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  • The Company was not able to secure itself during the times of Aurangzeb. They had suffered a defeat in 1686 and strived to regain the lost ground.
  • After the death of Aurangzeb, the Empire went into chaos as there was quick succession of many ineffective rulers who were mere puppets in the hands of influential nobles like Zulfiqar Khan and Sayyid brothers.
  • Taking the benefit of this opportunity, the British secured a Royal Farman from prince Farrukhsiyar in 1717.

This Farman granted the Company with certain favours like –

  1. Duty free import and export of goods in Bengal
  2. The right to grant Dastaks (or Permits) to let such goods pass through port authorities
  • The Company servants were allowed to carry on their private trade but were not allowed the privileges of the Farman. The Bengal government under Murshid Quli Khan saw loss of revenue because of this Farman.
  • Moreover, the power to issue dastaks was misused by the Company officials to evade taxes and carry on private trade. Thus, the Farman was always a source of conflict between Nawabs and the East India Company.
  • To compensate for the losses in revenue, the Company was compelled to deposit lump sum money into the treasury. Also, misuse of the dastaks was checked with a firm hand.
  • Alivardi Khan, the previous Nawab had a strong grip over activities of the British in Bengal. He had kept an eye on their rivalry with the French which was being played out in southern India.
  • He was also aware of how British and French took benefit of internal squabbles in Hyderabad and Carnatic. Therefore, he was suspicious of their intentions and never let them fortify the Company settlement in Calcutta.

Tensions escalated when the new Nawab Siraj-ud-daula demanded that the British should follow same norms as were stipulated during the reign of Murshid Quli Khan.

The English were confident from their win over the French in southern India and therefore refused to comply.

Three events were responsible for increased hostilities against the British –

  • The English started levying heavy duties on Indian goods coming through the port of Calcutta which was under their control. Thus, instead of paying the taxes to Nawab, they levied it on Indian merchants.
  • The Nawab also accused the Company to sympathise with the enemies of Nawab. He knew that English gave shelter to Nawab’s erring subjects. The Nawab demanded the extradition of the offenders sheltered in the British settlement but was denied it.
  • He objected to certain illegal fortifications carried out by the British but, here too, his command was ignored. The British were preparing for imminent struggle with the French and therefore did not heed the calls of Nawab to demolish the fortifications and fill the ditch which was dug up around Calcutta.
  • The breaking point came when the Nawab ordered both the French (at Chandernagore) and the English (at Calcutta) to demolish the fortifications to which only the French complied. It was clear that the English imposed a direct challenge to sovereignty of the Nawab.
  • Acting immediately to secure his interests, the Nawab Siraj­-ud-daula seized the English factory at Kasimbazar and marched towards Calcutta. He successfully seized Fort William (the fort at Calcutta) on 20th June 1756.                                                THE ROYAL FARMAN OF 1717
  • Having thought that he had successfully expelled the British out of Bengal, Nawab Siraj-ud-daula celebrated his easy victory. However, the British confidence to challenge the Nawab was not shallow. It was based on their increased might which Siraj-ud-daula had underestimated.
  • Thereafter, the British took refuge at the village called Fulta, near the sea owing to their naval superiority. Soon a British fleet of reinforcement was dispatched under Admiral Watson and Colonel Robert Clive. Clive undertook the command of the land forces while Admiral Watson commanded a naval squadron.
  • They entered the river Hooghly in December 1756 and met the hiding members of the English council at Fulta. The members of council formed a select committee of direction. The British forces dislodged the Nawab’s men from fort Budge-Budge and recaptured the fort at Calcutta where they faced little resistance.
  • Also on Jan 1757, British forces under Major Kilpatrick and Eyre Coot sacked the town of Hooghly. On knowing this, the Nawab raised his army and marched to Calcutta on Feb 1757. He camped in Omichand’s garden.
  • Taking advantage of a thick fog, Clive launched a surprise attack on the Nawab’s camp early in the morning which led to huge losses of Nawab who got scared and concluded the Treaty of Alinagar with the British.
  • By the Treaty of Alinagar, Nawab, agreed to restore the Company’s factories, allowed the fortification of Calcutta and restored former privileges. Thereafter, the Nawab withdrew his army back to his capital, Murshidabad.
  • After securing the demands, Clive took advantage of their strong position and set his sight on the French factory at Chandernagore. He wanted to know from which side the Nawab would intervene if an attack was launched against the French.
  • The Nawab sent confusing replies and Clive took this to be an assent to attack Chandernagore. However, the French expected Nawab’s forces from Hoogly to assist them but the English had already bribed Nandkumar, the governor of Hooghly, to remain inactive.
  • Eventually the French were defeated by the British. After plundering Chandernagar, Clive decided to ignore the orders to return to Madras and remained in Bengal. He moved his army to the north of the town of Hooghly.                                                    THE ROYAL FARMAN OF 1717
  • The loss of the French in the battle of Chandernagore infuriated the short-tempered Nawab. He felt the need to strengthen alliances against the British but always feared an attack from Afghans (from the north) and Marathas (from the west). This impaired the deployment of all of his forces and made him seek help from the French.
  • He posted some of his army at Plassey, 30 miles south of his capital – Murshidabad, under Rai Durlabh as a precaution against British advances. However, popular discontent was simmering against the Nawab and Clive took advantage of that to strike an alliance with conspirators like Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh and Yar Lutuf.
  • Thus both – the British and the Nawab – encountered at the decisive Battle of Plassey. This led to installing of Mir Jafar as the new Nawab.
  • Soon, Mir Jafar’s treasury was emptied by the constant demands of bribes by the Company servants. The vast coffers of Bengal were employed by the British to pay for the expenses of Madras and Bombay presidencies. Moreover, the revenue of Bengal was used to buy the goods which the Company exported from India.
  • Thus began the drain of India’s wealth. The never ending demands of Company officials irked Mir Jafar – the new Nawab and soon he repented the bargain which he had earlier struck with the British. He was constantly criticised by the British for his inability to meet their expectations.
  • By 1760, Mir Jafar was forced to give his throne to his son-in-law, Mir Qasim. The new Nawab rewarded the British with zamindari of districts of Midnapore, Burdwan and Chittagong in addition to Rs 29 lakhs worth of grants to officials.
  • But the English appetite for favours was insatiable and soon even the new Nawab, Mir Qasim, was fed up with their unending demands. Nawab Mir Qasim was intelligent, strong and efficient. He sought to free himself and Bengal from the British occupation.

He took certain steps to take control of the situation –

  1. Checked the misuse of Farman of 1717 by the Company servants.
  2. Checked the spread of corruption in the revenue administration to bolster his finances.
  3. Tried to raise a well-trained army which was modem and disciplined along the European lines. He hired European instructors and mercenaries who greatly improved the standard of his forces.                                    THE ROYAL FARMAN OF 1717


Modern History

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