British Conquest Of India From 1756 - 1818


The province of Bengal was the most fertile and suitable for trade and commerce. The British saw its importance and established a factory in Calcutta. The Farman issued by the Mughal emperor allowed free trade in Bengal but the Farman didn’t apply to private trade by Company officials. The Nawabs of Bengal had forced the British to pay heavy taxes due to wrong interpretation of the Farman. Yet the Company officials continued to break rules whenever given a chance. Nawab of Bengal was now Siraj ud dawlah, he learnt of fortification by British and French. He ordered them to cease from this but the British continued. The Nawab waged a battle and defeated the British. But in haste he allowed them to escape to an island guarded by British navy. The Company officials waited there for reinforcements from madras. Meanwhile they managed to lure Mir Jafar and other nobles of Nawabs court to their side. In the battle between the English army led by Robert Clive and Admiral Watson and Nawab at Plessey the Nawab was defeated. He was captured and executed. Mir Jafar replaced him. Mir Jafar paid tributes to the Company but soon even he couldn’t meet their demands and the British felt that he wasn’t able to fulfill their expectations and soon he too was replaced by his son in law Mir Qasim.

Mir Qasim proved to be a threat to the British power in Bengal. He wanted to free Bengal from British control. For this he wanted to build a strong army and good administration. On the other hand the British wanted a titular Nawab. This led to confrontation between them and soon the Nawab with the help of Shuja ud dawlah, Nawab of Awadh and shah alam II, the fugitive Mughal emperor waged a war against British. In this battle of Buxar they were defeated.

The battle of Buxar established British supremacy in India. The British got diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. All conquerors of odissa wanted domination over the Puri temple as it gave legitimacy to their rule in minds of local.

The diwani rights gave the British full and legitimate control over Bengal. The governor of Bengal Robert Clive started a dual system of government where the British were in charge of collecting revenue and the army but Nawab and his officials were in charge of administration. In effect this system meant no responsibility for both sides. The Nawab was entrusted with the responsibility of collecting revenue on behalf of British so they plundered the peasants for as much as they could and passed on a share to the British. This led to untold oppression in Bengal.

Sind: The British feared that Russia might try to attack India through Persia or Afghanistan. This had to be prevented and hence British had to increase their influence in both these countries. To do this Sind had to be brought under control.

Policy of annexation from 1848 to 1856

Lord Dalhousie came to India as the governor general and he wanted to extend the rule to all parts of India. This he felt as he believed the British rule was better than the corrupt and oppressive native rulers. He did this by his doctrine of lapse method. This meant that if the ruler of a protectorate state died without a natural heir then the state would be annexed by the British. The right of inheritance of the adopted child wasn’t recognized. .


I. Warren Hastings.

He followed Robert Clive as the governor of fort William. He was a reformist and the steps he took were:

1. Abolished dual government system and the now the Company servants collected revenue on their own.

2. Board of revenue was created and collectors were established to collect revenue. The treasury was moved to a safer location of Calcutta from murshidabad. Calcutta soon became the capital of Bengal and then India.

3. To remove the highly corrupt judicial system. Civil courts were created presided by the collectors and criminal courts by an Indian judge. Appellate courts for civil and criminal cases were there in Calcutta. Highest court of appeal for civil cases was sadar diwani adalat and criminal cases were sadar Nizamat adalat.

4. A bank was established in Calcutta. Pre paid postal system was introduced. Police too were created to stop dacoits.

5. He was a patron of Indian languages and arts. He was a person of oriental tastes.

Regulating Act, 1773:

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 laid 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.

II. Lord Cornwallis

He was a respected aristocrat. He led the British army in the war against America. Although he had to surrender he still commanded deep respect amongst his fellow countrymen.

Salient points of his rule were:

1. He increased the salaries of the Company servants and prohibited their private trade.

2. He removed collectors from the post of judges of the civil courts. Separated judiciary and administration.

3. Indians judges were appointed at the lowest judicial levels. District and city courts had European judges. Provincial court of appeals had European judges. Highest court of appeal at civil and criminal courts was governor general in council.

4. He appointed darogas in every thanas for policing.

5. He was the father of the Indian civil service.

6. He was responsible for implementing permanent settlement in Bengal and Bihar.

7. He was responsible for reformation, modernization, rationalization of civil service. He started the covenanted civil service with only Europeans and un-covenanted civil service for others.

III. Richard Wellesley

He was famous for introducing the subsidiary alliance system.

1. Pindaris rose during his regime as the thousands of soldiers who became unemployed as they were dismissed due to the subsidiary alliance. These soldiers became dacoits.

2. He was the maker of madras presidency and creator of Agra province.

IV. Lord Hastings.

Salient features of his administration:

1. The Nepal and British territories were bordering each other. The Gurkha’s were aggressive and this led to confrontation. Lord Hastings declared war on Nepal and defeated them.

2. Ended the menace of the Pindaris.

3. Defeated the Marathas.

4. He was the maker of the Bombay province.

V. William Bentinck

He was the first governor general to believe in serving the Indian people.

Salient features of his administration:

1. He followed a policy of non intervention and non aggression with Indian princely states.

2. He abolished the provincial court of appeals.

3. Introduction of local languages in lower courts and English in higher courts.

4. Responsible for abolition of sati, female infanticide and suppression of thugs.

5. English became the official language of India. Calcutta medical college was established.

6. Introduction of English education.

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.

VI. Lord Dalhousie

He was the youngest governor general.

Salient features of his administration:

1. He followed the policy of annexation by annexing Punjab, lower Burma, Oudh and central provinces to the British Empire.

2. He annexed the princely states if the rulers died without natural heirs. His doctrine of lapse was the reason many kingdoms were added to the British Empire. This policy was one of the reasons for princes joining the 1857 mutiny.

3. The annexation of Oudh affected the sepoy’s of the British army as many came from Oudh. They had privileged positions in the army but after the annexation they became same as the remaining population. This too became a reason for 1857 mutiny.

4. He molded the new provinces into a centralized state. He shifted the Bengal artillery to Meerut and shiplap became the permanent headquarters of the army.

5. Railways were started in India by him. The reasons were commercial, administrative and defense.

6. Telegraph line was laid from Calcutta to diamond harbor. Telegraph and railways were very useful for crushing the 1857 mutiny.

7. Post stamps were introduced. Uniform rate of half Anna was charged on post throughout the country.

8. The universities of Calcutta, Madras and Mumbai were founded in 1857. John Wilson was first chancellor of Mumbai university and KT Telang was first Indian chancellor.

9. He modernized the public works department and laid foundation for engineering service in India.

He introduced the process of modernization in India and is hailed as The Maker of Modern India.

VII. Lord Lytton

Salient features of his administration:

1. The vernacular press act was passed to muzzle periodicals in Indian languages and curtail freedom of the press.

2. Arms act was passed to prevent Indians from keeping arms without license.

VIII. Lord Ripon

1. Repealed the vernacular press act.

2. Father of local self government. Started telephone in Kolkata in 1881.

3. Appointed hunter commission for expansion and improvement in elementary education for the masses.

4. Passed the factory act to improve working conditions in factory.

5. Tied to pass the Illbert bill which would have allowed Indian magistrates to try Europeans. But the bill was rejected due to the popular protest against it.

IX. Lord Curzon

1. Passed the universities act that brought all universities under government control.

2. Police training schools were started for officers and constables.

3. Passed the legislation making it mandatory for government to protect archaeological monuments.

4. Partition of Bengal was done by him.

Note: The first census and statistical survey of India was conducted by Lord Mayo

Chapter Review

Q1:Which battle established British supremacy in India

  • plassey
  • panipat
  • buxar
  • mysore

Q2:British annexed sind because

  • Russia might try to attack India through Persia or Afghanistan
  • Local uprising
  • wealth of sind
  • fertile lands

Q3:Which Governor general appointed darogas in every thanas for policing

  • Hastings
  • Ripon
  • Mayo
  • Cornwallis

Q4: Maker of madras presidency and creator of Agra province

  • Richard Wellesley
  • Hastings
  • Cornwallis
  • Ripon

Q5:The Maker of Modern India

  • Dalhousie
  • Clive
  • Mayo
  • Curzon