expansion of british power in india

The ”Expansion of British Power in India” has three significant phases, which are known as “Mercantilism (1757-1813), “Laissez Faire” (1813-1860), and “Finance Imperialism” (1860-1947). This reveals the periodical enhancement of the British expansion over the Indian Territory.

The expansion of British power in India began in the 17th century with the establishment of trading posts. The East India Company was granted a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 with the purpose of establishing trade relations in the East Indies. The company gradually increased its presence in India and by the 18th century, it had established control over large parts of the country.

Expansion of British Power in India

Expansion of British Power in India

The British East India Company was able to strengthen its hold over India due to a combination of military force, cunning diplomacy, and economic power. It gradually took control of Indian principalities, and by the beginning of the 19th century, it had established direct control over much of India.

One of the key factors in the expansion of British power in India was its military strength. The well-trained and well-equipped British soldiers were able to defeat the local armies of various regional powers such as the Mughals, Marathas, and Tipu Sultan, who posed a challenge to British rule.

Expansion of British Power in India: Post conquest of Asia Minor by Ottoman Empire and capturing of Constantinople in 1453, trade routes came under the control of Turkish Empire rule. Venice and Genoa also monopolized the trade routes. Hence the European traders had to search for new sea routes to Asia and the Spice Island of Indonesia; also, the East Indies à Discovered Cape of Good Hope.

The Growth of East India Company: 1600-1714

  • 1608: the first factory in Surat. Set up as ‘Trading Depot’.
  • Hawkins in Jahangir’s court à received Royal Farman for trade on the west coast.
  • 1615: Thomas Roe à Imperial Farman: to trade in all parts of the Mughal Dynasty.
  • South India: After Vijayanagar Empire declined;
  • The first factory in South India: Masulipatnam 1611.
  • Centre shifted from Masulipatnam to Madras à fortification at Fort St. George.
  • The Island of Bombay was occupied in 1668.
  • Major Rivals: Marathas
  • Eastern India: the first factory in Orissa in 1633.
1600The East India Company was established.
1609William Hawkins arrived at Jahangir’s court but failed to secure permission due to opposition by the Portuguese.
1611Captain Middleton obtained the permission of the Mughal governor of Surat to trade there and also started trade in Masulipatnam.
1613A factory of East India Company was established at Surat.
1615The Company established its first factory in the south in Masulipatnam.
1618Thomas Roe succeeded in obtaining two farman confirming free trade with exemption from inland tolls and permission to establish factories at Agra, Ahmedabad, and Baroach.
1632The Company got the golden Farman from the Sultan of Golconda which ensured the safety and prosperity of their trade.
1633The Company established its first factory in east India in Hariharpur, Balasore, Odisha
1639Madras was given by the Chandragiri chief to the English and soon Madras with the Fort St. George replaced Masulipatnam as the English headquarters on the east coast.
1651The Company was given permission to trade at Hooghly (Bengal), Kasimbazar, Patna, and Rajmahal.
1662The British King, Charles II, was given Bombay as a dowry for marrying a Portuguese princess (Catherine of Braganza)
1667Aurangzeb gave the English a Farman for trade in Bengal
1687Bombay was made the headquarters by shifting the seat of the Western Presidency from Surat to Bombay.
1691Due to some conflict, the Mughals raided Hoogly. Then Job Charnock negotiated with the Mughals for a return to Sutanuti in 1691.
The Company got the imperial order to continue their trade in Bengal in lieu of payment of Rs 3,000 a year.
  1700The city of Calcutta grew from the development of three villages Sutanuti, Gobindapur, and Kalikata secured from the Mughal governor of Bengal.
The fortified settlement was named Fort William (1700) and it became the seat of British power in India till 1911.
1717The Mughal emperor Farrukh siyar issued a Farman, called the Magna Carta of the Company, giving the Company a large number of trade concessions in Bengal, Gujarat, and Hyderabad. It included:
1. Company’s imports and export were exempted from duties.
2. Permission to issue Dastaks for transportation of goods
3. Duty-free trade in Hyderabad.
4. Company minted coins to act as currency throughout Mughal Empire.
Expansion of British Power in India

British Conquest of Bengal

  • British exports from Bengal: Saltpetre, Rice, Indigo, Pepper, Sugar and Silk, and Cotton Textiles.   (Bengal comprised 60% of EIC trade with India.)
  • Factories were set up in Balasore, Hooghly, Kasim Bazar, Patna, and Dacca.
  • 1717: British secured royal Farman for Emperor Farrukh Siyar for trade (export-import) in Bengal and à right to issue Dastaks (free passes for trading) for the movement of such goods issued. (Dastaks were the cause of perpetual conflict).
  • Alivardi Khan was engaged in wars with Maratha for 15 years.
  • British strengthened their entrenchment in Fort Williams.
  • Alivardi Khan died in 1756à succeeded by Siraj-ud-Daula.
  • Internal tussle and opposition of Siraj-ud-daulah in the court.

Important Rulers: Murshid Quli Khan (first Diwan of Bengal) –> à Shujauddin –> à Alivardi Khan (stopped paying tributes to The Mughals)

Battle of Plassey and Battle of Buxar

        REASONSNawab seized fort Williams. Killed foreigners inside (black hole tragedy)
Nawab was opposed by the dominant group in his court of Rai Durlabh, Jagat Singh, and Omichand.
Misuse of Dastaks by company servants.
Imperial Farman gave the right to trade in Bengal without paying transit dues or tolls.
Servants sold Dastaks to friendly merchants.
Hence, Mir Kasim abolished all duties.
Tussle led to war between the company and Mir Kasim in 1763. He fled to Awadh.
Formed an alliance with Nawab of Awadh; Shuja-ud-daula and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.
BATTLE COURSE:Alliance: Mir Jafar (husband of Alivardi khan’s sister) + Robert Clive with Rai Durlabh Omichand and Jagat Singh v/s Siraj-ud-daulahAn English army led by Hector Munro.
RESULTSWon by the trio. Mir Jafar became the new NawabShort and decisive battle won by the English army under Hector Munro.
  OTHER1760: Mir Jafar rebelled.
Treaty of 1760
Replaced by Mir Kasim.
Mir Kasim shifted the capital from Murshidabad to Munger (Bihar) for a safe distance from the company.
Mir Jafar was placed on the throne as a mere puppet.
British supremacy was established in Northern India.
Battle of Buxar | Expansion of British Power in India

Treaty of Allahabad

  • Robert Clive signed a treaty with Shuja-ud-din and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.
  • First Treaty of Allahabad: Shuja-ud-din surrendered Allahabad to the emperor Shah Alam II. He gave the zamindar full possession of the estate.
  • Second Treaty of Allahabad: Shah Alam II in Allahabad under the company’s protection. He issued a Farmaan which gave Diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to EIC. The provision of Nizamat functions was also given to the company.

Dual Government of Bengal (1765-1772)

  • Imposed by Robert Clive.
  • The dual system of government: The Diwani (Fiscal) was carried out by the company so Company was Diwan. The Nizamat (territorial) jurisdiction was carried out by these decrepit Indians so they were Nizam. So, this system of separate Diwan and Nizam is called Dual Administration. However, the real authority was the East India Company in the Nizamat also.
  • The right to nominate deputy Subahdar and Diwan was given to the company.
  • Mohammad Reza khan (Bengal) and Raja Sitab Roy (Bihar) were appointed deputy Diwans.
  • It was done away with by Warren Hastings on account of an administrative breakdown in 1772.

Anglo-Mysore War and fall of Tipu Sultan

  • Krishna raja Wodeyar II ruled from 1734-66.
  • Haider Ali came to power in 1761 (de facto ruler, Sarvadhikari) à Had proximity with the French.
  • Haider Ali set up an arms factory in Dindigul.
  • Defeated by Maratha under Madhav Rao à In between 1774-76 he recovered all lost territories by multiple invasions of Marathas.
First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69):Treaty of Madras.
Inconclusive war –>
à treaty for the exchange of prisoners and help of the British in case of the attack on Haider Ali.
British treaty with Nizam of Hyderabad (1766) for protection from Haider Ali in lieu of Northern Circars.
Marathas, Nawab of Arcot, and English.
Latter was duped by the former two on the persuasion of Haider Ali.
Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84):Treaty of Mangalore
Inconclusive war.
Violation of Treaty by British. British didn’t come to Mysore’s aid when Maratha attacked Mysore.
Ali’s growing proximity with the French.
British occupied Mahe, which was under Haider Ali’s possession.
War Course: Sir Eyre Coot defeated Haider Ali in Port Novo –> Haider Ali died of cancer in 1782 –> a war continued by their son Tipu Sultan.
Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-92):Treaty of Seringapatam
Heavy indemnity paid by Tipu.
1790: Meadows defeated by Tipu.
1791: Cornwallis with Maratha and Nizam won in the second attempt
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (April 1799-May 1799)Mysore was conquered by the British.
Tipu died
in Mysore and came under Subsidiary Alliance in 1799.
Tipu’s friendship with the French worried the English.
Accused him of plotting against them.
Arthur Wellesley; brother of Lord Wellesley participated in the war.

Anglo-Maratha Struggle

Prominent Maratha Families after the Third Battle of Panipat (1761) are given below:

Anglo-Maratha Struggle | Expansion of British Power in India
First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782)Treaty of Surat: between Raghunath Rao and the English à Gave up Salsette and Bassein in return for the English army.
Treaty of Purandhar: above treaty was cancelled by Calcutta Council. The Regency renounced Raghunath Rao à kept him under Pension. Nana Phadnavis defied this treaty. The British retaliated. The Treaty of Wadgaon was signed.
Treaty of Salbai: Treaty of Wadgaon rejected by Warren Hastings. He defeated Sindhias. Peace was signed for 20 years.
Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805)Jaswant Rao Holkar defeated the forces of Bajirao II (Peshwa) and the Scindia
The Treaty of Bassein (1802) was signed between the British and the Peshwa in return for Poona’s throne.
Peshwa accepted Subsidiary Alliance.
Scindia and Bhosle tried to save Maratha’s independence.
They were defeated by Arthur Wellesley and signed the Subsidiary treaty.
Jaswant Rao Holkar was defeated in 1804.
Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1819)The Treaty of Bassein surrendered Maratha’s independence.
In 1817, Peshwa attacked British Residency at Poona.
It was the last bid to save Maratha’s kingdom. He rallied all Maratha chiefs against the British. They were defeated.
Treaty of Poona: with Peshwa
Treaty of Gwalior: Sindhias

Conquest of Sindh and Punjab

From 1818-1857 all territories except Punjab and Sindh came under British control. These both territories were conquered.

  • SINDH: Anglo-Russian rivalry and fear of conquest made the British sign treaties with the Chiefs of Sindh; Amirs.
    • Subsidiary Treaty signed in 1839 à Sindh annexed in 1843
  • PUNJAB: The British had a Treaty of Perpetual friendship with Ranjit Singh: Treaty of Amritsar (1809).
First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46)The Treaty of Lahore was signed after the Sikhs’ loss at war.
War indemnity of a crore –> Jalandhar Doab annexed –> resident under Henry Lawrence established in Lahore.
On failure of paying war indemnity, Kashmir was sold to Gulab Singh.
Treaty of Bhairowal: Rani Jindan was removed as Regent.
The council of 8 Sikh sardars was formed –> presided by British residents.
Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-49)Mulraj (Governor of Multan) revolted –> Sher Singh sent to suppress the revolt joined Mulraj.
This was the pretext for the annexation of Punjab by Lord Dalhousie.
Sher Shah lost. The Sikh army and Sher shah surrendered in 1849.
Punjab came under Chief Commander. John Lawrence became the first Chief Commander.

Relations of British India With Neighbouring Countries

Anglo-Bhutanese Relations

In 1816, the British occupied Assam from Bhutanese. There were frequent raids in adjoining territories and bad treatment was meted out to Elgin’s envoy in 1863-64. British were forced to surrender passes leading to Assam. In 1865 Bhutanese were forced to surrender.

Anglo-Nepal Relation

Gorkhas were in control of Nepal. In 1801, the British annexed Gorakhpur bringing the Gorkha and the British boundary closer. War started with the capture of Butwal and Sheoraj by the Gorkhas. It ended with the Treaty of Sagauli.

Anglo-Burma Relations

  • Vast resources of Burmese forest, a Market for British manufacture, and to contain the French expansion British fought three Anglo-Burmese wars.
  • First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26): It resulted in the annexation of Rangoon by the British. The Treaty of Yandabo was signed in 1826.
  • Second Anglo-Burmese war (1852): it was a result of the imperialistic policies of Lord Dalhousie. British wanted access to the Burmese market and timber resources. The British occupied Pegu (Lower Burma).
  • Third Anglo-Burmese war (1885): Close ties of Thibaw; Burmese king with British rivals; the French, Germans, and Italians, and the fine imposed on the British Timber Company led to the annexation of Upper Burma in 1885.

Anglo-Tibetan Relations

  • Reports of Russian arms and ammunition coming into Tibet alarmed Lord Curzon. He sent Gorkha contingent under colonel Young husband. The Lamas of Tibet offered nonviolent resistance to which the British responded by occupying Lhasa. The Treaty of Lhasa was signed in 1904.
  • Significance: Anglo- Russian Convention of 1907 provided that Russia and Britain would not negotiate on Tibet except through mediation with China, leading to only Chinese gain at the end of the war. It also resulted in counteracting Russia’s policies by Lord Curzon.

Anglo-Afghan Relations

  • To counter Russian plans to India, scientific frontiers of the North West served British interests. There was a need for a British-friendly ruler in Afghan.
  • First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42): It concluded with the British recognizing Dost Mohammad as the independent ruler of Afghanistan.
  • Second Anglo-Afghan War (1870-80): Lytton decided to invade Afghan from Sher Ali. After Sher Ali fled, the Treaty of Gandhamak was signed between Yakub Ali and the British. After Yakub Ali’s abdication, Abdur Rehman was appointed the new Amir. In the end, Lytton’s Plan of Dismemberment of Afghanistan couldn’t be carried out and Ripon decided to keep Afghan as a buffer state.

Forward policy of Auckland: It was to protect Indian boundaries from Russian attack either through treaty or annexing neighbouring countries. Tripartite Treaty with Sikh and Shah Shuja was signed by the British after Dost Mohammad of Afghan sided with Russia and Prussia.

Durand Line was drawn between Afghan and British territories. North West Frontier Province was later created under the Government of India. It was as a result of consensus between Tribal’s and the British. Curzon (1899-1905) followed policy of Withdrawal and Concentration.

Extension of British Paramountancy through Administrative Policy (1772-1869)

Ring Fence Policy by Warren Hastings (1773-85)Defending of one’s own territory by creating buffer zones outside other surrounding territory.
Awadh acted as a buffer zone against Afghan invasion and Maratha’s attack on the British territory of Bengal.
Subsidiary Alliance by Wellesley (1798-1805)Allying Indian states maintained British army at its frontier and paid for their maintenance.
Ruler had to post British official at their court.
Ruler couldn’t employ Europeans without British’s permission.
Couldn’t contact enemies for making peace.
Maintenance asked was high –> Ruler’s couldn’t pay –> asked to cede away part of their territory.
The Nizam of Hyderabad’ was the first victim of this policy. In AD 1798 it detached the Nizam from the French and also forbade having alliances with Maratha without British consent.
Second state was Mysore in AD 1799. Then Wellesley compelled the Nawab of Awadh to accept the Policy of Subsidiary Alliance in AD 1801.
Signed by: Nawab of Awadh, Nizam of Hyderabad, Ruler of Mysore, Ruler of Tanjore, Peshwa, Bhonsle of Berar, The Sindhias, The Rajput states, The ruler of Bharatpur, Holkars
Doctrine of Lapse/ Policy of
Annexation by Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856)
Policy was extended version of “Ring and Fence”.
Adopted son could be heir of ruler’s private property, but could not inherit the empire of the ruler. Such states were annexed by the British.
States Annexed: Satara (1848), Jaitpur (1849), Sambalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Udaipur (1852), Jhansi (1853), Nagpur (1854).
In 1824, before the time of Dalhousie, the princely state of Kittur was acquired by the East India Company by this doctrine.
It was as per this policy that Nana Sahib, the adopted son of the Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II was denied his titles and pension.
The final moment straw came when Awadh was annexed to the English East India Company under the terms of the Doctrine of Lapse on the grounds of internal
misrule on 7 February 1856 AD. This annexation was one of the reasons for the Revolt of 1857.
Lytton and policy of Proud Reserve (1876-1880)For maintaining scientific frontiers and safeguarding “spheres of influence.”
John Lawrence and Policy of Masterly inactivity (1864-1869)It was a reaction to the First Afghan war. Due to the frontier problems and Afghan’s passion for Independence. John Lawrence practiced no interference even in Successive Wars.
Conditions: Peace was maintained at the frontier + No party took foreign help in the Civil War.


Read More Articles on History or Art & Culture

Follow on Youtube Channel Score Better

Join Us on Telegram For More Update