The Battle of Plassey was a decisive victory of the British East India Company over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies on 23 June 1757. The battle consolidated the Company’s presence in Bengal, which later expanded to cover much of India over the next hundred years.
The battle took place at Palashi (Plassey) on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, about 150 kilometres north of Calcutta and south of Murshidabad, the capital of Bengal . The belligerents were the Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the British East India Company. Siraj-ud-daulah had become the Nawab of Bengal the year before, and he ordered the English to stop the extension of their fortification. Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, the commander in chief of the nawab’s army, and also promised him to make him Nawab of Bengal. He defeated the Nawab at Plassey in 1757 and captured Calcutta.
The battle was preceded by the attack on British-controlled Calcutta by Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah and the Black Hole massacre. The British sent reinforcements under Colonel Robert Clive and Admiral Charles Watson from Madras to Bengal and recaptured Calcutta. Clive then seized the initiative to capture the French fort of Chandernagar. Tensions and suspicions between Siraj-ud-daulah and the British culminated in the Battle of Plassey. The battle was waged during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), and, in a mirror of their European rivalry, the French East India Company sent a small contingent to fight against the British. Siraj-ud-Daulah had a numerically superior force and made his stand at Plassey. The British, worried about being outnumbered, formed a conspiracy with Siraj-ud-Daulah’s demoted army chief Mir Jafar, along with others such as Yar Lutuf Khan, Jagat Seths (Mahtab Chand and Swarup Chand), Omychund and Rai Durlabh. Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh and Yar Lutuf Khan thus assembled their troops near the battlefield but made no move to actually join the battle. Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army with 18,000 soldiers was defeated by 3,000 soldiers of Col. Robert Clive, owing to the flight of Siraj-ud-daulah from the battlefield and the inactivity of the conspirators. The battle was ended in 40 minutes.
This is judged to be one of the pivotal battles in the control of Indian subcontinent by the colonial powers. The British now wielded enormous influence over the Nawab and consequently acquired large amounts of concession for previous losses and revenue from trade. The British further used this revenue to increase their military might and push the other European colonial powers such as the Dutch and the French out of South Asia, thus expanding the British Empire in Asia.
|Date||23 June 1757|
|Location||Palashi, Bengal Subah
|Result||Decisive victory for the British East India Company|
|Bengal annexed by the East India Company|
As a result of the battle of Plassey, the French were no longer a significant force in Bengal. In 1759, the British defeated a larger French garrison at Masulipatam, securing the Northern Circars. By 1759, Mir Jafar felt that his position as a subordinate to the British could not be tolerated. He started encouraging the Dutch to advance against the British and eject them from Bengal. In late 1759, the Dutch sent seven large ships and 1400 men from Java to Bengal under the pretext of reinforcing their Bengal settlement of Chinsurah even though Britain and Holland were not officially at war. Clive, however, initiated immediate offensive operations by land and sea and defeated the much larger Dutch force on 25 November 1759 in the Battle of Chinsurah. The British then deposed Mir Jafar and installed Mir Qasim as the Nawab of Bengal. The British were now the paramount European power in Bengal. When Clive returned to England due to ill-health, he was rewarded with an Irish peerage, as Lord Clive, Baron of Plassey and also obtained a seat in the British House of Commons.
The struggle continued in areas of the Deccan and Hyderabad such as Arcot, Wandiwash, Tanjore and Cuddalore, culminating in 1761 when Col. Eyre Coote defeated a French garrison under de Lally, supported by Hyder Ali at Pondicherry. The French were returned Pondicherry in 1763 by way of the Treaty of Paris but they never again regained their former stature in India. The British would, in effect, emerge as rulers of the subcontinent in subsequent years.
The Battle of Plassey and the resultant victory of the British East India company led to puppet governments instituted by them in various states of India. This led to an unleashing of excesses, malpractices and atrocities by the British East India Company in the name of tax collection.
This led to large scale detrimental impact on the economy of India (the Indian subcontinent). Research by Simmons (1985) and Harvard Scholars Clingingsmith and Williamson concluded that India’s share of world manufacturing output fell from 24.5% in 1750 to a paltry 2.8% in 1880, 1.4% in 1913 and a 2.4% in 1938, based on earlier findings by Simmons (1985).