(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "Advent of the Europeans & ascendance of the British"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: Advent of the Europeans & ascendance of the British


Discovery of the New Sea Route

The Cape route was discovered from Europe to India by Vasco da Gama. He reached the port of Calicut on the May 17. 1498, and was received by the Hindu ruler of Calicut (known by the title of Zamorin). This led to the establishment of trading stations at Calicut, Cochin and Cannanore. Cochin was the early capital of the Portuguese in India. Utter Goa replaced it.

Alfonso d’ Albuquerque arrived in India in 1503 as the governor of the Portuguese in India in 1509 (The first governor being Francisco de Almeida between 1505-09). He captured Goa from the ruler of Bijapur in 1510.

Nino da Cunha(1529-38)— transferred his capital from Cochin to Goa (1530) and acquired Diu and Bassein (1534) from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat

Martin Alfonso de Souza(1542-45) —the famous Jesuit saint Franrisco Xavier arrive in India with him


Formation of the Company in March, 1602, by a charter of the Dutch parliament the Dutch East India Company was formed with powers to make wars, conclude treaties, acquire territories and build for tresses. The Dutch set up factories at Masulipatam (1605), Pulicat (1610), Surat (1616), Bimilipatam( 1641), Karikal( 1645), Chinsura (1653). Kasim bazaar, Baranagore, Patna, Balasore, Negapatam (all in 1658) and Cochin (1663).The Dutch replaced the the Portuguese as the most dominant power in European trade with the East, including India. Pulicat was their main centre in India till 1690, after which Negapatam replaced it. The Dutch conceded to English after their defeat in the battle of Bedera in 1759.


The Danes formed an East India Company and arrived in India in 1616. They established settlements at Tranquebar (in Tamil Nadu) in 1620 and at Serampore (Bengal) in 1676. Serampore was their headquarters in India. They were forced to sell all their settlements in India to the British in 1854


The French East India Company was formed by Colbert understate patronage in 1664. The first French factory was established at Surat by Francois Caron in I66H. A factory at Masulipatam was set up in 1669. The French power in India was revived tinder Lenoir and Dumas (governors) between 1720 and 1742. They occupied Mahe in the Malabar, Yanam in Coromandal and Karikal in Tamil Nadu (1739). The arrival of Dupleix as French governor in India in 1742 saw the beginning of Anglo- French conflict (Carnatic wars) resulting in their final defeat in India


Before the East India Company established trade in the India. John Mildenhall a merchant adventurer, was the first Englishman who arrived in India in 1599 by the over land route, ostensibly for the purpose of trade with Indian merchants, popularly known as the ‘English East India Company’. it was formed by a group of merchants known as the “Merchant Adventures’ in 1599. Following the decision of the East India Company to open a factory at Surat (1608), Captain Hawkins arrived at Jahangir’s court (1609) to seek permission. An order letter was issued by Jahangir permitting the English to build a factory at Surat (1613). Sir Thomas Roe came to India as ambassador of James I to Jahangir’s court in 1615 to obtain the permission to trade and erect factories in different parts of the empire.

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Establishment of Factories

The East India Company acquired Bombay from Charles II on lease. Gerald Aungier was its first governor from 1669 to 1677. The first factory was built at Surat in (1605). Later, Surat was replaced by Bombay as the headquarters of the Company on the west coast in 1687. In 1639 Francis Day obtained the site of Madras from the Raja of Chandragiri with permission to build a fortified factory, which was named Fort St. George. Madras soon replaced Masulipatam as the headquarters of the English on the Coromandal coast.

In 1690 Job Charnock established a factory at Sutanuti and the Zamindari of the three villages of Sutanuti, Kalikata and Govindpur was acquired by the British (1698). These villages later grew into the city of Calcutta. The factory at Sutanuti was fortified in 1696 and this new fortified settlement was named fort William in 1700. In 1694, the British Parliament passed a resolution giving equal rights to all Englishmen to trade in the East. A new rival company, known as the ‘English Company of Merchants Trading to the East Indies’ (1698) was formed The final amalgamation of the company came in I 708 under the title of ’The United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies’. This new company continued its existence till 1858.

Beginning of Political Domination of British

In 1757, on account of the English ­hatched political conspiracy leading to the so-called battle of Plassey, where Robert Clive practically affected a wholesale defection of the forces of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daula, the East India Company found itself transformed from an association of traders to rulers exercising political sovereignty over a largely unknown land and people. Within a decade, the Company not only won the hard-fought battle of Buxar against the deposed Mir Qasim of Bengal and his allies in 1764 but also acquired the Diwani, or the right to collect revenues on behalf of the Mughal Emperor, in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa in 1765.

British rule was sought to be justified, in part, by the claims that the Indians required to be civilized, and that British rule would introduce in place of Oriental despotism and anarchy a reliable system of justice, the rule of law, and the notion of ‘fair play’. Bengal, which was originally a Mughal province, had emerged as an autonomous state in the 18th century. Siraj-ud-Daula, the then Bengal Nawab, seeing the hostile activities of the British, was apprehensive of the fate of Bengal and decided to take action against them. This resulted in a series of events culminating in the so-called Battle of Plassey, which made the British the ‘King-maker’ in Bengal.

The subsequent activities of the British there led to final showdown in the form of the Battle of Buxar, which proved to be a turning point, making the British real masters of Bengal, though formal authority still remained with the Nawab. From the early 18th century onwards, the English and French Companies were increasingly involved in Indian affairs. The Anglo-French trade rivalry and their subsequent attempt to interfere in the politics of India culminated in the three Carnatic Wars. By the end of the Third Carnatic War, the French were no longer a threat to the British; who now became strong contenders in South Indian politics.

Ascendance of the British

By 1765, the British had not only become the virtual rulers of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa but also begun to dictate terms to the Nawabs of both Carnatic and Awadh. In South India, the Company perceived the Mysore rulers Haider Ali (1761-82) and his son Tipu Sultan (1782-99) as threats to its position in Madras and in the Carnatic. The Company’s annexations following its final military victory over Mysore state in 1799, however, led to direct confrontations with the Marathas in a series of wars with the various Maratha rulers (Second and Third Maratha Wars, 1803-05, 1817-18). The Company’s territorial acquisitions under Wellesley resulting from the Fourth Mysore War (1799), the cession of the Ganga-Yamuna doab from Awadh (1801), and the consequences of the Maratha wars (1803-05) totaled over 135,000 square miles, an area the size of reunited Germany.

Despite general restrictions from London on wars by the Company, officials in India made a case before the British public and Parliament advocating hostilities with Mysore in order to secure the safety of the Company’s trade at Madras. The image of French resurgence in India (as ally to Mysore or Hyderabad) added force to the bellicose voices in the Company and England. In all, the Company fought four wars against Mysore (1767-69, 1780-84, 1790-92 and 1799). The last two of these wars ended with the Company annexing considerable territories from Mysore in peninsular India. Much hostile exchange and inconclusive fighting had taken place earlier (First Maratha War, 1775-82) between Bombay and various Maratha rulers. At best, Bombay had only reached a point of uneasy, temporary balance with these states. Hastings’ official policy became ‘paramountcy’: the Company’s authority as paramount power superseded that of the Indian rulers. As paramount power, the Company considered itself justified in annexing or threatening to annex any Indian state, whenever conditions in that state `violated’ British sensibilities.

As the Company sought a stable frontier in the northeast and Bay of Bengal eastern littoral, Lord Amherst (1823-28) supervised the Company’s First Burma War (1824-28). This resulted in extensive annexations in the northeast (most notably Assam and Nagaland) and Burma (Arakan and Tenassarim). Imperial Russia’s expansion across Asia during this period evoked British fears for the safety of the Company’s rule in India.

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