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Day 19: History - History (Day 13 to 23)

Later Mughals to Battle of Plassey

Advent of Europeans in India

India had contacts with Europe since time immemorial through land route, which affected both India and Europe culturally and materially.

But the advent of European powers into India by discovering sea route to India had far-reaching consequences on the shape and course of Indian society and history from the middle of the 15th century.

First to come to India as traders were the Portuguese, who were followed by the Dutch, the British and the French, who subsequently developed designs to be the political masters of India.

Of all the European powers, the British succeeded in becoming the political masters of India. Indians continued their struggle against the European powers in the 18th and 19th centuries and only by the middle of the 20th century India could become independent after the partition of the subcon­tinent.

Much water has flown under the bridge in these four hundred years in India, and India underwent transition from a feudal, conservative, exclusive social system to a capitalistic, progressive and inclusive social system during this period with self-assertion based on introspection and external stimuli of ideas of equality, liberty, fraternity and people’s rule instead of rule of one man, i.e., from monarchy to democracy.

What we notice in this transition process was the tendency of continuity and change in all the spheres effecting human activity on the Indian soil, in spite of the foreign domination of our country by the British from 1757 to 1947 and their efforts to bring about a total change in our basic attitudes and outlook.

The factors of the emergence of nation-states, renaissance and reformation, agricultural and industrial revolution, new economic doctrine of mercantilism, competition between nation-states for breaking the mercantile monopoly of the merchants of Venice and Geneva over sea-borne trade, and a great advance in navigational technologies like compass gave strong impetus for geographical discoveries leading to the finding of new worlds and new sea routes.

As a consequence of the above factors, a new route to the east via the Cape of Good Hope was discovered. This led to the European monopoly over the seas and the advent of Europeans into India in search of trade and commerce in spices, which were essential requirements of their food habits. Owing to the rivalry of European powers, India became the actual theatre of conflicts by the middle of the 18th century.

The Portuguese

  • India maintained long-distance trade with South-East Asia and the west Asian countries but India never had direct contact of maritime trade with European nations bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Prince Henry, the Navigator (1398-1460), the ruler of Portugal took the lead among the European nations and promoted seafaring activity. During the regime of King John II, Bartholomew Diaz crossed the Cape of Good Hope. When King Emmanuel was ruling Portugal, Vasco de Gama started his expedition in 1497 and landed on the Indian soil (Calicut) in May 1498. Vasco de Gama’s silent landing on the Indian soil ushered a new chapter of far-reaching consequences.
  • He was cordially received by Zamorin of Calicut. Vasco de Gama came to India again in 1501 and returned to Portugal in 1503 and by that time they established trading centres at Calicut, Cochin and Cannanore and effectively suppressed the Arab resistence.
  • De Almeida was appointed as the first viceroy in India in 1505 and he initiated the ‘Blue Water’ policy or the mastery of sea by strong naval power. In 1509, De Almedia was followed by Albuquerque as the second viceroy and he was in that power till 1515.
  • Albuquerque laid the foundation of the Portuguese power in Indiaby conquering Goa in 1510, and it became the headquarters of the Portuguese in India. In 1515, he conquered Ormuz; an island in the Persian Gulf He also built a fort at Cochin with the approval of its ruler.
  • The Portuguese obtained Diu and Bassein in 1534 and in 1538 they conquered Daman. Thus, the Portuguese power in India grew but their power and influence declined from the beginning of the 17th century.
  • They failed in India due to various factors like their zeal to convert Indians to Christianity and the defeat of Portugal by Spain. But for the first time in the history of international trade, commercial treaties with Indian rulers were concluded, by the Portuguese alone.
  • The present European contact revolutionalized the outlook of the Indians significantly with far-reaching impact on the future course of the Indian society. The production of cash crops, especially spices grew with an eye on international trade, and agricultural production had become enormously market-oriented.

The Dutch

  • By a charter of the Government of Holland, the Dutch East India Company was established in 1602. As the Dutch were very much interested in spice trade, they had their focus on the Far East and made India their trading depot.
  • In 1606, they established their factories at Petapalli and Masulipatnam. Realizing that Indian textiles have a large market, they established factories at Pulicat in 1610, Cambay in 1620, Surat and Agra in 1621, Hariharapur in 1633, Patna in 1638, Dacca in 1650, Udaiganj in 1651, Chinsura in 1653, Quasim Bazar, Barangore, Balasure and Nagapatnam in 1659-60.
  • The Dutch withdrew from Golkonda by 1684. They also opened factories in Bengal, at Khankul in 1669 and at Malda in 1676 but both were closed down soon.
  • The rising Dutch power was looked as a threat by the British and a truce was concluded between them in 1619 but it did not last long. By 1795, the British expelled the Dutch from India totally. In India, the factories of the Dutch were administered by a council consisting of the director, a senior factor, the in charge of the company’s trade books, a law enforcement officer, the in charge of the warehouses, the in charge of the loading and unloading and six junior factors. Of the six, one acted as secretary to the council.
  • Their headquarters was in Batavia. The Dutch received encour­agement from the rulers of Golkonda, the Nayaks of Tanjore and Shahjahan, Aurangzeb and Jahandar Shah.

The English East India Company

  • ‘The English Association of the Merchant Adventurers’ was established in 1599 with the objective of carrying on trade with the east. This company, which is popular as east India Company obtained a Royal Charter with trade monopoly in the east from Queen Elizabeth on 31 December 1600.
  • By 1608, the first factory at Surat was decided to be opened by the British. By 1619, they estab­lished factories at Agra, Ahmedabad and Broach. Even before these factories, one factory was established at Machilipatnam in 1611, one at Armagaon in 1625, and obtained Madras in 1639 and constructed Fort St. George. They acquired Bombay Island in 1668 and fortified it soon and it becomes the headquarters of the west in 1687.
  • In the east, they established their factories in Orissa at Hariharapur and Balasore in 1633, in 1651 at Hughli and in 1698 they acquired the Zamindari of Sumauti, Kalikata and Govindpur, where they built Fort William and in later days it grew into a big city known as Calcutta.
  • The internal management of the East India Company was carried on by ‘Court of Committee’ for some time and in 1709 the name was changed to ‘Court of directors’ which was based in London.
  • The Company was empowered to make laws and judicial powers. In India, each factory was administered by a governor-in-council. There exists a close relationship between the company and the crown, and the crown and parliament controlled the East India Company through charters.

The French East India Company

  • The French were the last of the European powers to enter the eastern trade. The French East India Company was established in 1664.
  • In 1668 the first French factory was established in Surat. The French established their second factory at Masulipatnam in 1669.
  • The French obtained Pondicherry in 1673 and they built Chandranagore in 1690-92. There was rivalry between the French and the British and the Dutch for major share in the eastern trade.
  • Further, the hostile relations between these powers in Europe also led to war in India. There was hostility between the French and the Dutch in India in 1690 and again in 1721.
  • The French and the British companies clashed in India between 1742 and 1766. The French hopes of establishing their political powers came to an end in 18th century.
  • In the beginning, the French had their headquarters at Surat but later they shifted it to Pondicherry. The supreme body of the French was known as “Superior Council of the Indies”.
  • It was headed by a Director-General and he was placed in charge of the French affairs in India. The superior council consisted of a Governor and five members.
  • The Governor’s voice was final. One aspect to be noted is the mutual jealousies and quarrels between the French officials and the commanders in India, which ultimately affected the fortunes of the French in India.
  • The French East India Company was a state-controlled organization and from 1723, it was almost wholly controlled by the French government.
  • The Directors now have become its representatives. The Directors have no powers for all practical purposes. After 1730 the French East India Company had become the national East India Company.
  • After 1789, the French East India trade was thrown open to individuals. In a way it is the French who initiated the strategy of interfering in internal affairs of the Indian states to obtain political mileage and showed the way to the British.
  • While the French failed in their strategy, it is the British who were successful. Besides the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, and the French, the Danes entered India as traders in 1616 and obtained Trancquabar port from the Nayaks of Tanjore in 1620 and built a fort there.
  • Though they started factories at Masulipatnam, port Novo, and Serampur, their success in trading business was short-lived as their sources were scanty. They sold their factories to the British and left India finally in 1845.
  • Likewise, the Swedish East India did business for a short while and the activities of Flander’s merchants were also limited to India alone for a short while.
  • The discovery of the new sea route via the Cape of Good Hope threw the eastern trade open to all European nations. Consequently, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the French merchant companies opened their factories in Africa and Asia.
  • These European companies exhibited interest in obtaining more and more concessions from the Indian rulers as each was very desirous of gaining a monopoly of eastern trade against the other powers.

This desire for monopoly made them enter into conflicts with one another both on land and sea. By 1750, the fortune smiled at the British and the British emerged victorious and developed designs to establish their political supremacy in India.

Later Mughals

In 1707, when Aurangzeb died, serious threats from the peripheries had begun to accentuate the problems at the core of the empire.

The new emperor, Bahadur Shah I (or Shah Alam; 1707–12), followed a policy of compromise, pardoning all nobles who had supported his rivals. He granted them appropriate territories and postings. He never abolished jizya, but the efforts to collect the tax were not effective. In the beginning, he tried to gain greater control over the Rajput states of the rajas of Amber (later Jaipur) and Jodhpur. When his attempt met with firm resistance he realized the necessity of a settlement with them. However, the settlement did not restore them to fully committed warriors for the Mughal cause. The emperor’s policy toward the Marathas was also that of half-hearted conciliation. They continued to fight among themselves as well as against the Mughals in the Deccan. Bahadur Shah was, however, successful in conciliating Chatrasal, the Bundela chief, and Churaman, the Jat chief; the latter also joined him in the campaign against the Sikhs.

Jahandar Shah (ruled 1712–13) was a weak and ineffective ruler. His wazirZulfiqar Khan assumed the executive direction of the empire with unprecedented powers. Zulfiqar believed that it was necessary to establish friendly relations with the Rajputs and the Marathas and to conciliate the Hindu chieftains in general in order to save the empire. He reversed the policies of Aurangzeb. The hated jizya was abolished. He continued the old policy of suppression against the Sikhs. His goal was to reconcile all those who were willing to share power within the Mughal institutional framework. Zulfiqar Khan made several attempts at reforming the economic system. He failed in his efforts to enhance the revenue collection of the state. When FarrukhSiyar, son of the slain prince Azimush-Shan, challenged Jahandar Shah and Zulfiqar Khan with a large army and funds from Bihar and Bengal, the rulers found their coffers depleted. In desperation, they looted their own palaces, even ripping gold and silver from the walls and ceilings, in order to finance an adequate army.

FarrukhSiyar (ruled 1713–19) owed his victory and accession to the Sayyid brothers, Abdullah Khan and Husain Ali Khan Baraha. The Sayyids thus earned the offices of wazir and chief bakhshi and acquired control over the affairs of state. They promoted the policies initiated earlier by Zulfiqar Khan. Jizya and other similar taxes were immediately abolished. The brothers finally suppressed the Sikh revolt and tried to conciliate the Rajputs, the Marathas, and the Jats. However, this policy was hampered by divisiveness between the wazir and the emperor, as the groups tended to ally themselves with one or the other. The Jats once again started plundering the royal highway between Agra and Delhi. FarrukhSiyar deputed Raja Jai Singh to lead a punitive campaign against them but wazir negotiated a settlement over the raja’s head. As a result, throughout northern India zamindars either revolted violently or simply refused to pay assessed revenues. On the other hand, FarrukhSiyar compounded difficulties in the Deccan by sending letters to some Maratha chiefs urging them to oppose the forces of the Deccan governor, who happened to be the deputy and an associate of Sayyid Husain Ali Khan. Finally, in 1719, the Sayyid brothers brought Ajit Singh of Jodhpur and a Maratha force to Delhi to depose the emperor.

The murder of FarrukhSiyar created a wave of revulsion against the Sayyids among the various factions of nobility, who were also jealous of their growing power. Many of these, in particular the old nobles of Aurangzeb’s time, resented the wazir’s encouragement of revenue farming, which in their view was mere shop keeping and violated the age- old Mughal notion of statecraft. In FarrukhSiyar’s place the brothers raised to the throne three young princes in quick succession within eight months in 1719. Two of these, Rafi- ud- Darajat and Rafi- ud- Dawlah (Shah Jahan II), died of consumption. The third, who assumed the title of Muhammad Shah, exhibited sufficient vigour to set about freeing himself from the brothers’ control.A powerful group under the leadership of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, Chin Qilich Khan, and his father’s cousin Muhammad Amin Khan, the two eminent nobles emerged finally to dislodge the Sayyid brothers (1720).

By the time Muhammad Shah (ruled 1719–48) came to power, the nature of the relationship between the emperor and the nobility had almost completely changed. Individual interests of the nobles had come to guide the course of politics and state activities. In 1720 Muhammad Amin Khan replaced Sayyid Abdullah Khan as wazir; after Amin Khan’s death (January 1720), the office was occupied by the Nizam-ul-Mulk for a brief period until Amin Khan’s son Qamar-ud-Din Khan assumed the title in July 1724 by a claim of hereditary right. The nobles themselves virtually dictated these appointments. By this time the nobles had assumed lot of powers. They used to get farmans issued in the name of emperor in their favours. The position of emperor was preserved as a symbol only without real powers. The real powers seated with important groups of nobles. The nobles in control of the central offices maintained an all-empire outlook, even if they were more concerned with the stability of the regions where they had their jagirs. Farmans (mandates granting certain rights or special privileges) to governors, faujdar, and other local officials were sent, in conformity with tradition, in the name of the emperor. Individual failings of Aurangzeb’s successors also contributed to the decline of royal authority. Jahandar Shah lacked dignity and decency; FarrukhSiyar was fickle-minded; Muhammad Shah was frivulous and fond of ease and luxury. Opinions of the emperor’s favourites weighed in the appointments, promotions, and dismissals even in the provinces.

List of later Mughals




Bahadur Shah

19 June 1707 – 27 February 1712

He made settlements with the Marathas, tranquilised the Rajputs, and became friendly with the Sikhs in the Punjab.

Jahandar Shah

27 February 1712 – 11 February 1713

Highly influenced by his Grand Vizier Zulfikar Khan


11 January 1713 – 28 February 1719

Granted a firman to the East India Company in 1717 granting them duty-free trading rights for Bengal, strengthening their posts on the east coast. The firman or decree helped British East India company to import goods into Bengal without paying customs duty to the government.

Rafi ud-Darajat

28 February – 6 June 1719

Rise of Syed Brothers as power brokers.

Shah Jahan II

6 June 1719 – 17 September 1719


Muhammad Shah

27 September 1719 – 26 April 1748

Got rid of the Syed Brothers. Fought a long war with the Marathas, losing Deccan and Malwa in the process. Suffered the invasion of Nader Shah of Persia in 1739. He was the last emperor to possess effective control over the empire.

Ahmad Shah Bahadur

29 April 1748 – 2 June 1754

Mughal forces defeated by the Marathas at the Battle of Sikandarabad.

Alamgir II

3 June 1754 – 29 November 1759

Domination of Vizier Imad-ul-Mulk.

Shah Jahan III

10 December 1759 – 10 October 1760

Consolidation of power by the Nawab of Bengal-Bihar-Odisha.

Shah Alam II

10 October 1760 – 19 November 1806

Defeat in the Battle of Buxar.

Muhammad Shah BahadurJahan IV

31 July 1788 – 11 October 1788

Enthroned as a puppet Emperor by the RohillaGhulamQadir, following the temporary overthrow of Shah Alam

Akbar Shah II

19 November 1806 – 28 September 1837

Titular figurehead under British protection.

Bahadur Shah II

28 September 1837 – 21 September 1857

Last Mughal Emperor. Deposed by the British and was exiled to Burma after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Successor states

The founders of these states were important Mughal nobles and held high Mansabs. Though they became independent, they never broke formal ties with the Mughal state. Some of the important states in this category are Awadh, Bengal, and Hyderabad.


The founder of the autonomous kingdom of Avadh was Burhan-ul-MulkSaadat Khan who was appointed Governor of Avadh in 1722. He was an extremely bold, energetic, Iron-willed, and intelligent person. Awadh was a prosperous region, controlling the rich alluvial Ganga plain and the main trade route between North India and Bengal. Saadat Khan had to wage war upon rebellious Zamindars who refused to pay the land tax. The Big zamindars organized their own private armies, erected forts and defied the Imperial rule of Saadat Khan.

In order to consolidate his position, he adopted the following measures:

  • Suppression of rebellious local zamindars and chieftains;
  • Systematizing, revenue, collection; and
  • Negotiation with some local zamindars.

Under the new revenue system, the right to collect tax was sold to the highest bidders. They were known as “revenue farmers” who agreed to pay the state a fixed sum of money. The state depended on local bankers and mahajans for loans. Local bankers also guaranteed the payment of revenue contracted amount to the state. In turn, the revenue-farmers were given considerable freedom in the assessment and collection of taxes. These developments allowed new social groups, like moneylenders and bankers, to influence the management of the state’s revenue system.

Safdar Jang organized an equitable system of Justice. He adopted a policy of impartiality in the employment of Hindus and Muslims. He too did not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. Many of his commanders and high officials were Hindus.

Before his death in 1739, he had become virtually independent and had made the province a hereditary possession. He was succeeded by his nephew Safdar Jang.


In Bengal, the process of autonomy was started by MurshidQuli Khan. Even though he was made Governor of Bengal as late as 1717, he had been its effective ruler since 1700, when he was appointed its Dewan. He soon freed himself from central control though he sent regular tribute to the Emperor. MurshidQuli abolished the separate offices of the diwan and the Nazim and combined them into one. His initial concern was revenue administration and, in order to streamline it, he took the following 'measures:

  • Elimination of small intermediary zamindars as they were unable to meet the demands of revenue and were forced to sell their lands to larger zamindars.
  • Expelling rebellious zamindars and jagirdars to the frontier regions of Orissa and ordered a major reassessment of the revenues of Bengal.
  • Encouraging big zamindars who assumed the responsibilities of revenue collection and payment;
  • Enlarging the scope and extent of the khalisa lands. (The revenue-yielding land administered directly by the imperial Revenue Department was known as khalisa. Ordinarily, the most fertile and easily administered lands were brought within the khalisa.)

MurshidQuli encouraged the zamladars to emerge as a powerful political force in the province. Similarly, moneylender and commercial classes got encouragement from the Nawab and established their importance in the local polity.  Nawabs of Bengals gave equal opportunities for employment to Hindus and Muslims. They filled the highest civilian posts and many of the military posts with Bengalis, most of whom were Hindus. MurshidQuli Khan gave preference to local zamindars and mahajans (money-lenders) who were mainly Hindus for the task of revenue collection. He thus laid the foundations of a new landed aristocracy in Bengal.

MurshidQuli also nominated his daughter's son Sarfaraz as his successor. This set the tradition of a dynastic rule in Bengal. The next ruler Alivardi Khan assumed power through a coup and killed Sarfaraz Khan. Alivardi's reign showed further development of autonomy. Major appointments at the provincial level were made by him without any reference to the Mughal ruler Thus, by Alivardi's time, an administrative system developed in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa which reduced ties with the imperial court in Delhi, and for all practical purposes an independent state emerged in Eastern India.


The State of Hyderabad was founded by Nizam-ul-MulkAsafJah in 1724. From 1722 to 1724 he was the Wazir of the Empire. But he soon got disgusted with that office as Emperor Muhammad Shah frustrated all his attempts at reforming the administration. So he decided to go back to the Deccan where he could safely maintain his supremacy.

Asaf Jah brought skilled soldiers and administrators from northern India who welcomed the new opportunities in the south. He appointed mansabdars and granted jagirs. Although he was still a servant of the Mughal emperor, he ruled quite independently without seeking any direction from Delhi or facing any interference. He established his control over Hyderabad by removing the officials appointed by the Mughals and installed his own men. He assumed the right of making treaties, wars, granting mansabs, titles, etc. The Mughal authority was reduced to a symbolic authority as he never openly declared his independence from the Central Government.

Reform of the revenue system, subduing of zamindars and tolerance towards Hindus were some of his important measures. Bankers, moneylenders and military commanders had an important role to play in maintaining political balance because they provided the essential financial and military service. Nizamulmulk's reign thus showed the emergence of an independent state in Hyderadad with nominal allegiance to the emperor. His successors faced tough challenges from the Marathas and the European Companies and failed to maintain the autonomy of the state for long.

New States

The second group of regional states was the 'new states' which came into existence as a protest against the Mughals.It included states under the control of Marathas, Sikhs and others like the Jats.These regional states also are known as 'insurgent states' were set up by rebels against the Mughals.

The Marathas

Among the various provincial states that emerged during this period, the most prominent was the Maratha state. The rise of the Marathas was both a regional reaction against Mughal centralization as well as a manifestation of the upward mobility of certain classes and castes. Groups of highly mobile, peasant pastoralists (kunbis) provided the backbone of the Maratha army. Shivaji (1627-1680) carved out a stable Maratha kingdom with the support of powerful warrior families. Shivaji’s military conquests made him a legendary figure in the Maratha region. Many came forward to join his army.

After Shivaji’s death, effective power in the Maratha state was wielded by a family of ChitpavanBrahmanas who served Shivaji’s successors as Peshwa (or principal minister). Poona became the capital of the Maratha kingdom. During the period of PeshwaBalajiVishwanath, the office of the Peshwa became very powerful and the Maratha state system attained the status of a dominant expansionist state.

Under the Peshwas, the Marathas developed a very successful military organization. Their success lay in bypassing the fortified areas of the Mughals, by raiding cities and by engaging Mughal armies in areas where their supply lines and reinforcements could be easily disturbed.

Marathas were recognized as the overlord of the entire Deccan peninsula. They levied chauth and sardeshmukhi in the entire region.

  • Chauth was the tax which the small kingdoms or Dynasties had to pay to Marathas in order to protect their territory from being invaded and conquered by the Maratha Chauth (one-fourth) was an annual tax nominally levied at 25% on revenue or produce and based on the might.
  • Sardeshmukhi was an additional 10% tax on Chauth which was collected only to maintain the hereditary right of Marathas on the Tax collection processes.

The Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 between the Afghans and the Marathas was major setback for the Marathas and their victory march was halted by the success of the Afghans in this battle. Marathas' expansion brought enormous resources, but it came at a price. The military campaigns made other rulers hostile towards the Marathas. As a result, they were not inclined to support the Marathas during the third battle of Panipat in 1761.


The strategically located province of Punjab had witnessed the spread of a democratic, new religion, Sikhism, at the end of the 15th century. It was confined to the personal sphere for two centuries, but by the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, political ambitions and militancy had transformed the adherents of this faith into a well-knit community. Guru Gobind Singh's conflict with Aurangzeb is well known, as is Banda Bahadur's rebellion against Aurangzeb's successors. The Mughals ruthlessly suppressed the revolt as Punjab was strategically crucial. The Sikhs, unlike other rebels, were not willing to compromise with the Mughals. They refused to have any link with the center and insisted on being fully independent rulers. There were internal weaknesses too. The position of the leaders of the movement, the Khatris, declined as trade and urban centers withered under the combined impact of the foreign invasions and the Marathas. The movement had drawn in the lower castes with the prospect of upward mobility, but this invited the opposition of the upper castes and classes. For a quarter-century after the suppression of Banda Bahadur's rebellion in 1715, the Sikhs were quiescent. But adversity for the Mughal empire proved to be a beneficial opportunity for the Sikhs.

The invasion of Nadir Shah and Abdali exposed north India and what they could not plunder and take away was looted by the Sikhs. On the basis of this booty and taking advantage of the breakdown of imperial control of Punjab, the Sikhs rapidly established their control once Abdali and his followers returned home.

The foreign invasion (Persian and Afghan), the Maratha incursion and internal rivalry in the provincial administration created a very fluid situation in Punjab which helped the Sikhs to consolidate their base. In the second half of the 18th century, the different Sikh groups had regrouped themselves into 12 larger regional confederacies or misls under the leadership of various local chieftains. The process towards the establishment of an autonomous state became complete only under Ranjit Singh at the beginning of the 19th century.

The Jat State

The Jats were an agriculturist caste inhabiting the Delhi-Agra region. Among the different agrarian revolts that the Mughal Empire faced in the second half of the 17th century, the revolt of the Jats was a significant one. Following the contemporary trend, the Jats also tried to establish an autonomous zone of their control. Churaman and Badan Singh took the initiative but it was Suraj Mal who consolidated the Jat state at Bharatpur from 1756-1763. The state was expanded in the east up to the boundaries of the Ganga, in the south the Chambal, in the north Delhi and in the west Agra.The Jat state suffered a decline after the death of Suraj Mal in 1763. Thereafter, the state split into small areas controlled by petty zamindars who mainly lived by plunder.

Independent Kingdoms

These states had already enjoyed a lot of independence during the Mughal rule. The autonomous chiefs of these stated were granted watanjagirs (hereditary and non-transferable land). These states emerged neither as the result of a breakaway from or rebellion against Delhi. Mysore, the Rajput states and Kerala fall in this category.


The kingdom of Mysore was located to the south of Hyderabad. Unlike Hyderabad, Mysore was not under direct control of the Mughals. Mysore was transformed from a viceroyalty of the Vijaynagar Empire into an autonomous state by the Wodeyar dynasty. The Wodeyar rulers were overthrown to strengthen the autonomy of the state by Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan during the 18th century. The major threat before Mysore initially came from the Marathas on the one hand and that of Hyderabad on the other, while the English were waiting to take advantage of the situation.

Starting his career as a junior officer in the Mysore anny, Haidar Ali became its brilliant commander. He rightly realized the importance of modern army and accordingly tried 'to modernize the Mysore army after the European manner. With the help of the French, he tried to strengthen organizational discipline in the army. By 1761, he was able to capture the real power of the Mysore. He extended the boundaries of the Mysore state and incurred the hostilities of the Marathas, Hyderabad and the English. In 1769, the British forces were defeated by Haidar Ali. But the conflict continued. After his death in 1782, his son Tipu Sultan carried on the task of his father tillsthe, end of the 18th century.

The Rajputs

The Rajput rulers did not lag behind in consolidating their position by taking advantage of the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. None were large enough to contend with the Marathas or the British for the position of a paramount power. Their method was to slowly loosen their ties with Delhi and function as independent states in practice. They participated in the struggle for power at the court of Delhi and gained lucrative and influential governorships from the Mughal emperors.

The Rajput policy continued to be fractured in the post-Mughal period. All the states followed a policy of constant expansion absorbing weak neighbors whenever possible. This took place within the State too, with one faction ousting the other in a continuously played game of one-up-manship at the court of the Mughals. The principal Rajput states like Mewar, Marwar, and Amber formed a league against the Mughals. But the internal rivalry among the Rajputs for power weakened their authority. Most prominent among the Rajput rulers were Ajit Singh of Jodhpur and Jai Singh of Jaipur. At one time the Rajputs controlled the entire territory extending from the south of Delhi up to the western coast.


Kerala was divided into small principalities under the control of local chieftains and rajas at the beginning of the 18th century. Mughal control was not visible in this area. But by the second half of the 18th century, all small principalities had been subdued by the important states of Kerala, Cochin, Travancore, and Calicut. The expansion of Mysore under Haidar Ali put Kerala in a very difficult situation. Haidar Ali in fact annexed Malabar and Calicut. Travancore, which escaped from Haidar Ali's invasion, was the most prominent one. It was kingMartandaVarma who extended the boundaries of Travancore from Kanya Kumari to Cochin. He tried to organize the army along the Western Model and took various administrative measures to develop the state.

Carnatic wars                                                            

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, only two European trading companies of the British and the French were left in India competing for the Indian resources. The Anglo-French rivalry, taking the form of three Carnatic Wars constituted landmarks in the history of the British conquest of South India in the eighteenth century.

The First Carnatic War was provoked through the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1742 flanked by the two countries. Through 1745 the war spread to India where French and English East India Companies were rivals in trade and political power. The English attack of French ships close to Pondicherry was duly matched through the French as Madras was occupied by them. At this juncture, the Nawab of Carnatic responded to an English appeal to protect Madras and his armies were defeated through the small French army at St. Thomas close to Madras. With the end of the war in Europe, the hostilities in India ceased, but only temporarily. The issue of supremacy had not been decisively settled and from 1748 onwards a situation of disagreement once again appeared. The First Carnatic War came to an end when the treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle was concluded in 1748 to end the Austrian Succession War as a part of the peace settlement; Madras was restored to the English.

The second war was the outcome of the diplomatic efforts of Dupleix, the French Governor-Common in India. He evolved the strategy of using the well-disciplined, modern French army to intervene in the mutual quarrels of the Indian princes and, by supporting one against the other, securing monetary, commercial, or territorial favours from the victor. Thus, he planned to use the resources and armies of the local rajas, nawabs, and chiefs to serve the interests of the French Company and to expel the English from India.

Dupleix extended support to Chandra Sahib in the Carnatic and Muzaffar Jang in Hyderabad, with the intention of obtaining handsome rewards from them. This early preparation was useful as the French and their allies defeated their opponents (AnwaruddinandNasirJang ) in 1749. The French gained territorially and monetarily. Important gains were the Northern Sarkars, Masulipatnam and some villages approximately Pondicherry. Political powers were secured at the Nizam‘s court through the appointment of an agent at the court. The French power in South India was now at its height. Dupleix's plans had succeeded beyond his dreams.

But the English had not been silent spectators of their rival's successes. In 1750, they decided to throw their entire strength behind Muhammad Ali (Son of Anwaruddin). Robert Cliveproposed that French pressure on Muhammad Ali, besieged at Trichinopoly, could be released by attacking Arcot, the capital of Carnatic.  As expected, Chanda Sahib and the French were compelled to raise the siege of Trichinopoly. The French forces were repeatedly defeated. Chanda Sahib was soon captured and killed.

A third war broke out in 1756 with the commencement of the war in Europe. The French army under Count de Lally succeeded in capturing the English forts of St. David and Vizianagaram in 1758. These reverses alarmed the British and they inflicted heavy losses on the French fleet. The decisive battle of the third Carnatic War was fought at Wandiwash on 22 January 1760. British General Eyre Coote's army totally routed the French army under Lally. In the next three months, all the minor French possessions in the Carnatic had been effectively reduced by Coote's efforts. The French were left with no possessions in the Carnatic except Jinje and Pondicherry. Finally, in May 1760, the English laid siege to Pondicherry

The third Carnatic war proved to be a decisive battle for the survival between English and the French in India. Although, Peace of Paris (1763) restored to French their factories in India, the French political capital completely vanished after the war. The treaty allowed the French Crown to maintain the French factories in India for the benefit of private traders. It was a feeble effort and the French, like their Portuguese and Dutch counterparts in India, confined themselves to "country trade".

Battle of Plassey

The succession of Siraj was opposed by a dominant group in the Nawab's court comprising Jagat Seth, Ami chand, Raj Ballabh. The company had also decided to install a more pliable ruler in Siraj place who would allow them unlimited trade privileges. The British hatched a conspiracy against the nawab in alliance with his officers like RaiDurlabh, Ami Chand, Mir Jafar, and Jagat Seth.

The fateful battle of Plassey was a battle only in name as English victory in the battle was pre-decided. It was not the superiority of the military power but the conspiracy that helped the English in winning the battle. The Battle of Plassey became famous because it was the first major victory the company won in India. After the defeat at Plassey, Siraj-ud-Daulah was assassinated and Mir Jafar was awarded the Nawabship by Clive for his support to the English. The Company was granted undisputed right to free trade in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa It also received the zamindari of the 24 Pargana near Calcutta. Mir Jafar paid a sum of Rs. 17,700,000 as compensation for the attack on Calcutta to the Company.

However, Mir Jafar could not support the ever-increasing demands of the English who were also suspicious about his collaboration with the Dutch Trading Company. Mir Jafar, who was made nawab after the battle of Plassey, was deposed in 1760. Mir Qasim (son-in-law of Mir Jafar) was placed on the throne by the British in the hope that he would be able to meet their financial demands.

The new Nawab was an able, efficient, and strong ruler, determined to free himself from foreign control. He succeeded in establishing a better system of administration. But he came into conflict with the British in Bengal on the question of a privilege i.e. duty-free private trade of the Company. He took the drastic 'step of abolishing all duties on internal trade, thus providing his own subjects a concession that the English had seized by force. But the alien merchants were no longer willing to tolerate equality between them and Indian traders as it deprived the British private traders of the privileged position they had created for themselves, and they could not compete with Indian traders on equal terms. The Nawab’s attempts to reorganize the army and shifting of capital from Murshidabad to Monghyr were also taken as unforgivable offenses by the Company.

Black Hole of Calcutta

  • The Black Hole of Calcutta was a dungeon in Fort William, Calcutta measuring 4.30 × 5.50 ?metres (14 × 18 ??feet), in which troops of Sirajud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, held British prisoners of war on the night of 20 June 1756.
  • John Zephaniah Holwell, one of the British prisoners and an employee of the East India Company, said that, after the fall of Fort William, the surviving British soldiers, Indian sepoys, and Indian civilians were imprisoned overnight in conditions so cramped that many people died from suffocation and heat exhaustion, and that 123 of 146 prisoners of war imprisoned there died.
  • Modern historians believe that 64 prisoners were sent into the Hole, and that 43 died there
  • Siraj-ud-daula did not order the prisoners to be shut in the black hole and knew nothing about it until afterward.

Significance of the Battle of Plassey

The battle of Plassey was of immense historical importance. It paved the way for the British mastery of Bengal and eventually of the whole of India. It boosted

British prestige and at a single stroke raised them to the status of a major contender for the Indian Empire. The rich revenues of Bengal enabled them to organize a strong army. Control over Bengal played a decisive role in the Anglo-French struggle. Lastly, the victory at Plassey enabled the Company and its servants to amass untold wealth at the cost of the helpless people of Bengal.

GK through MAP (Snippets)

Mahajanapadas of Utter Pradesh

Mahajanapadas of Utter Pradesh


90 Days Planner (Day 19 History- Later Mughals)

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