In this blog, let us learn about the Battle of Plassey. When Alivardi Khan died in 1756, Sirajuddaulah became the nawab of Bengal. The Company was worried about his power and keen on a puppet ruler who would willingly give trade concessions and other privileges.
So it tried, though without success, to help one of Sirajuddaulah’s rivals become the nawab. An infuriated Sirajuddaulah asked the Company to stop meddling in the political affairs of his dominion, stop fortification, and pay the revenues.
After negotiations failed, the Nawab marched with 30,000 soldiers to the English factory at Kassimbazar, captured the Company officials, locked the warehouse, disarmed all Englishmen, and blockaded English ships. Then he marched to Calcutta to establish control over the Company’s fort there.
On hearing the news of the fall of Calcutta, Company officials in Madras sent forces under the command of Robert Clive, reinforced by naval fleets. Prolonged negotiations with the Nawab followed. Finally, in 1757, Robert Clive led the Company’s army against Sirajuddaulah at the battle of Plassey. One of the main reasons for the defeat of the Nawab was that the forces led by Mir Jafar, one of Sirajuddaulah’s commanders, never fought the battle.
Clive had managed to secure his support by promising to make him nawab after crushing Sirajuddaulah. The Battle of Plassey became famous because it was the first major victory the Company won in India
After the defeat at Plassey, Sirajuddaulah was assassinated and Mir Jafar made the nawab. The Company was still unwilling to take over the responsibility of the administration. Its prime objective was the expansion of trade. If this could be done without conquest, through the help of local rulers who were willing to grant privileges, then territories need not be taken over directly.
Soon the Company discovered that this was rather difficult. For even the puppet nawabs were not always as helpful as the Company wanted them to be. After all, they had to maintain a basic appearance of dignity and sovereignty if they wanted respect from their subjects. What could the Company do? When Mir Jafar protested, the Company deposed him and installed Mir Qasim in his place.
When Mir Qasim complained, he in turn was defeated in a battle fought at Buxar (1764), driven out of Bengal, and Mir Jafar was reinstalled. The Nawab had to pay Rs 500,000 every month but the Company wanted more money to finance its wars, and meet the demands of trade and its other expenses.
It wanted more territories and more revenue. By the time Mir Jafar died in 1765 the mood of the Company had changed. Having failed to work with puppet nawabs, Clive declared: “We must indeed become nawabs ourselves.” Finally, in 1765 the Mughal emperor appointed the Company as the Diwan of the provinces of Bengal.
The Diwani allowed the Company to use the vast revenue resources of Bengal. This solved a major problem that the Company had earlier faced. From the early eighteenth century, its trade with India had expanded. But it had to buy most of the goods in India with gold and silver imported from Britain.
This was because at this time Britain had no goods to sell in India. The outflow of gold from Britain slowed after the Battle of Plassey and entirely stopped after the assumption of Diwani. Now revenues from India could finance Company expenses. These revenues could be used to purchase cotton and silk textiles in India, maintain Company troops, and meet the cost of building the Company fort and offices at Calcutta.