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Significance of Plassey

The significance of Plassey is mainly commercial rivalry between the British and Bengal nawabs which largely decided the course of events...

Significance of Plassey: It was mainly commercial rivalry between the British and Bengal nawabs which largely decided the course of events in the 1750s rather than the personal failure of any nawab. However, the generation in the administration that started in the 18th century cannot be ignored in how it contributed to the final collapse of independent Bengal polity.

Murshid Quli Khan was the last governor of Bengal to have been appointed by the Mughal Emperor. ever, it was during the time of Alivardi Khan (1740-1756), that the regular flow of revenue to Delhi was stopped, even though there was no formal defiance of Mughal authority.

It was Alivardi who drew lessons from how European companies had usurped all power in the Carnatic and was convinced to expel the companies from Bengal.

As stated above, the stability of the regional polity of Bengal depended on the maintenance of the balance between the various interest groups on which it thrived. This balance got the most disturbed at the time of the succession of Siraj. When Alivardi Khan died in 1756, Siraj-ud-Daulah was nominated successor of Bengal. His succession was opposed by his aunt Ghasiti Begum and his Shaukat Jung. There was also a group of dominant landed and military aristocracy that opposed Nawab.

Siraj’s reorganization of the civilian and military organizations by replacing the old offices gave ground to their apprehensions that they may lose their special privileges of previous times. There was also a dominant group of zamindars and commercial people in the court, at Seth, Umi Chand, and Rai Durlabh, who felt threatened by an ambitious young nawab. They were the custodian of the Nawab’s treasury and had significant control over administration.

These internal dissensions and factionalism in the court of Siraj got accentuated by the strained relations between the Nawab and the English EIC over the following issues:
  • The fortification around Calcutta by the EIC without the permission of the Nawab
  • The misuse of the company’s dastak by its officials for their private trade
  • Company’s suspicion that Siraj might cut down the privileges of the company in alliance with the French in Bengal

When the company tried to help one of Siraj’s rivals become the nawab, an infuriated Siraj asked it to stop meddling in the political affairs of Bengal and stop fortification.

After the failure of negotiations, he marched with 30000 soldiers to the English factory at Kasim Bazaar, captured the company officials, and blockaded English ships.

He then marched to Calcutta to establish control over the company’s fort there. On hearing the news of the fall of Calcutta, the company administration in Madras sent forces under Robert Clive, reinforced by naval fleets.

Finally, after severe rounds of negotiations, Clive led the company’s army against Siraj at Plassey. However, the secret alliance of the company with the conspirators of Nawab’s camp ensured that English victory on the battlefield was decided even before the battle was fought.

Also read: The British conquest of India

What was the Significance of Plassey?

There are two aspects that every student must try to examine after discussion in class and try to find out an answer.

First, was Plassey indeed a revolution?

What did it change for the British East India Company and Indian rulers?

Did it seal the fate of India?

There is a view that Plassey did not complete the British conquest of India. Had the English been convincingly defeated in any of the subsequent battles in India, then Plassey would have remained a minor episode in the history of India.  This needs to be explore.

Second, how in the hundred years after Plassey?

The East India Company, with an army of 260,000 men at the start of the nineteenth century. The backing of the British government and Parliament (many of whose members were shareholders in the enterprise), extended its control over most of India is the next theme to be explored.

And this brings us to the most controversial question.

Was the growth of the empire in India a plan and directed by Britain?

Or was it simply  the initiative of the company officials operating in India?

The role of the Battle of Plassey in the conquest of India by the British has been debated by various sections of historians.

G. B. Malleson, for instance writes,

“There never was a battle in which consequences were so vast, so immediate and so permanent.”

There are views which go as far as considering Plassey to be the beginning of ‘modern India’.

Being well aware now of the problems  with respect to periodisation in history, it is important to objectively examine what Plassey did  change for the British and for India, and what it did not.

Also Read:- Significance of Weathering

Significance of Plassey

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