calculated that he stood to gain ample rewards were the new councillors to displace Hastings. His accusations of bribe-taking were probably much exaggerated, but it is likely that Hastings had received some irregular payments. Before anything could be proved, charges of forgery were brought against Nanda Kumar in the new Supreme Court. He was found guilty, sentenced to death and executed on 5 August 1775. Critics of Hastings from his own time onwards have drawn the not unreasonable inference that he promoted the prosecution and may have influenced the verdict. What can be established is that the prosecution against Nanda Kumar was promoted by his Indian enemies with the encouragement of Hastings's friends.
  • Hastings recovered control over the government as two of his opponents, Monson and Clavering, died, leaving Francis alone to carry on the opposition against Hastings. After fighting a duel against Hastings on 17 August 1780, in which he was slightly wounded, Francis finally left India.
  • Hastings remained in office until 1785. War was the main source of the difficulties that he faced in his last years. From 1778 the British were fighting the Marathas. In 1780 the formidable armies of Mysore invaded the Carnatic territory which was under the protection of the British. In January 1781 the first French expeditionary force arrived in India to support Mysore.
  • Hastings took credit for the diplomacy that broke up the formidable Indian coalition opposing him and for sending money, supplies and troops on a very large scale from Bengal to Madras, thus enabling the Mysore forces to be pushed back and the French to be contained. With some justification, Hastings saw himself as the saviour of the British empire in India. Nevertheless, the scale of the wars did Hastings great damage with opinion in Britain. He was accused of being a warmonger with a lust for conquest that had landed the company in ruinously expensive wars.
  • The needs of the war were the cause of some very contentious dealings by Hastings with the company's dependants and allies in northern India. Chait Singh, the raja of Benares, was required to pay an increased subsidy to the company. On the pretext that he was evading legitimate demands, Hastings proposed to exact a large fine from him on a personal visit in 1781. The raja's retainers resisted and forced Hastings to flee from the city.
  • Although British authority was quickly restored, the episode left a strong impression that Hastings had acted tyrannically as well as subjecting himself to needless risks. From Benares Hastings went on to try to raise extra funds from the company's ally the nawab of Oudh by forcing him to resume alienation of land revenue and to confiscate a large hoard of treasure in the possession of his mother and grandmother, the Begums of Oudh. Again, Hastings appeared to have acted with a ruthless high-handedness.
  • Throughout his governorship, Hastings was a generous patron of the arts and of learning. He took a particular pride in the translation of the Bhagavat Gita made by charles wilkins, for which he wrote a memorable preface. His interests laid the foundations for the creation of the Bengal Asiatick Society (now asiatic society) of 1784.
  • In February 1785, in failing health, Hastings resigned his office. He landed in England on 13 June 1785, after an absence of over sixteen years. He had not unreasonable expectations of acclaim and honours on his return, but he was in fact to meet attacks that culminated with his being put on trial. The trial began in 1788 and lasted until he was acquitted in 1795.
  • Unfortunately for Hastings, Edmund Burke, whose revulsion against what he saw as gross misgovernment in British India had focused on Hastings, was not prepared to let him go. Burke had undoubtedly fallen under the influence of Philip Francis after his return to Britain in 1780, but he had formed his own views about India and he was driven by a passionate concern for justice. He believed that the East India Company was laying India waste by rapacious policies within its own provinces, by the exploitation of its allies and by its wars. He held Hastings to be responsible for all this. In 1786 Burke produced charges for an impeachment to be voted by the House of Commons and then to be heard by the House of Lords. The first charge, which related to the Rohilla war, was thrown out by the Commons, but the second, on Hastings's dealings with the raja of Benares, was passed, as were others introduced in the 1787 session of Parliament. On 10 May 1787 Hastings was formally impeached.
  • Huge crowds attended the early sessions of the trial that was regarded as a great public spectacle. But by 30 May 1791, when the prosecution closed their case, few could doubt that the tide was running in Hastings's favour. In a new climate of opinion with a more assertive British nationalism in reaction to the French Revolution, empire came increasingly to be seen as part of Britain's greatness rather than as a cause of shame. Hastings's claims to have been the saviour of empire were therefore viewed sympathetically. In 1795, when the Lords gave judgement, in every case a large majority voted 'not guilty'.
  • The stark legal alternatives of 'guilty' or 'not guilty' are an inappropriate basis for any assessment of a career as complex as Hastings's. It is impossible to endorse Burke's extravagantly vituperative abuse of him. Few would now believe that he deserved impeachment let alone being found guilty. On the other hand, the argument that he had no significant case to answer, beyond some minor blemishes committed in a good cause and was the victim of Francis's envy and Burke's malice is not sustainable. Strictly within the terms argued out in the impeachment, Hastings was vulnerable to accusations of high-handedness in Benares and Oudh and he had accumulated a fortune by methods that the new official morality of the late eighteenth century did not sanction.
  • Any assessment of him on terms that go beyond those of the Impeachment must recognise Hastings's exceptional qualities of mind, he brought a creative intelligence of a very high order to Indian government. He also showed an appreciation of Indian culture and a regard for individual Indian people most unusual in any British official in high office at any time. Partly in reaction to him, future British administration in India would be more closely bound by rules and more distant from Indians.
  • After his acquittal in 1795, Hastings lived for another 23 years. His life was that of a country gentleman, engaged in local affairs and farming the ancestral family estate that he had been able to recover. Public employment never came again, but at least in the last years of his life, he was treated with much respect and received some public recognition. He died on 22 August 1818 in his 85th year.

Death of Madhava Rao Peshwa

  • 1737 saw the death of the Peshwa brothers, Baji Rao and Chimaji.Baji Rao's son, Balaji Bajirao (Nanasaheb) succeeded as the Peshwa. The three brothers Nanasaheb, Sadashivrao and Raghunathrao continued the able rule of Peshwa for the next 25 years. The 1761 Panipat battle, between Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdalli, destroyed both Abdalli and Peshwas. Though Marathas won the war, they had to face a hard blow when they lost Sadashivrao and Nanasaheb Peshwa's eldest son. Nanasaheb died grief-striken in the same year. His second son Thorale Madhav Rao assumed the title. And his uncle Raghunath Rao acted as his care taker.
  • Madhavrao Peshwa defeated Haider Ali of Mysore and Nizam of Hyderabad. In 1769, Marathas lead by Mahadaji Shinde, headed the North India campaign. They defeated the Jats and took hold of Agra and Mathura. They reinstated the Mughal Emperor on the throne, who was living on the East India Company Pension.
  • After Madhav Rao Peshwa's death in 1772, Raghunathrao's attempts to be the Peshwa were foiled by the ministers. Hurt, he joined the British. The state came under the rule of ministers headed by Nana Phadnavis and Mahadaji Shinde.
Part -7 : The Regulating Act passed by the British Parliament - 1773

Regulating Act

By 1773 the East India Company was in dire financial straits. The Company was important to Britain because it was a monopoly trading company in India and in the east and many influential people were shareholders. The Company paid 400,000 annually to the government to maintain the monopoly but had been unable to meet its commitments because of the loss of tea sales to America since 1768. About 85% of all the tea in America was smuggled Dutch tea. The East India Company owed money to both the Bank of England and the government; it had 15 million lbs of tea rotting in British warehouses and more en route from India.


Lord North decided to overhaul the management of the East India Company with the Regulating Act. This was the first step along the road to government control of India. The Act set up a system whereby it supervised (regulated) the work of the East India Company but did not take power for itself.


The East India Company had taken over large areas of India for trading purposes but also had an army to protect its interests. Company men were not trained to govern so North's government began moves towards government control. India was of national importance and shareholders in the Company opposed the Act. The East India Company was a very powerful lobby group in parliament in spite of the financial problems of the Company.


The Act said that:

  1. That, for the government of the presidency of fort William in Bengal, there shall be a Governor General, and a Council consisting of four councillors with the democratic provision that the decision of the majority in the Council shall be binding on the Governor General.

  2. That Warren Hastings shall be the first Governor General and that Lt. General John Clavering, George Monson, Richard Barwell and Philip Francis shall be four first Councillors.

  3. That His Majesty shall establish a supreme court of judicature consisting of a Chief Justice and three other judges at Fort William, and that the Court's jurisdiction shall extend to all British subjects residing in Bengal and their native servants.

  4. That the company shall pay out of its revenue salaries to the designated persons in the following rate: to the Governor General 25000 sterling, to the Councillors 10,000 sterling, to the Chief Justice 8000 sterling and the Judges 6000 sterling a year.

  5. That the Governor General, Councillors and Judges are prohibited from receiving any gifts, presents, pecuniary advantages from the Indian princes, zamindars and other people.

  6. That no person in the civil and military establishments can receive any gift, reward, present and any pecuniary advantages from the Indians.

  7. That it is unlawful for collectors and other district officials to receive any gift, present, reward or pecuniary advantages from zamindars and other people.
The provisions of the Act clearly indicate that it was directed mainly to the malpractice and corruption of the company officials. The Act, however, failed to stop corruption and it was practised rampantly by all from the Governor General at the top to the lowest district officials. Major charges brought against Hastings in his impeachment trial were those on corruption. Corruption divided the Council into two mutually hostile factions- the Hastings group and Francis group. The issues of their fighting were corruption charges against each other. Consequently, Pitt's India act, 1784 had to be enacted to fight corruption and to do that an incorruptible person, lord Cornwallis, was appointed with specific references to bring order in the corruption ridden polity established by the company.

Part -8 : Why Regulating Act 1773?

Apart from the reasons mentioned in the previous post, there were a few more important factors that led to the Regulating Act of 1773.

  1. There were three Presidencies viz. Bombay, Madras and Bengal, under which the territories (modern Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). was independently under the control of a Governor General in Council of the respective presidency. This Governor General in Council was appointed by the Committee of the Company. All powers were lodged in the Governor and the Council jointly and the presidencies were independent of each other. Each had its own government, independent from the others.

  2. The mismanaged Finances made the company almost insolvent and the company was forced to apply to the British Government for a loan of One Million Pound Sterling.

  3. The Prime Minister of England at the time of Regulating Act of 1773 was Lord North. His government decided to undertake a legislation to meet the situation and provide some form of legal government for the Indian possessions of the East India Company. The company was important for the revenues of the British Government because, it was a monopoly trading company and many influential people had invested in its shares at England.

  4. To maintain the monopoly, the East India Company paid 4 Lakh Pounds to the British Government every year.

  5. The other influential business houses of England were so far not allowed to enter India , but now the company was been unable to meet its commitments.

  6. The East India Company had lost its monopoly of selling tea in North Americain 1768. This was because the Dutch were able to enter the American Markets.

Regulating Act 1773

The Regulating Act of 1773 was to

  1. Address the problem of management of company in India.

  2. Address the problem of dual system of governance instituted by Lord Clive

  3. To control the company, this was so far a business entity but now a semi-sovereign political entity in India.

  • There was nothing in the act which could address the people of India, who were paying revenue to the company but now were dying in starvation in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

    • The Regulating Act of 1773 is called the First step of Government Control in India.

    • Since the Government in Britain regulated the company and did not take it over, it was termed “Regulating Act”.

    • Regulating Act of 1773 is known to be the first step of the British government to regulate the affairs of the East India Company.


  1. The Regulating Act made the presidencies of Bombay and Madras as subordinate to the Presidency of Calcutta.

  2. The Governor of Bengal was designated the Governor of the Presidency of Fort William and he was to serve as Governor General of all British Territories in India.

  3. The Governor of the Presidency of Fort William had to be assisted by an executive council which had 4 members.

Commonly we call Warren Hastings as First Governor General of India. But the official title of Warren Hastings was the Governor of the Presidency of Fort William. This office became Governor General of India in 1833 from the times ofLord William Bentinck and in 1858, when India was taken over by England; it remained Viceroy and Governor-General of India till 1947.

First Governor General of India

Now, the Governor General of India and his council of 4 members got a legal status.

  • As per the act, Office of the Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William was created in 1773, and on 20 October 1773, Warren Hastings became the first Governor General of India.

Members of the Council

The members of the council were

  1. Lt. General John Clavering

  2. George Monson

  3. Richard Barwell

  4. Philip Francis.

India’s First Supreme Court

The same act established India’s first Supreme Court, Fort William, Calcutta.

  • This Supreme Court consisted a Chief Justice and three other regular judges or Puisne Judges.

  • Sir Elijah Imphey was the first Chief Justice.

  • The Supreme Court was the supreme judiciary over all British subjects including the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

Impact of this Act:

  1. This act unequivocally established the supremacy of the Presidency of Bengal over the others. In matters of foreign policy, the Regulating Act of 1773 made the presidencies of Bombay and Madras, subordinate to the Governor General and his council. Now, no other presidency could give orders for commencing hostilities with the Indian Princes, declare a war or negotiate a treaty.

  2. The act forbade the servants of the company to accept presents and bribes, to curb the corruption.

  3. It established a supreme court at Fort William, Calcutta and India’s modern Constitutional History began.

Position of the Supreme Court Calcutta

There was nothing comprehensible in the act with regard to the relation of the Supreme Court with the Government of Bengal. The Supreme Court subjected the company to the control of British Government.

  • Later an amendment in this act was made (The amending act of 1881), in which the actions of the public servants in the company in their official capacity were exempted from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court was also made to consider and respect the religious and social customs of the Indians. Appeals could be taken from the provincial courts to the Governor-General-in-Council and that was the final court of appeal. The rules and regulations made by the Governor General-in-Council were not to be registered with the Supreme Court.

  • So, with this act the British Judges started “delivering” justice to the Indians.

  • From 1773 onwards, the executive and judicial administration of the country was placed on a regular, though imperfect, footing by parliamentary act.