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British Conquest Of India

British Conquest Of India


  • In 1600 the East India Company was established to run British trading operations in the Indian Ocean.
  • It established numerous coastal trading posts and factories against competition from its Dutch, Portuguese and French counterparts.
  • British influence was extended after victory against the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and subsequent installation of a ruler under British control.
  • Over the next century, the Company extended its rule both militarily (four wars with Mysore, three with the Marathas) and through coercive diplomacy: two-thirds of India was occupied by puppet rulers who retained titular power but accepted the Company’s suzerainty.
  • Through subsidiary alliances, protection against other regional powers was provided in return for payment and nominal British control. This practice led to a widespread revolt against British rule; the Mutiny of 1857–58 saw the capture of Delhi, while the massacre of British civilians at Kanpur provoked a ruthless suppression, by the ‘army of retribution’.
  • The Company, held responsible for these violent events, was replaced by the British colonial government, which took control of India through a network of local rulers under the British Raj. It became known as the Indian Empire in 1876, when Queen Victoria became Empress of India.

Formation Of British East India Company

  • On 31 December 1600, the British East India Company received a Royal Charter from the British monarch Elizabeth I to trade with the East Indies. The company went on to colonise the Indian subcontinent.
  • The East India Company (EIC) was also known as the Honourable East India Company or simply, the John Company informally.
  • It was a joint stock company established with the purpose of trading with the East Indies. The company was initially set to trade with maritime Southeast Asia but it ended up trading with China and India.
  • Although started as a trading company, it paved the way for the creation of the British Raj in India.
  • It mainly traded in cotton, indigo dye, silk, salt, saltpetre, opium and tea. Saltpetre was an ingredient in gunpowder.
  • The company’s first voyage to India was commanded by Sir James Lancaster in 1601 and returned in 1603. During this voyage, the company’s first factory was set up at Bantam in the island of Java in Indonesia. Surat, as a trade point of transit was established in 1608.
  • In 1608, a voyage under Sir William Hawkins arrived and the ship commanded by him became the first ship to set anchor at Surat. Hawkins was an envoy in the court of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir for two years during which time he tried to obtain trade concessions but in vain.
  • Within 1610, the first company factory in south India was set up in Machilipatnam (in modern-day Andhra Pradesh) along the Coromandel Coast.
  • The company was generating huge profits from its India trade.
  • The EIC was engaged in frequent battles with the other European players like the Portuguese and the Dutch, who had established themselves earlier in the subcontinent.
  • In Bengal, the Mughal Emperor completely waived off customs duties for trade for the company in 1717. The company led by Governor General Robert Clive was able to gain dominance over the French who were restricted to a few ports in the country.
  • The company was also employing Indians in its army and by 1763, it had about 67000 troops. They became a major force in India and used extensively by the company for political purposes. Each of the presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay had their own infantry, cavalry, artillery and horse artillery units. They also had a navy.
  • EIC frequently interfered in the internal politics of the subcontinent and played one local ruler against the other.

Battle of Plassey in 1757

  • Battle of Plassey was the major reason for the consolidation of the British rule in India. This battle was fought between the East India Company headed by Robert Clive and the Nawab of Bengal (Siraj-Ud-Daulah) and his French Troop. This battle is often termed as the ‘decisive event’ which became the source of ultimate rule of British in India. The battle occurred during the reign of Mughal empire (called later mughals) although post-Aurangzeb’s demise. Mughal emperor Alamgir-II was ruling when Battle of Plassey took place.

Battle of Buxar in 1764

  • Company rule effectively started with the Battle of Buxar in 1764 when the Nawab of Bengal surrendered the diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the company and Robert Clive was made the Governor of Bengal.

Subsidiary Alliance  | British Conquest Of India

  • Subsidiary Alliance was basically a treaty between the British East India Company and the Indian princely states, by virtue of which the Indian kingdoms lost their sovereignty to the English. It also was a major process that led to the building of the British Empire in India. It was framed by Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805. It was actually used for the first time by the French Governor-General Marquis Dupleix.
  • The Nawab of Awadh was the first ruler to enter into the subsidiary alliance with the British after the Battle of Buxar. However, The Nizam of Hyderabad was the first to accept a well-framed subsidiary alliance.

Order in which the Indian States entered into Subsidiary Alliances

  • Hyderabad (1798)
  • Mysore (1799 – After Tipu Sultan was defeated in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War)
  • Tanjore (1799)
  • Awadh (1801)
  • Peshwa (Marathas) (1802)
  • Scindia (Marathas) (1803)
  • Gaekwad (Marathas) (1803)

Regulating Act, 1773 | British Conquest Of India

  • The controller of east India Company was the court of proprietors and court of directors. The three presidencies were independent and managed by governor and his council. The court of directors was elected annually and managed the affairs of the Company. The mismanagement of Indian territories led to bankruptcy of the Company and the directors asked for a loan. The government passed this act as a precondition for the loan.
  • It aided the foundations for a centralized administration in India. Governor of Bengal became the governor general of Bengal with an executive council of four to assist him. Decisions would be taken by majority and governor general could only vote in case of tie. Presidencies of Madras and Bombay lost their independence and became subordinate to Bengal.
  • It established a supreme court of justice at Calcutta. It prohibited the servants of EIC from accepting gifts and engaging in private trade.

Pitts Act, 1784

  • Board of control was established to control political affairs in India. So a system of dual government was created. The number of members in the governor’s council was reduced to 3. The board of control was responsible to the parliament and controlled political affairs. The court of directors was in control of commercial affairs.
  • An amendment to this act in 1786 allowed the governor general to overrule the majority of his council.


Three wars were fought between the Company and the Marathas Second war weakend the Maratha power considerably- Third war destroyed Maratha power.

First Anglo-Maratha war-1775-82.

  • Basic cause of war was conflict over Gaddi of Peshawa between Raghunath Rao & Madhav Rao-II also known as Madhav Rao Narayan supported by great Maratha politician Nana Fhadanvis. Raghnath Rao sought British help.
  • The battle was averted by mediation of Scindia. Through his efforts Treaty of Salbai was signed i 1782 between English & Madhav Rao.

Second Anglo-Maratha War -1803-1806.

  • Combined forces of peshwa & Scindia were defeated by Holkar in 1802
  • Peshwa Baji Rao II sought British help.
  • British gave help on the basis of subsidiary Treaty known as Treaty of Baessin in 1802.
  • Maratha reaction gave birth to second Anglo-Maratha war. Scindia & Bhonsle declared war against British. Holkar did not participate in beginning.
  • Bhonsle signed Treaty of Devgaon in 1803 & Scindia signed Treaty of Surji Arjungaon in 1803.
  • After these treaties small battle fought between Holkar & British in 1804-War ended with Treaty of Rajpur Ghat in 1806.

Third Anglo-Maratha War-1817-1818

  • Second war weakend Maratha power but it had not destroyed Maratha’s Anti-British spirit.
  • Treaty of Baessin & Subsequent treaties eroded position, power & status of Peshwa & other Maratha Chiefs.
  • Maratha reaction gave birth to Third Anglo- Maratha war. This was initiated by Peshwa by attacking British residency at Poona.
  • Peshwa Baji Rao II, Yashwant Rao Halkar & Appa Sahib Bhonsle declared war against British
  • All the three were defeated by the British
  • Peshwaship was abolished
  • Peshwa was exiled to Bithur with the Pension of Rs. 8 lakh.

Anglo-Mysore  | British Conquest Of India

  • Mysore was part of Vijayanagar Empire. After decline of the Vijanagar Empire Wodeyar dynasty established its rule. Haider Ali was a fauzdar in Mysor Army. Later he became defacto ruler and he initiated a policy of expansion of Mysore.
  • His policy of expansion alarmed the British. They initiated efforts to counterbalance Haider Ali. Which gave birth to Anglo-Mysore conflict.
  • First Anglo-Mysore War- 1767-69.
    • In the First Anglo-Mysore war, Mysore under Haider Ali gained some success against the Britishers.
  • Second Anglo-MysoreWar-1780-84.
    • In this war Haider Ali died after the Battle of Porto Novo in 1781. In this battle he was defeated by Eyre Coot.
    • War was continued by Tipu War ended by Treaty of Manglore in 1784.
  • Third Anglo-Mysore-War-1790-92
    • Tipu Sultan Strengthening himself, seeking French help &attacking English protected Stsate Travencore in 1789. This became immediate cause of the third War
    • War ended with Treaty of srirangpattanam in 1792 & in this Treaty Tipu gave half of his territory to English & his two soon as security.
  • Fourth Anglo-Mysore War-1799
    • Wellesely accused Tipu of conspiracy
    • with the help of French against British &
    • declared War in 1799
    • British victory & death of tipu

Anglo-Sikh War

  • After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, there was a state of anarchy in Punjab.
  • Conquest of Punjab was completed in 1849.
  • British efforts to control Punjab resulted into two wars.
  • In the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–1846), the British defeated Sikh troops and the Treaty of Lahore was signed.
  • To avenge the defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh war, Sikh troops started a number of revolts leading to the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-1849). The war ended with whole up Punjab under British control.

Anglo-Sindh War  | British Conquest Of India

  • Sindh was ruled by Baliuhi Tribes & rulers were Known as Amir There were three branches- Haid-erabad, Mirpur,and Khairpur.
  • Sindh Conquest It was Lord Ellenborogh in 1842 who made a plan of conquest of Sindh Charles Napier was appointed as resident in sindh in 1842 He accused the Amirs of hatching plots & conspiracies against British.
  • Issue of succession in Khairpur and British intervention gave rise to war and finally Sindh was annexed to British.

Charter Act, 1813

  • It reduced monopoly of EIC to trade with India. But it kept monopoly for trade with china. It also allocated an amount of Rs. 1 lakh for promotion of Indian education.

Charter Act, 1833

  • Ended all monopolies of EIC with respect to trade. Governor General of Bengal became the governor general of India. It laid the foundation of Indianisation of public services.

The Revolt of 1857

  • The Revolt of 1857 was primarily brought about because of the company’s apathetic policies and corruption it indulged in India. This also ended the company’s rule over India and the control went directly into the hands of the British government through the Government of India Act 1858.
  • The company’s possessions, military and administrative powers were all transferred to the government.
  • After that, the company continued to look after the British government’s tea trade until 1874 when it was finally dissolved.
  • Started as a trading company, the EIC managed to literally hand over India to the British crown.

The Doctrine of Lapse | British Conquest Of India

  • The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy followed widely by Lord Dalhousie when he was India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856. It was used as an administrative policy for the extension of British Paramountcy.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy extensively applied by East India Company in India until 1859. The doctrine stated that any princely state under the vassalage of the company will how its territory annexed should the ruler of the said state fail to produce an heir. The doctrine and its application were regarded by many Indians as illegitimate.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse was one of the underlying factors that led to the revolt of 1857.


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