the Nawab of Bengal

The British East India Company and the Nawab of Bengal

The British East India Company and the Nawab of Bengal

The British East India Company and the Nawab of Bengal

British arrival in India

  • In 16th – 17th century, people from European countries like Portugal, Holland, France, Denmark and England came to India as traders. But the British were the most successful among them.
  • The first English person to visit India was John Milden Hall, he came to India in 1599.
  • It was only in 1599 that a group of Indo-British traders established a company called ‘British Merchant’.
  • On 31 December 1600 AD, the British East India Company or ‘The Governor and Company of Merchants of Trading in the East Indies’ was established by a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I of Britain.
  • In 1608 AD, an English Mughal emperor named Hawkins came to the court of Jehangir as the messenger of King James I of Britain.
  • Jahangir, impressed by Hakins’ behavior, provided him with a mansab of 400, and gave him land in Agra.
  • The British defeated the Portuguese in a sea battle in 1612 AD.

British arrival in India

  • In 1613 AD, a royal decree issued by Jahangir allowed the British to establish a trading cell in Surat.
  • The Portuguese pressurized the Mughal emperor Jahangir to withdraw the trading facilities given to the British.
  • The British also decided to send ambassadors to the Mughal court to counter the Portuguese machinations.
  • In 1615 AD, an Englishman named Sir Thomas Row came to the court of Jahangir as the messenger of James I.
  • Sir Thomas Roe lived in the Mughal court from January 1616 to February 1618. In the meantime, he obtained permission from the Mughal court for trade and denigration in various parts of the empire.
  • By 1619 AD, British factories were established in Agra, Ahmedabad, Bharoch and Baroda.
  • In 1632 AD, the British obtained a decree from the Sultan of Golconda and obtained a monopoly to trade with the ports located in the state of Golconda in return for paying 500 pagod annual tax.



British arrival in India

  • The first English industrial unit in eastern India was established in 1633 AD in Balasore, Odisha.
  • In 1639 AD, an Englishman named Francis Day obtained a Madras lease from the king of Chandragiri. The British built a fort called Fort St. George here.
  • The British established their first factory in Bengal in 1651 with the permission of the Subedar arm of Bengal during the reign of Shah Jahan.
  • In 1661, Princess Catherine Brigenza of Portugal was married to Charles II of Britain, Mumbai as a dowry to the British.
  • Charles II gave Mumbai to the East India Company at an annual rent of ten pounds in 1668.
  • Gerald Aungiar was the founder of Bombay. He was the Governor of Mumbai from 1669 to 1667.
  • An Englishman named Job Charanak laid the foundation of modern Calcutta by combining Kalikata, Govindpur and Sutanati. Fort William was established in Kolkata in 1700 AD.
  • Rur Charles Eyre, the first governor of Fort William, was appointed. At the same time Bengal was made independent from Madras and made a separate Presidency.



Nawabs of Bengal

Murshid Quli Khan (1717 AD to 1727 AD)

  • The province of Bengal was the most prosperous province of the Mughal era in India. Aurangzeb appointed Murshid Quli Khan as the Diwan of Bengal, but after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, taking advantage of the weakness of the Mughal Empire, he declared himself independent in 1717 AD.
  • In 1717 AD, the Mughal Empire, Farrukhsiyar, granted a decree to the British East India Company to trade in Bengal.
  •  3000 in Bengal by this decree. After paying annual tax, the company was exempted from customs duties in all its business. Also got the right to buy 38 villages around Kolkata.
  • This decree of Farrukhsiyar proved to be a milestone for the British but it became a headache for the Nawabs of Bengal.
  • When the British started misusing this privilege, Murshid Quli Khan opposed it.
  • Murshid Quli Khan tried to control the independent use of the decree given by Farrukhsiyar in Bengal.
  • Murshid Quli Khan shifted the capital of Bengal from Dhaka to Murshidabad.
  • After the death of Murshid Quli Khan in 1726 AD, his son-in-law Shujauddin ruled Bengal from 1727 to 1739. After the death of Shujauddin in 1739, Sarfaraz Khan seized power.


Alivardi Khan (1740 AD to 1756 AD)

  • J  Alivardi Khan defeated Sarfaraz Khan in the battle of Giriya and became the Nawab of Bengal in 1740.
  • Md Alivardi Khan controlled the activities of the British and French of Bengal.
  • Alivardi Khan compared Europeans to bees and said that if they are not teased, they will give honey and if teased, they will bite and kill them.
  • Alivardi Khan died in 1756 AD. After this, his successor, his grandson Siraj-ud-daula became the ruler.


Siraj-ud-daula (1756 AD to 1757 AD)

  • During the reign of Siraj-ud-daulah, Bengal was turbulent due to the rivalry between the British and the French.
  • Siraj-ud-daulah was angry with the British for misusing the special authority decrees conferred by Farrukhsiyar.
  • In addition to this, the British and the French started fortifications in place in Bengal.
  • Siraj-ud-daulah ordered the British and the French to immediately stop the fortifications.
  • The French stopped the fortification by accepting the orders of the Nawab, but the British did not do so. As a result,
  • Siraj-ud-daula attacked the British fort at Qasim Bazar and forced them to surrender.
  • On 20 June 1756, Fort William surrendered, leaving some cities and fled to the island of Fulta.
  • It is said that 146 Britishers were locked in a room 18 feet long and 14 feet 10 inches wide, out of which only 23
  • Britishers survived.
  • This incident took place in June 1756, is known in history as a black hole.
  • In January 1757, Robert Clive and Admiral Watson recaptured Kolkata.
  • In February 1757, there was a treaty between the British and Siraj-ud-Daula in Kolkata, which is known as the Treaty of Alinagar.

Siraj-ud-daula (1756 AD to 1757 AD)

  • By this treaty, the British obtained permission to build fortifications and coins in Bengal.
  • The British became more aggressive by the Treaty of Alinagar. In March 1757, the British captured Chandranagar in the French territory.
  • The British hatched a conspiracy against Siraj-ud-Daula in which Siraj-ud-daula’s commander Mirzafar was assented to make him the Nawab of Bengal.
  • Angered by the activities of the British, Siraj-ud-daula started preparing for war.
  • On 23 June 1757, there was a fierce battle between the British and Siraj-ud-daulah’s forces at a place called Plassey, in which Siraj-ud-daula was defeated.
  • The Battle of Plassey, Siraj-ud-Daula’s army was led by Mir Jafar, Latif Khan, Rai Rare, Mir Madan and Mohan Lal. In this, Mirzafar and Rai met rare Englishmen.
  • In the Battle of Plassey, Siraj-ud-daula was captured and later shot.

Mir Jafar (1757 AD to 1707 AD)

  • After the victory in the Battle of Plassey, the British made Mirzafar the Nawab of Bengal.
  • After becoming the Nawab, Mir Jafar gave the land of 24 Parganas to the British as a prize. It also granted the company the right to conduct free trade in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.
  • Later, Mir Jafar’s relations with the British deteriorated. The reason for this was the increasing interference of the British in administrative work.
  • Fed up with Agrejo’s looting, Mir Jafar abdicated the throne in favor of his son-in-law Mir Qasim in October 1707.

Mir Qasim (1760 AD to 1763 AD)

  • After becoming the Nawab, Mir Qasim handed over three districts of Midnapore, Burdwan and Chittagong to the British.
  • Mir Qasim shifted the capital from Murshidabad to Munger.
  • According to Farrukhsiyar’s 1717 decree, the company was exempted from transit duty. Such exemption was not for the employees of the company. This decree was being misused by the employees of the company. Mir Qasim got angry and ended taxation for Indian businessmen as well.
  • In 1765, there were several wars between Mir Qasim and the British, which were eventually defeated and escaped.

Mir Jafar (1763 AD to 1765 AD)

  • After Mir Qasim, Mirzafar once ascended the throne of Bengal.
  • Mir Jafar provided Burdwan, Midnapore and Chittagong for the maintenance of British army and gave free trade in Bengal.
  • In 1764, Mirzafar, including the Nawab Shuja-ud-daulah of Awadh and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, fought with the British at a place called Buxar, in which the British won.
  • After the Battle of Buxar, the Governor of Bengal, Lord Clive, made a treaty of Allahabad with Nawab Shuja-ud-daulah of Awadh and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.
  • By the treaty of Allahabad, the Mughal emperor got the territory of Kada and Allahabad.
  • The Mughal emperor gave the company the right to the Diwali of Bengal Bihar. The company agreed to give 26 lakh rupees to the Mughal emperor instead.
  • The company was taken over by Shuja-ud-Daula after paying Rs 50 lakh as war damages to the company.
  • After the death of Mir Jafar on 5 February 1765, his son Nazimuddaula was made the Nawab of Bengal.

Diarchy (1765 AD to 1772 AD)

  • The British started the dynastic rule in Bengal in 1765, which lasted till 1771 AD. Leo Cartis is considered to be the father of diarchy.
  • At the time of diarchy, a sum of Rs 2,24,67,500 was recovered from Bengal between 1760-67. Earlier, the revenue recovery was only 80 lakhs. During the reign of Bengal, there was a severe famine in 1770 AD, in which about one crore people died due to starvation.
  • In 1770, the Court Directors issued an order to take over the responsibility of administration in Bengal by abolishing the system of diarchy.
  • The last Nawab of Bengal was Mubarak Uddaula (1770 to 1775).


Memorable facts

  • The main items of English trade in Bengal were silk, cotton cloth, saltpeter and sugar.
  • After conquering Calcutta in 1757, Siraj-ud-daula named it Alinagar.
  • The dynastic rule in Bengal from 1767-1772 was ended by the Governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings.
  • At the time of diarchy, the company appointed Raja Sitab Rai as Bihar and Mohammad Raza Khan as the Nawab of Bengal for civil works.
  • In the Battle of Plassey, the British commander was Clive and the commander of the Nawab was Mirzafar.
  • In February 1707, Clive went back to England for a few months, handing over the governor’s responsibility to Hallwell. Hallwell planned to depose Mirzafar.
  • According to Alfred Lyell, “Clive’s success in Plassey opened up a very wide field of war and politics to the British in Bengal.”
  • Mir Jafar in Murshidabad was called Colonel Clive’s jackal.
  • During the reign of Mir Jafar, the British gave birth to the policy of ‘divide and rule’ and started fighting one faction against another.
  • Hector Munro led the British Army in the Battle of Buxar.
  • P. E. Roberts said about the battle of Buxar that, “It is more appropriate to consider Buxar as the birthplace of English sovereignty in India than Plassey.”


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