Bengal in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century

• Murshid Quli Khan, who was appointed the Diwan of Bengal in 1700, remained at the helm of affairs till his death in 1727.

• Then his son-in-law Shuja governed the province for 14 years.

• After a short interval of a year under the worthless son of Murshid Quli Khan, Alivardi Khan, seized the reins of office and ruled till 1756.

• All the three were strong and competent administrators and under them Bengal greatly prospered, so much so that it was regarded as “the paradise of Bengal”.

• During the first half of the 18th century from 1706–1756, Bengal received in return for its exports nearly six and a half crores rupees worth of bullion and about Rs. 2.3 crores of merchandise.

• Decca alone exported nearly 30 lakh rupees worth of cloth to Asian countries.

• Qasim Bazar produced two and a half million pound of silk.

• Commodities which were exported from Bengal viz., saltpetre, opium, indigo etc.

• Progress in trade, industry and agriculture stimulated the growth of urban centers and banking, which is illustrated by the rise of jagat Seths (world bankers).

• Hughli, which was the most important port of Bengal, grew into a great centre of culture.

• The population of Calcutta rose from 15,000 in 1704 to one lakh in 1750 and Decca and Murshidabad became populous cities.

The English in Bengal

• Between the years 1633 and 1663 the British factories in Bengal aimed at nothing more than peaceful trade under the protection of the Mughal power.

• The earliest British settlements date back to 1633, when the Mughal Governor of Orissa gave the English merchants permission to establish factories at Hariharpur (near the mouth of the Mahanadi) and at Balasore further north.

• A second British factory was established at Hughli in 1651.

• The British trade progressed during the viceroyalty of Shuja till 1657.

• In 1658, Aurangazeb appointed Mir Jumla as the Governor of Bengal, who put severe restrictions on the British trade. The British suffered badly during 1658 – 1663.

• After the death of Mir Jumla in 1663, when Shayista Khan was appointed as the Mughal Viceroy in Bengal, the British were able to regain their trade privileges.

• The 3 important British settlements in Bengal were at Hughli, Qasim Bazar and Balasore, with subordinate factories at Patna, Rajmahal and Decca.

• Job Charnock, Chief of Qasim Bazar factory, chose Sutanuti or Sutanauti (the site of Calcutta) as the centre of British trade instead of Hughli.

• Thus in 1690 Job Charnock laid the foundation of Calcutta as a British settlement.

• 7 years later (in 1697) a fortified factory known as Fort William was built which was made the seat of a new Presidency, officially called ‘Presidency of Fort William in Bengal’, in 1700.

• With the growth of population at Sutanuti, the British tried to extend the area of this settlement by buying two adjacent villages – Kalikata and Govindpur – from a local zamindar.

• In 1713, Murshid Quli Khan annulled all the privileges of the British and ordered that they should thereafter pay the same duties as the local merchants.

• Upon this the British sent an embassy under John Surman to the Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar.

• As a result of this mission, the British were able to get 3 farmanas in their favour in July 1717, which granted the British company privilege to trade duty–free in Bengal, in lieu of an annual payment of Rs. 3,000.

English Trade

• Murshid Quli Khan, the first independent Nawab of Bengal.

• The construction of Fort William was finished in 1716.

• The British sent a mission to Delhi after the accession of Farrukhsiyar. Its leader was John Surman.

• After protracted negotiations for 3 years (1714–1717) he secured 3 Farmans addressed to the officials of Hyderabad, Gujarat and Bengal.

• Duplex planned in 1751 to place Salabat Jung at the head of the Bengal subah although Alivardi didn’t know it.

• The British had already dug the ‘Maratha ditch’ on the north-east of Calcutta (1743) for protection of the city against the Maratha invaders.

Siraj-ud-daula (1756-57)

• Alivardi was succeeded by his grand son (daughter’s son) Siraj-ud-daula, a young man of 23.

• Siraj had a rival for the throne: his cousin Shaukat Jang, Nawab of Purnea.

• His “greatest enemy” was meternal aunt, Ghasiti Begum, a childless widow.

• His “most formidable enemy” was Mir Jafar Ali Khan, the commander-in-chief and Alivardi’s sister’s husband.

• He took two precautionary measures: Ghasiti Begam was robbed off her wealth, and Mir Jafar was replaced from the headship of the army by Mir Madan.

• A Kashmiri officer named Mohan Lal was raised to high office and allowed to “exercise a degree of influence which turned him in effect into the Prime Minsiter”.

• Shaukat Jung was defeated and killed in the battle of Manihari (Oct 1756).

• Siraj was now at the zenith of his fortune. He received an imperial Farman confirming him in the subahdari of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

• The British were charged with having “abuse the privilege of their dastaks by granting them to such as were not entitled to them” and thereby causing loss to the nawab’s customs revenues.

• A dastak was a pass–chit or permit signed by the president of the Calcutta council which exempted the goods from payment of internal duties. The company’s servants misused these dastaks for their private trade or sold the company’s dastaks to Indian merchants on a commission.

• A dastak was a permit authorizing transit of goods.

• Under the Farman it was permissible to issue dastaks for exports and imports only, i.e., the immunity from payment of duties was restricted to foreign trade.

• Raja Rajballav, deputy of the Governor of Decca, was the chief agent of Ghasiti Begam’s affairs.

• Siraj charged him with having embezzled public money.

• Rajballav’s son Krishna Ballav escaped to Calcutta (Mar 1756) with the women and treasures of the family. Drake was bribed to give asylum.

Capture of Calcutta (1756)

• The Qasim Bazar factory was invested, occupied and looted (May 1756) by Siraj.

• He personally led an attack on Calcutta, and after some resistance the city fell (June 20, 1756).

• Governor Drake and several other officers “disgracefully deserted” the city when its fall seemed imminent; they escaped to Fulta.

• Holwell and a number of Europeans surrendered.

• All these prisoners were crowded in a chamber 18 Feet by 14 Feet 10 inches, with only one window, through out the hot night of June.

• According to Holwell, they numbered about 165 or 170, and the next morning “only about 16” came out alive, “the rest being suffocated to death”.

• The British historians called this event the ‘Black Hole’ tragedy.

English Recovery of Calcutta (1757)

• An expedition was sent from Madras in Oct 1756.

• It was a large expedition under the command of Robert Clive was associated Admiral Watson.

• Reaching the Hughli in December, and joined by Kilpatrick who had arrived at Fulta from Madras in August.

• Budge Budge was occupied, Calcutta was recovered (Jan 2, 1757), and Hughli was plundered.

• Robert Clive made a surprise attack in which the Nawab’s losses for exceeded those of the English.

• 4 days later (on Feb 9, 1757) the Treaty of Alinagar was signed.

• Siraj recognized the British privileges, granted them permission to fortify Calcutta and to mint coins, and promised compensation.

English Capture of Chandranagar (1757)

• Robert Clive attacked and occupied Chandranagar (Mar 1757).

Conspiracy of 1757

• Siraj yielded to the British demand for expulsion of all Frenchmen from his dominions, including French refugees at Qasim Bazar under the command of his sincere well-wisher Jean Law.

• Negotiations between the conspirators (April-May 1757) and the British were carried on with secrecy and speed.

• Amin Chand and Watts, the chief of British factory at Qasim Bazar, were the principal agents.

• Mir Jafar was selected as the successor of Siraj.

• He concluded a secret treaty with the British (June 5, 1757).

Battle of Plassey (1757)

• Plassey (on the Ganga, in Nadia District) about 45,000 of the Nawab’s troops were under the command of 3 traitors Mir Jafar, Yar Latif Khan, and Rai Dur-labhram.

• The battle took place on June 23, 1757.

• After Mir Madan’s death in the battle field, Siraj suspended the fight for the day on Mir Jafar’s treacherous advice.

Consequences of Plassey

• Luke Scrafton, who served as the company’s Resident at the nawab’s darbar after Plassey.

• The verdict of Plassey was confirmed by the British victory at Battle of Buxar (1764).

• During the intervening years, the “commercial character” of the British became predominantly political because Mir Jafar was weak in character.

Mir Jafar (1757-60)

• The company established a mint at Calcutta and secured a grant for the zamindari of 24 Paraganas against the opposition of the old proprietors and the tenants.

Shah Alam’s Invasions (1759-60)

• In 1759 prince Ali Gauhar (Shah Alam I), supported by the army of Muhammad Quli Khan, the imperial govenor of Allahabad, made a bid to seize Bihar.

• Shah Alam I entered Patna and invited the French officer Jean Law, then living as a refugee in Bihar, to his camp.

• His attempt was frustrated by Raja Ramnarayan who applied to the British at Calcutta for help.

• A body of Mir Jafar’s troops under his son Miran and a party under Robert Clive crossed the frontier of Bihar near Teliagarhi.

• Muhammad Quli Khan left Bihar to protect his own subah from the attack of Nawab Shuja-ud-daula of Awadh.

• After the defeat of an allied zamindar by the troops of Mir Jafar under his son Miran, Shah Alam, friendless and resourceless, left Bihar.

• In grateful recognition of Robert Clive’s services on this occation, Mir Jafar procured from the puppet emperor Alamgir II the title of Omrah and conferred on him the right to enjoy the amount of revenue which was payble by the Company to the Nawab for its zamindairi of 24 Paraganas.

• It was a personal grant; it came to be known as ‘Clive’s Jagir’.

• In 1759, Shah Alam proclaimed himself Emperor after the murder of his father Alamgir II by the wazir Imad-ul-Mulk and again marched into Bihar.

• Ones again he was opposed by Raja Ramnarayan, and Robert Clive sent a force under major Caillaud; Shah Alam II defeated by the English commander.

The Dutch War (1759)

• Colonel Forde advanced against the Dutch and defeated them at Bidera.

• By a treaty made a few days later Mir Jafar permitted the Dutch to carry on their trade as before subject to 2 principal conditions:
1. “They shall never meditate war, introduce or enlist troops or raise fortifications in the country”.
2. “They shall be allowed to keep 125 European soldiers, and no more, for service of their factories of Chinsura, Qasim Bazar and Patna”.

Robert Clive’s Retirement (1760)

• Till 1758 he had no definite official position among the British in Bengal as technically he was a servant of the governor and Council of Madras.

• In that year (1758) he assumed charge as governor of Bengal.

• The Battle of Bidera (1759) crushed the Dutch.

• The Battle of Wandiwash (1760) and the capitulation of Pondicherry (1761) removed the French menace.

• The Third Battle of Panipat (1761) immobilised the Marathas for several years.

‘Revolution’ of 1760

• After Robert Clive’s departure the governorship was held temporarily by Holwell for a few months.

• Holwell was relieved by Henry Vansittart in July 1760.

• In July 1760 the sudden death of Miran, Mir Jafar’s eldest son, brought up the question of succession.

• Holwell found in the Nawab’s son-in-law Mir Qasim a person who could save the situation.

• Vansittart accepted Holwell’s plan and allowed him to a finalise arrangements with Mir Qasim. The result was the Treaty of September 27, 1760 with Mir Qasim.

• 3 districts Burdwan, Midnapur and Chittagong were to be ceded to the Company.

• Mir Jafar left for Calcutta to live under British protection.

• The “Revolution” of 1760 was really no revolution. It was merely the replacement of one nawab by another.

Mir Qasim (or Kasim) (1760 – 1764)

• The first important political issue faced by Mir Qasim after his accession was the third invasion of Bihar by Shah Alam (1760-61) defeated by Major Carnac.

• Mir Qasim placed his army under command of an Armenian, Gurgin Khan, who reorganized its different branches on the European model.

• Several foreigners Sumru, Gentil, Marcat, Aratoon, and others were admitted into the nawab’s military service.

• The artillery was strengthened by manufacture of arms and ammunitions at Monghyr (in Bihar) where Mir Qasim had established his seat of government.

Inland Trade

• In 1762 Mir Qasim made an official protest; Vansittart made a compromise arrangement which was rejected by the Calcutta council.

• Mir Qasim took the extraordinary step of abolishing duties altogether (Mar 1763) for 2 years.

• War was formally declared against Mir Qasim in July 1763.

• Mir Jafar was restored to the throne.

Battle of Buxar (1764)

• Defeated near Katwa in Burdwan district (July 9, 1763), at Giria in the Murshidabad district (August 2, 1763), and at Udhuanala near Rajmahal (September 4-5, 1763), Mir Qasim hastened to Monghyr and then to Patna. At Monghyr, and on the way to Patna, he cruelly put to death some prominent Indians, including Raja Ramnarayan, the two Seth brothers, Raja Rajballav and his sons, on suspision of their complicity with the British.

• From Patna he was chased by the British to the river Karmanasa.

• He crossed over and entered the territory of Nawab Shuja-ud-daula of Awadh (Dec. 1763).

• Shuja met Mir Qasim in January 1764 and finally commited himself to his cause in March 1764. It was agreed that Mir Qasim would meet the expenses of Shuja’s army at the rate of Rs.11 lakh per month, cede to him the province of Bihar after his resoration to the throne of Bengal, and pay a sum of Rs. 3 crore on the successful conclusion of the expedition.

• Mir Qasim’s arrest by Shuja (Aug 1764).

• Major Carnac was replaced by Major Hector Munro.

Consequences of Buxar

• The battle of Buxar was the result of Mir Qasim’s alliance with Shuja.

• Shuja sought security in unconditional surrender to the British (May 1765).

• Shah Alam had already found shelter with the British.

Treaty of Allahabad (1765)

• Robert Clive returned to Calcutta in May 1765 as governor of Bengal for the Second time.

• Robert Clive made the final settlement through the treaty of Allahabad with Shuja-ud-daula (Aug 16, 1765).

• Shuja’s old dominions were restored to him with the exception of Kora and Allahabad which were given to Shah Alam.

• Balwant Singh of Varanasi, who had assisted the British in the war, was confirmed in possession of his zamindari on condition of paying Shuja the same revenue as heretofore.

The Puppet Nawabs of Bengal

• After the battle of Buxar, the British recalled their old puppet, Mir Jafar, to the throne of Bengal.

• Mir Jafar was suffered from a crippling disease (leprosy).

• Mir Jafar’s successor was his minor son Najm-ud-daula.

• The minor nawab undertook to appoint Muhammad Reza Khan as naib subah (dar) or deputy governor.

• Najm-ud-daula pension of Rs.50 lakh

• On Najm-ud-daula’s death 1766 his minor brother Saif-ud-daula was proclaimed his successor.

• Saif-ud-daula’s pension was Rs. 38 lakh.

• Saif-ud-daula’s successor was his minor brother Mubarak-ud-daula, whose pension was Rs. 28 lakhs.

The Dual Government of Bengal

• The treaty of Allahabad (1765).

• Nizamat means military defence, police and administration of justice.

• Diwan means incharge of provincial revenues and finances.

• At the time of Aurangazeb’s death, Murshid Quli Khan was holding both the offices in Bengal.

• The British by the treaty of Allahabad (with Shah Alam II) had secured the diwani rights and returned for an annual payment of Rs. 26 lakh to the Emperor, and a provision of Rs. 53 lakh for the nizamat functions.

• The company secured the diwani powers of the province from the emperor and the nizamat from the nawab.

• This system of administration, the rule of the company and the nawab, was known as the Dual or Double Government of the Bengal.

• Cartier was the Governor of Bengal then during the Dual Government (1769–1762).

The East India Company as Sovereign Ruler of Bengal

• The dual system of Government introduced by Clive proved to be a miserable failure.

• Warren Hastings was appointed as a Governor Bengal in 1772.

• The alliance of the nawab was reduced from Rs. 32 lakh to Rs. 16 lakh.

• The company also stopped the payment of Rs. 26 lakh annually to the emperor Shah Alam II.

• Allahabad and Kora were taken away from the Mughal and sold to the Nawab of Awadh.


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