British Conquest of Bengal
On the eve of the conquest of Bengal by the British
- Bengal, the richest province of the Mughal Empire, included present-day Bangladesh, and its Nawab ruled over what would later become the states of Bihar and Odisha.
- Bengal exported raw goods to Europe, including saltpetre, rice, indigo, pepper, sugar, silk, cotton textiles, and handicrafts. Bengali commodities accounted for about 60% of British imports from Asia, therefore the English East India Company had significant business interests there.
- At the 1630s, when they established factories in Balasore, Hooghly, Kasimbazar, Patna, and Dacca, the British kept frequent touch with Bengal.
The English commercial colony in Bengal came to an end with the foundation of Calcutta by an English business in the 1690s.
- In exchange for the freedom to trade in Bengal, the Company paid the Mughal emperor Rs 3,000 (£ 350) every year. Bengal exports, on the other hand, were valued more than £50,000 per year for the company.
- In 1700, Murshid Quli Khan was appointed Dewan of Bengal, and he reigned until 1727. His son-in-law Shujauddin succeeded him and ruled till 1739. Sarfaraz Khan, Murshid Quli Khan’s inept son, ruled for a year (1739-40) until being killed by Alivardi Khan.
- From 1756 to 1756, Alivardi Khan ruled, and at that time he stopped paying respect to the Mughal emperor. During the reigns of these emperors, Bengal experienced unprecedented expansion.
- Inter-border disputes, Maratha invasions, Jat revolts, and external invasions by Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali, which upset the rest of India, were all factors that led to Bengal’s prosperity.
- Bengal was fortunate enough to be spared these hardships. Calcutta’s population expanded from 15,000 in 1706 to 100,000 in 1750, while other cities like Dacca and Murshidabad grew at a similar rate.
- The English company’s special rights were loathed by almost all of Bengal’s governors, resulting in a huge loss to the province’s coffers. As a result, the conflict between English economic interests and the Bengal government became their principal point of disagreement.
- Between 1757 and 1765, the Nawabs gradually lost control of Bengal to the British, who eventually defeated the former.
- Alivardi Khan, the Deputy Governor of Bihar, assassinated the Nawab of Bengal, Sarfaraz Khan, in a struggle in 1741, and then paid a large sum of money to Muhammad Shah, the Mughal Emperor, to verify his own status as the new Subahdar of Bengal. For 15 years, Alivardi Khan ruled, conquering the Marathas in the process.
- The English took advantage of the Maratha attacks in Bengal as well, obtaining permission from the nawab to dig a ditch and build an entrenchment around their Fort William bastion.
- Alivardi Khan’s concerns were then directed to the Carnatic region, where European enterprises had taken complete control; once he realized this, he was pushed to oust the Europeans from Bengal. When he died in April 1756, his grandson, Siraj-ud-daula, the son of Alivardi’s youngest daughter, succeeded him.
Siraj-ud-Prior daula’s Challenges
Siraj, a young man in his twenties, inherited from his grandfather a number of issues. He had a hostile aunt, Ghasiti Begum, a childless widow; a rebellious army commander, Mir Jafar, Alivardi Khan’s sister’s husband; and a frightened (Hindu) subject people. Jagat Seth, Omichand, Rai Ballabh, Rai Durlabh, and others were part of a significant opposition faction in his court. The English company’s ever-increasing commercial efforts, according to these internal rivals, constituted a threat to Siraj’s position.
Siraj, who is impetuous by nature and lacks experience, was insecure, leading him to act in ineffective ways. In battle, he defeated and killed Shaukat Jang, robbed and secured Ghasiti Begum’s treasures, and deposed Mir Jafar, replacing him with Mir Madan. The general administrator was a Kashmiri officer named Mohan Lal, who purported to be the prime minister.