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The Battle of Plassey

History | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod, Interactive

Why is the Battle of Plassey important to Indian colonial history?

The Battle of Plassey is considered a crucial event in Indian colonial history. The British East India Company was able to gain control after winning the battle against the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj – ud – Daulah. After this battle, the East India Company consolidated British presence in Bengal and then India, leading to nearly 200 years of British rule in India.

What led to the Battle of Plassey?

The British trading company, East India Company, had been given a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth on 31st December, 1600 to pursue trade in the East Indies. It included the right to form an army.

Although territorial conquest was not a priority in the first century of the company’s operations, it soon became the agenda to maintain trade in South Asia. The company faced competition from the rival companies, French East India Company and the Dutch and Portuguese counterparts. The different companies formed allies with various rulers to extend support against rebels and usurpers in exchange for trading support.

After the decline of the Mughal Empire and several independent rulers during the three Carnatic Wars, the British gained a stronger foothold in India.

The British forces became dominant, as a result of which, the British East India Company was able to extend and establish its powers and became the British Raj.

How did the Battle of Plassey take place?

  • In 1755, Siraj – ud – Daulah, became the Nawab of Bengal and allied with the French East India company. He then proceeded to overrun British trading posts, including the ones in Calcutta, because he felt the British were overriding his power and position as Nawab. He captured Fort William in Calcutta, in the Bengal Presidency, in 1756.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert Clive was sent from Madras to retake Calcutta. One of Siraj – ud – Daulah’s discontented followers, Mir Jafar was instrumental in betraying him to the British.
  • The Battle started with the French troops supporting the Nawab. Mir Jafar failed to join in the fighting, despite pleas from the Nawab. The battle was heading for a stalement, when it started to rain. The British troops were prepared with tarpaulins to keep the gun powder dry, but the Bengali troops were unprepared.
  • Unaware, the Nawab underestimated the British and open charged. The British open fired at the charging Bengali cavalry. They lost their commander, panicked and started moving back, exposing their artillery.
  • The British captured the Nawab’s artillery. The Nawab fled the battlefield and Mir Jafar was installed as a puppet ruler by the British.
  • This was the beginning of the rise of the British Raj in India.