(Sample Material) IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 1 - "Modern History (Part -3)"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Studies (Paper 1 - Indian Heritage and Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)

Topic: Modern History (Part -3)


After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire began to disinte­grate and various parts of the empire became independent under different heads. In the case of Bangal, Ali Vardi Khan made himself independent.’ He was possessed of a lot of resourcefulness, and uncommon ability. The Marathas gave him a lot of trouble but ultimately he made peace with them by handing over to them the province of Orissa. He also promised to pay a sum of Rs. 12 lakhs a year as Chauth. He maintained friendly relations with the Englishmen. However, he did not allow them to fortify their settlements. He continued to rule up to 1756.

After the death of Ali Vardi Khan, his grandson called Siraj-ud-Daula became the Nawab of Bengal. He was a young man of hardly 24. He was not only self-willed but also self-indulgent. Soon after “his succession to the throne, the young Nawab came into conflict with the English in Bengal. There were many causes for this rupture. In anticipation of the breaking out of the Seven Years’ War, the English in Bengal began to fortify their settlements. As they did so without the permission of the Nawab, the latter ordered them to demolish the same. However, the English refused to do so and this provided a ground of complaint to the ‘Jawab. Moreover, the English took up the cause of Shaukat Jang who ;as a rival of Siraj-ud-Daula. The English also gave shelter to a rich merchant of Bengal and refused to hand him over to the Nawab even when the latter made a demand to that effect. It was also found that the Englishmen were abusing the trade privileges which were given to them by the Government.

Black-hole: The result of all this was that Siraj-ud-Daula captured the English factory at Kasim Bazar and also took possession of the city of Calcutta. One hundred and forty-six persons including one wo­man were captured and shut up in a very small room at night. The heat was so great and the space was so small that 123 of them were suffocated to death. Only 23 survived and one of them was Holwell. This inci­dent is known as the Black-hole Tragedy.

There has been a lot of controversy as to whether the Black-hole tragedy was a reality or a myth. It is maintained by some historians that Ali Vardi Khan was a Turk, who had come to India and accepted service in Bengal in 1726. He was clever in the art of war and diplomacy. He was calculating in his manoeuvres. He soon rose to the position of a principal military officer of Bengal and secured for himself the Government of Bihar. He earned the good opinion of the Delhi Durbar by his work and was given the title of Mahabat Jung. He took advantage of the weak­ness of the Mughal Government and marched from Patna upon Murshida-bad. A battle was fought in 1740 in which Ali Vardi Khan was success­ful. Thus he became the Nawab of Bengal in 1740.

After taking posses­sion of the accumulated wealth at the Capital, fie paid two crores of rupees to the Mughal emperor and got from him the confirmation of his appointment the so-called Black-hole tragedy never took place. It is pointed out that it is physically impossible to shut up 146 persons in a room which is only 22 ft. long and 14ft. wide. Moreover, the contemporary Muslim accounts such as Seir Mutaqhrein and Riyas-us-Salatin do not mention this incident at all. It is pointed out that the story of the Black-hole tragedy was invented merely for the purpose of arousing the indignation of the Eng­lishmen in India and that purpose was amply served. Holwell is the only person who makes a mention of this tragedy and he is hardly reli­able. Probably, he did so for the purpose of getting promotion.

Whatever the truth, when the news of the Black-hole tragedy reached Madras, the Englishmen were indignant. At once Admiral Watson and Clive were sent to Bengal to have revenge for the Black-hole tragedy. They were able to capture Calcutta without much difficulty. Siraj-ud-Daula attacked Calcutta and there was an indecisive battle. However, peace was restored and (he Nawab restored the privileges of the English Company. The latter were also allowed to fortify Calcutta. As the Seven Years’ War had broken out, the English captured Chandranagar from the French.

Although outwardly Clive had made peace with Siraj-ud-Daula, he was determined to have revenge for the Black-hole tragedy. He hatched a conspiracy against the Nawab. Rai Durlab, the Treasurer of the Nawab, Mir Jafar, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nawab’s forces, and Jagat Seth, the richest banker of Bengal, were induced to revolt against the Nawab. The details of the conspiracy were settled through Amin Chand. It was decided that Clive was to march at once to Plassey. Mir Jafar was to desert the Nawab and join Clive with all the forces under his com­mand. The Nawab was to be deposed and Mir Jafar was to be put in his place.

However, when all the details were settled, Amin Chand threatened to divulge the whole conspiracy unless he was paid a sum of Rs. 30 lakhs. He also wanted that amount to be entered into the treaty. When Clive came to know of this demand, he made up his mind to deal with Amin Chand in the way he deserved. He got two copies of the treaty prepared. One was on white paper and the other was on red paper. In the treaty on the white paper there was no mention of the payment of Rs. 30 lakhs to Amin Chand. The treaty on the red paper provided for that amount. When Clive asked Admiral Watson to sign the false treaty, he refused. The result was that Clive himself forged the signatures of Watson on the false treaty. The action of Clive has been universally condemned but he defended it on the ground of expediency.

Battle of Plessey

When everything was ready, Clive wrote a letter to Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula complaining of the grievances of the Englishmen in Bengal. He marched towards Plassev at the head of his army. To begin with, the situation seemed to be ver*-. serious for Clive. He was advised not to fight. However, he made up ,his mind to give battle to the enemy. Hi* artillery created confusion in the ranks of the enemy!At this time, Mir Jafar joined Clive. As soon as this happened, the battle -was over. Clive got a cheap and decisive victory. Siraj-ud-Daula ran away to Murshidabad and from there to Patna. However, he was cap fured and put to death by Miran, the son of Mir Jafar, The result of the battle of Plassey was that Mir Jafar was put on the throne of Bengal. He gave 24 Parganas and one crore of rupees to the Company. He also gave presents to other English officers of the Company. The share of Clive was £334,000.

According to Admiral Watson, the battle of Plassey was of “extra­ordinary importance not only to the Company but to British nation in general.” The importance of the battle to the English has been described in these words by a contemporary: “Many of those who would have totally lost the fruits of long labour and various hardships, and who must have been beggars if subject to any other power, are again easy in their for* nines, and some of them have already  transported their effects to their native country; the proper return for the assistance they derived from her maternal affection; and as these events have distinguished the present age and present administration, so their effects will probably be felt in succeed­ing times. The Company, by an accession of territory, has an opportunity of making an ample settlement; which under proper management, may not only be extremely serviceable to her, but also to the nation; and having a revenue from these lands, the mint at Calcutta, and the lease of saltpetre at Patna, which amounts on the whole to one hundred thous­and pounds a year, there is a provision against future dangers upon the spot, and without further expense.”

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