Maat - To know the history to create the future




From the Company to the English Crown


In 1690 the English of the Company of the Eastern India establish a base in Calcutta.

In 1858 the English Crown took the direct control of India.

The Empire of the Great Mogol, begun in 1526 with Baber, great-grandson of Tamberlain, had arrived at the end.

Locality: India

Age: From 1690 to 1858

The English arrive in India

On 5 june 1659, Aurangzeb, of the family of Mogol, was crowned emperor; he took the name of Alamgir, that is "owner of the world". He would die on 20 February 1707. Under his reign Europeans, in particular English and French ones, began the penetration in India.

In 1690 the English settled down in Calcutta, in Bengal. In 1700 over 1200 English lived there. At the beginning of 1700 Fort William was constructed.

The English begin to take part in the Indian matters

In 1749 the French, as a result of European vicissitudes, had to yield Madras to the English .

In 1750 the English became part in a vicissitude of local succession and in 1752 the Indians named nawab of Arcot Muhammad Ali.

Indians attack Fort William

In april 1756 Ali Vardi, the nawab of Bengal, died. Siraj, the successor, in summer 1756 attacked Fort William as the English had added fortifications without his permission. Roger Drake, the responsible for the Company, and the greatest part of the men of the garrison escaped on the ships. 160 soldiers, many women and children remained ashore. On 20 june the attack was delivered . At noon general Holwell had to surrender. In the night, 146 prisoners, comprised a woman and wounded people, were thrown in the prison of Fort William, a cell without air of 4 per 5.5 meters. In the morning only 23 of them were alive.

The reaction of the English

In January 1757 Fort William was reconquered by the English.

The Company formed an alliance with the Hindu bankers of Calcutta and particularly with Jagat Seth, the Rothschild of the place, who, displeased of the new nawab, supported Mir Ja'far, considered more malleable than Siraj.

On 23 june 1757 there was the battle of Plassey, between Calcutta and Murshidabad. With only 800 European soldiers and 2,000 sepoy, the army of the Company, guided by Clive, put the 50,000 men of Siraj to rout. Mir Ja'far became nawab of Bengal.

The Company controls Bengal

Clive obtained as a reward a personal patrimony of 234,000 pounds, was named mansabdar of 6,000 men with one annual wage of 30,000 pounds, equivalent to the revenue of 24 pargan (regions) of Bengal.

In 1760 the Company replaced Mir Ja'far with Mir Kasim. As a reward the Company obtained that approximately half million of silver pounds were transferred every year from Bengal to the British ships.

The Company controls Bengal, the Bihar and the Orissa

In 1763 the Company replaced Mir Kasim, who wanted to control the merchants, with the weaker Mir Ja'far, who was in office until his death in 1765.

Mir Kasim ordered that all the English resident at Patna were killed, then he escaped to Luckow and asked help to Shuja-to-Dulah, nawab of the Audh, and to his royal host, the Mogol emperor Shah 'Alam.

On 22 October 1764 at Buxar (Bakshar), between Banaras and Patna, the major Munro with exiguous troops beat the army of the mogol coalition.

With an edict of 12 August 1765 Shah 'Alam had to allow to the Company the collection of the Bengal, Bihar and Orissa taxes, as the Company had become divan of the emperor for those territories. In exchange for this the Company paid to the emperor 260,000 pounds a year for the maintenance of the court of Allahabad. The administration of the territories remained formally in the hands of the nawab, who however had no more funds with which to manage expenses.

At the end of 1769 the monsoonal rains did not fall, in 1770 Bengal found itself lacking completely alimentary supplies and at least a third of the population died of starvation. The English merchants made incredible transactions speculating on the hunger of poor people.

The Company determined later on to halve the wage of the nawab and not to pay the annual tribute to the mogol emperor. On the other hand the Company introduced more effective systems of collecting taxes.

Military activities

In 1774 the Company sent English soldiers to help the nawab-wazir of Audh, Shuja-to-Daulah, in his fight against the Rohilla afghans.

In 1775 according to the Treaty of Surat, the English promised to the unthroned peshwa Raghunathrao 2,500 armed men, of which 700 Europeans, in change of gold and riches necessary in order to maintain them and of the perpetual cession of a certain number of islands near Bombay.

In 1780 the Company sent an army in order to help Madras and fought against Haidar 'Ali who had attacked Fort St. George.

Discrimination of the Indians

In 1790 the Company established that:

- no sepoy would never become official

- no civil employee with wage superior to 500 pounds would have been Indian.

Fiscal reform

In 1793 the Company reached an agreement with the zamindar that is the mogol tax-collectors of Bengal, for having a certain minimal yield: 3,750,000 pounds a year. The zamindar from concessionaires of the emperor, without right to sell lands assigned to them, were transformed in land owners.

But as soon as the zamindar, for some harvest gone badly or some other economic difficulty, were not in a position to pay the established tax, bankers and usurers of Calcutta hastened in order to take control of the lands. In this way the old mogol aristocracy was in part replaced by Hindu families: the Roy, the Sen, the Tagore. These families remained tied to the British regimen and in 1857-58 they manifested their fidelity to the new master.

Conquest of the Malabar

In 1792 the Company made war to the sultan Tipu who yielded large part of the coast of the Malabar.

Legislatives measures

The Company abolished the courts presided by Indian judges and at their place put courts presided by English people.

The magistrates had also police functions for certain types of crime. But in 1817 justice had again a separate body.

The district civil employees had to be English.

The assistants and the executive staff could be Indian.

It was established the monopoly on salt, which became one of the main sources of income of the Company.

A monopoly was established also for the opium, sent to China in exchange for silk and tea.

The Company reserved the right to impose taxes and prices.


In 1798 the general governor lord Richard Colley arrived to India, with his younger brother Arthur, the future duke of Wellington, winner of Napoleone.

On 4 May 1799 the sultan Tipu fell before the English army when his capital Seringapatam was attacked. Half of the Mysore and Madras were taken by the Company and were joined to the western coast. Other territories were given to Indian allied.

A short time later the nizam of Hyderabad yielded the Berar, the nawab-wazir of the Audh had to dismiss his army beyond yielding the Doab and the Rohilkhand. Surat and Tanjore were absorbed.

On 31 December 1802, with the treaty of Bassein, the peshwa Baji Rao II, after his defeat, became allied of the Company.

In 1812 Baji Rao II began to make resistance, then he was put on a ship and sent to Bithur, a castle in proximity of Kanhpur (Cawnpore).

The lands of hostile noble (sardar) were seized. But many jargirdar succeeded to maintain their lands declaring fidelity to the English.


Between 1813 and 1833 the English opened the doors of India to the imports from the motherland. The cotton fabrics machine-made in England supplanted completely the local production. Millions of women and men remained without job.

Also in the agricultural world the industrial revolution carried serious changes. The situation of the peasants became precarious. India was no more self-sufficient and had to import from foreign countries also foodstuffs.

Modifications to the canalization system quadruplicated swampy areas and the fields, up to then fertile, became sterile due to drought.

In 1832 Persian stopped to be the official language of the legislation and of the courts. English became the language of the administration.

In 1835 the effigy of the English monarch appeared over the rupees.

Between 1828 and 1833 17 palaces of Agra were taken apart and sent to England for being put to the auction. The English arrived even to place scaffoldings around the Taj Mahal.

Conquest of the Sind

In 1843 Napier started a military campaign against the amir of the Sind. On 17 February 1843 5,000 men of the Sind were massacred. The English lost 256 soldiers.

Conquest of the Punjab

In 1844 Ranjit Singh, maharaja of the reign of the sikh of the Punjab, died. The succession was suffered and in December 1845 the army of the Company attacked. On 9 March 1846 it was signed a treaty with which all the lands comprised between the rivers Beas and Satlej, beyond the Kashmir, were delivered to the English. In 1849 hostility resumed and on 30 March the entire Punjab was put under British administration.

Principle of extinction

After 1849 the Company proceeded to integration of still independent territories resorting to the spurious legal principle of the extinction: the expression "heirs and successors" in all deals had to be considered reported only to natural heirs, not to the adopted ones. In 1854 the state of Nagpur with 4 million inhabitants was in this way annexed by the English.

Cartridges of cow and pig

In 1857 the use of animal fat in the cartridges provoked the rage in Hindu soldiers, who thought tath cartridges had been made with the meat of cow, and in the muslim soldiers, who thought it was of pig. In fact the tip of the cartridges had to be torn with the teeth and no soldier wanted to violate the alimentary prohibition of their own religion.

The great revolt

On Saturdays 9 May 1857 the rebellion at Meerut was set off, just for the problem of cartridges. On Sunday the rebellious troops headed towards Delhi. On 11 May the city fell in the hands of the rebellious ones and Bahadur Shah II, however reluctant, was reintegrated in the imperial Glory of Great Mogol.

The English present at Delhi were killed. On 16 May prince Mirza decapitated English women and children. A horrid ride was organized in the evening with the heads of the victims on nozzles.

On 19 May the imam declared solemnly the Saint war against the infidels. The Hndu protested. The imam specified that for infidel it was meant "English". In order to calm the Hindu it was also forbidden the use of beef meat to every people, comprised the Muslims.

The rebellion exploded in other zones. At the beginning of june general Wheleer did not succeed to defend 400 persons, comprised women and children, in the intrenched field of Cawpore. He surrendered after 18 days with the agreement of a safe-conduct. But, as soon as people had gone on the boats, the Indian troops began to shoot. Only 4 were saved.

On 6 september the English besieged Delhi. The evening of 14 it happened the assault and began the slaughter, that lasted until 20. Approximately 120,000 Indians were killed, of which at least 100,000 civilians.

Three sons of the Great Mogol introduced themselves at the doors of Delhi in order to pray captain Hodson to interrupt the slaughter. The captain extracted the gun and killed them.

On the evening of 18 December by torches ligth captain Hodson proceeded to the arrest of the Great Mogol. Bahadur Shah II was exiled in Birmania.

The rebellion continued until 8 July 1858.

On 2 August 1858 the British government approved the Government of India Act with which all the rights enjoyed by the Company were transferred to the Crown.

Between 1857 and 1858 the English had made more dead men than Tamberlain and of all the emperors of Delhi put together.


Bibliographical references:

Wolpert S.

Storia dell'India


Noja S.

Storia dei popoli dell'Islam - L'Islam moderno


Noja S.

Storia dei popoli dell'islam - L'Islam dell'immobilismo (1258-1798)


Treveljan G.M.

Storia d'Inghilterra