In this blog on company rule expands, we will discuss how the east India company rule expanded in India. If we analyze the process of annexation of Indian states by the East India Company from 1757 to 1857, certain key aspects emerge. The Company rarely launched a direct military attack on an unknown territory. Instead, it used a variety of political, economic, and diplomatic methods to extend its influence before annexing an Indian kingdom. After the Battle of Buxar (1764), the Company appointed Residents in Indian states.
They were political or commercial agents and their job was to serve and further the interests of the Company. Through the Residents, the Company officials began interfering in the internal affairs of Indian states. They tried to decide who was to be the successor to the throne, and who was to be appointed in administrative posts. Sometimes the Company forced the states into a “subsidiary alliance”.
According to the terms of this alliance, Indian rulers were not allowed to have their independent armed forces. They were to be protected by the Company, but had to pay for the “subsidiary forces” that the Company was supposed to maintain for the purpose of this protection. If the Indian rulers failed to make the payment, then part of their territory was taken away as a penalty.
For example, when Richard Wellesley was Governor-General (1798-1805), the Nawab of Awadh was forced to give over half of his territory to the Company in 1801, as he failed to pay for the “subsidiary forces”. Let’s see more about how the company rule expands.
Tipu Sultan – The “Tiger of Mysore”
The Company resorted to direct military confrontation when it saw a threat to its political or economic interests. This can be illustrated with the case of the southern Indian state of Mysore. Mysore had grown in strength under the leadership of powerful rulers like Haidar Ali (who ruled from 1761 to 1782) and his famous son Tipu Sultan (who ruled from 1782 to 1799).
Mysore controlled the profitable trade of the Malabar coast where the Company purchased pepper and cardamom. In 1785 Tipu Sultan stopped the export of sandalwood, pepper, and cardamom through the ports of his kingdom, and disallowed local merchants from trading with the Company.
He also established a close relationship with the French in India and modernized his army with their help. The British were furious. They saw Haidar and Tipu as ambitious, arrogant, and dangerous – rulers who had to be controlled and crushed.
Four wars were fought with Mysore ( in years 1767-69, 1780-84, 1790-92, and 1799). Only in the last – the Battle of Seringapatam – did the Company ultimately win a victory. Tipu Sultan was killed defending his capital Seringapatam, Mysore was placed under the former ruling dynasty of the Wodeyars and a subsidiary alliance was imposed on the state.