Updated December 20, 2022
An empire is a group of countries ruled over by a single monarch or ruling power. An empire doesn’t need an ’emperor’. The British Empire comprised of Britain, the mother country, and various colonies countries ruled to some degree by and from Britain. Colonizing the different countries was the foundation of the expansion of British power.
In the 16th century, Britain began to establish overseas colonies. By 1783, Britain had built a large empire with colonies in America and the West Indies. The Expansion of British power started during the early 17th century, with the English settlement of North America and the smaller islands of the Caribbean, and the establishment of joint-stock companies, most notably the East India Company, to administer colonies and overseas trade.
The prosperity of Bengal province attracted many European Companies including the English East India Company. In 1717, the English East India Company obtained Farman from the Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar. This Farman granted the English East India Company freedom to export and import their goods in Bengal without paying taxes. And from here the expansion of British power started in India.
Expansion of British Power through Different Province of India
Different import events took place during the expansion of British power but today we will take look over it in the context of Bengal, Mysore, and Punjab.
Expansion through the province of Bengal
In 1917, Mughal emperor Farukh Siyar appointed Murshid Quli Khan (1717-27) as Bengal’s governor (Subedar). He was also granted a Governorship of Orissa in 1979 by Farukh Siyar. The capital of Bengal was Dacca which he transferred to Murshidabad. Shujauddin, the son-in-law of Murshid Quli Khan was granted the Governorship of Bihar by Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ in 1733. In 1739, he was succeeded by his son Sarfaraj Khan (1739-40) and after the period of one year, Alivardi Khan, the deputy governor of Bihar murdered him. and, after paying 2 crores, Alivrdi Khan legalized his usurpation by receiving a Farman from Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah ‘Rangeela’. He was the key force in preventing the French and the English from fortifying their factories at Chandranagore and Calcutta respectively.
Sirajuddaula (1756-57), the grandson of Alivardi Khan and the last nawab of Bengal came into the throne in 1756. After becoming the Nawab, he seized the English Factory at Kasimbazar. Fort William surrendered against Sirajuddaulah on 20th June 1756 but later Robert Clive recovered Calcutta. On the 2nd of Jan. 1757, the Treaty of Alinagar was signed, whereby Siraj conceded practically all the demands. British then captured Chandranagore, the French settlement, in March 1757. On 23rd June 1757, the Battle of Plassey was fought where Sirajuddaulah lost the battle due to the conspiracy weaved against him. Nobels like Mir Jafar, Manikchand, Amichand, Jagat Seth, Khandim Khan betrayed the Nawab in the battle.
Syed Mir Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur (1757-60) was a military general who betrayed Sirajuddaulah in the battle of Plassey. He succeeded Sirajuddalah in 1756 and became the first dependent Nawab of Bengal of the British East India Company. His reign has been considered to be the beginning of the expansion of British power in Indian history and a key step in the eventual British domination of vast areas of the Indian subcontinent.
Mir Qasim became the Nawab of Bengal from 1760 to 1763 with the support of the British East India Company, replacing Mir Jafar, his father-in-law, who had himself been supported earlier by the East India Company after his role in the Battle of Plassey. But soon he revolted as he was angry with the misuse of dastak (free duty passes). He formed a confederacy with Awadh ruler Shujauddaula and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II after been defeated by the British. They together fought the Battle of Buxar in 1764 and again been defeated by Munro. Mir Jaffar gained the throne with the help of the British.
After the death of Mir Jafar, his son Nazmudduala was placed on the throne and signed a treaty on 20th Feb 1765 by which the Nawab was to disband most of his army and to administer Bengal through a Deputy Subedar nominated by the company. On 12 August 1765, the Treaty of Allahabad was signed between the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, son of the late Emperor Alamgir II, and Robert Clive, of the East India Company, in the aftermath of the Battle of Buxar of 22 October 1764.
In 1965 Dual government was started by Robert Clive. It a type of government in which, the British were in charge of collecting revenue meanwhile the Nawabs were in charge of law and order. It was a very unsatisfactory way of governing as neither the British nor the nawabs had the complete responsibility. Warren Hastings ended the dual system of government in 1972.
Expansion of British Power through Mysore
Hyder Ali was the Sultan and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India. He began his career as s soldier in the service of the Mysore state, later he became Faujdar of Dindigul and established a modern arsenal here. He overthrew the Nanjarajar, Prime Minister of Wadeyar King Krishnaraja I, and usurped power, through continuing to recognize Krishnaraja I as the lawful ruler. Haider Ali defeated the British in First Anglo-Mysore War fought between 1766 to 1769 and the Treaty of Madras was signed in 1769. The second Anglo Mysore war was fought between 1780-1784 because warren Hasting attacked French Port Mahe, which was in Haider Ali’s territory. He led a joint front with Nizam and Maratha and captured Arcot. In 1781, Haider Ali lost the battle and died during the Second Anglo Mysore War.
In 1782, Tipu Sultan succeeded his father, Haider Ali, and continued the Second Anglo Mysore War till 1784. The second Anglo Mysore War ended in 1784 with the Treaty of Mangalore was signed by Tipu sultan. The Third Anglo–Mysore War was fought during 1790–1792, it was a conflict in South India between the Kingdom of Mysore and the East India Company and its allies, including the Nairs of Travancore, the Maratha Empire, and the Nizam of Hyderabad. In the war, Cornwallis captured Banglore with help of Maratha and Nizam. The war came to end after the Treaty of seringapatnam was signed, where Tipu ceded half of his territory. Tipu Sultan died during the Fourth Anglo Mysore war in 1799. He was the only ruler who understood the importance of economic strength as the foundation of military power. To develop foreign trade, he established the embassies to France, Turkey, Iran, and Pegu and also planted a ‘Tree of Liberty’ at his capital Seringapatnam and became a member of the Jacobian Club.
Expansion of British Power through Punjab
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, poet, philosopher, and warrior. When Guru Tegh Bahadur, father of Guru Gobind Singh, was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, Guru Gobind Singh was formally installed as the leader of the Sikhs at age nine, becoming the tenth Sikh Guru. He transformed the religious sect into a military brotherhood. In the fear of an invasion of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, the Sikhs increased their military strength and became strong power.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1792-1839) was the greatest ruler of his time and founder of the Sikh rule in Punjab. He was born in 1780 at Gujranwala. He conquered Lahore, Amritsar, Ludhiana Kangra, Attock, Multan, Kashmir, Hajara, Bannu, Derajat, and Peshawar. He died in 1839. Kharak Singh, Naunihal Singh, Sher Singh, and Dalip Singh were the successor of Ranjit Singh. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh power didn’t remain the same as earlier. The British power broke the Sikh power after the death of Ranjit Singh. The Sikhs fought many battles like the First Anglo Sikh War (1845-46) and Second Anglo Sikh War but they only taste defeat.
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