Battle of Plassey 1757

Battle of Plassey 1757:

Battle of Plassey Background:

(1) Building up of Animosity- After the death of Alivardi Khan, Siraj-ud-daula succeeded him as the Nawab of Bengal. From the very beginning of his rule, he wanted to check the growing power of the British. He tried to control the corrupt British officials and as such, became their bitter enemy. At the time of Siraj-ud-daula’s accession, political uncertainty prevailed in Bengal. His nawabship was not acceptable to some of his political rivals. He was surrounded by problems on all sides.

The British meanwhile started fortifying Calcutta without the permission and knowledge of Nawab Siraj-ud-daula. Siraj-ud-daula ordered them to stop their enhancement of military preparedness but the Company refused to do so. The English were also misusing Dastak (free permit) based on the Mughal Firman, issued to them in 1717 by Farrukhsiyar and causing huge financial loss to the exchequer of Bengal. Besides, they also started selling the Dastaks to Indian traders. Another complaint that Siraj had against the British was that they gave refuge to Krishna Das, son of Raja Rajballava, his enemy man.

(2) Siege of Fort William- Angry Siraj attacked Calcutta on June 16, 1756, and captured it on 20th June. His large army and sudden attack surprised the British. Though the majority of English had already fled to Fulta, twenty miles lower down the river, but few of them were made captive and kept in a cell. The British retaliated and captured Calcutta under the leadership of Robert Clive. Clive also accused the Nawab of conspiring with the French against the British. But the fact of the matter was that Robert Clive was himself involved in hatching a conspiracy against the Nawab.

(3) Intrigues- Robert Clive decided to use every possible means to bring about the downfall of Siraj-ud-daula. In this process, he won over the rebellious nobles of the Nawab to his side. Chief among them was Mir Jaffar, the Mir Bakshi (Commander-in-chief), Jagath Seth (Banker), and Amin Chand (trader). Mir Jaffar was promised the nawabship of Bengal and in return, the British expected a huge amount of money and important trading privileges and rights.

(4) Battle- A secret agreement was signed between the British, represented by Lord Clive and Mir Jaffar on June 5, 1757. The circumstances were fast moving in the direction of a war. The British army and those of the Nawab finally clashed in the famous battle of Plassey on June 23, 1757. The Nawab had an army of 50,000 men under the command of Mir Jaffar. As per the secret treaty signed between Mir Jaffar and the British, Mir Jaffar and other allies did not participate in the battle. They remained mere onlookers and eventually, the Nawab was left with only 5,000 troops. Realizing that he had been betrayed, Siraj-ud-daula had no choice but to withdraw. However, he was soon captured and put to death. The British lost only 29 soldiers while the Nawab lost about 500 men.

Consequences of Battle of Plassey 1757:

Sir Jadunath Sarkar says, “On June 23, 1757, the Middle Ages of India ended and her modern age began. In the space of less than one generation, in the twenty years from Plassey (1757-76), the land began to recover from the blight of medieval theocratic rule”. This is a retrospective reading of the consequences of the battle of Plassey. Luke Scrafton, who served as the Company’s Resident at the nawab’s durbar after Plassey, wrote: “The general idea at this time entertained by the servants of the Company was that the battle of Plassey did only restore us to the same situation we were in before the capture of Calcutta (by Siraj-ud-daula); the subah (subahdar) was conceived to be as independent as ever, and the English returned into their commercial character…” This statement ignores the fact that substantial restraints on the nawab’s independence had been imposed by Mir Jafar’s pre-Plassey treaty (June 5, 1757) with the English. Legally, however, the English did not become political masters of Bengal in 1757. A few years later the Supreme Court of Calcutta held that only the inhabitants of Calcutta and not those of other English factory areas were British Subjects. Theoretically, therefore, the English retained their “commercial character” even after Plassey.

The verdict of Plassey was confirmed by the English victory at Buxar (1764). During the intervening years, the “commercial character” of the English became predominantly political because Mir Jafar was weak in character, Clive’s firmness and ingenuity pushed him into helplessness, the Marathas lost for some years their military power and political ascendancy as a result of their defeat at Panipat, and the French suffered complete shipwreck in South India. In 1757 no one could have predicted the impending misfortunes of the Marathas and the French, but the establishment of British rule in Bengal could hardly have been anticipated. “It was the events of the next ten years which turned a paramount influence into a new regime”.

Plassey gave the English certain immediate advantages military and commercial and created a field for the establishment of their political influence in “three provinces abounding in the most valuable production of nature and art”. The exclusion of the French from Bengal strengthened their position in South Indian struggle. Success strengthened their self-confidence. As early as 1759 Clive suggested to Pitt the Elder, a leading member of the King’s government in London, the advisability of establishment of direct control of the crown over the Company’s possessions in Bengal.

Significance of Battle of Plassey 1757:

(1) The battle proved to be of great historical significance as it paved the way for British control over Bengal and eventually over the whole of India.

(2) The battle created greed amongst the British for the wealth of Bengal and resulted in its plunder.

(3) The battle also meant the beginning of the economic miseries for the Indians. The economic exploitation of the people, which began with Bengal, ultimately reduced India to a poorer country in the world.


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