Some countries of Europe had strong naval power. They aimed at expanding trade and commerce. The eastern countries of the world like India were their target. For this purpose, ‘The British East India Company was established in England in 1600 A.D.
This company established a commercial base at Hoogley in 1651 and Kashimbazar in 1658. ‘The Dutch East India Company’ also entered Bengal in 1630, but could not survive in the face of competition with ‘The British East India Company and so ‘The Dutch Company’ left India after some years and proceeded towards Indonesia-Malaysia. The French also arrived in Bengal in 1664 and established ‘The French East India Company.’ This company made a strong base at Chandan Nagar and Chuchura.
The French were also defeated three times by the British Company and left India ending their 100-year old trade and proceeding towards Indo-China.
‘The British East India Company’ started to strengthen their hold gradually and at one time they started to influence the administration of the Nawab. Nawab Alibardee Khan died in 1756. After his death, there arose a dispute about the heir to the throne among the members of the Nawab family and the aristocrats of the court.
The officers of the British East India Company took advantage of the dispute. The British traders joined the conspirators against the young Nawab. Prominent among these conspirators were Ghosety Begum, Mir Jafar, Mir Kashim, and some members of the rich elite like Umichand, Jagat Sheth, and Raj Ballav.
Watson and Clive, two British commanders made most of the internal conflicts. They brought soldiers from Madras and occupied Kolkata. After this, Clive wanted to occupy the Nawab’s capital at Murshidabad and with this purpose faced the Nawab’s army in a mango orchard at Murshidabad.
The Nawab’s old commander Mir Jafar betrayed the Nawab in the battle of Plassey held on 23rd June 1757. Thus the Nawab of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa was defeated in the battle.
The Nawab was brutally killed. Though Mir Jafar was made Nawab after this, the real power was exercised by the cunning and daring British Commander Robert Clive. At last, Clive officially got the ‘Dewani’ meaning the ownership of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa from the emperor of Delhi in 1765 A.D.
The task of collecting revenue went to the hands of the English after they had got the ‘Dewani’ of this area. The English also had control over the administration. Clive continued dual administration in Bengal for some period. Dual administration (diarchy) was a peculiar system.
In this system, revenue collection, military control, and running the administration were in the hands of the British. The Nawab was an administrator only by name. As a result, the Nawab got powerless responsibility and the Company got power without duty.
The Diarchy was an extreme curse for the people of this country. The English, after getting the authority of collecting revenue, increased the amount of tax on the subjects and they gave maximum pressure to collect additional tax. Apart from this, the country faced a great famine due to drought for 3 years.
This famine is known in history as the “Chhiyattorer Monontar” meaning the famine of Bengalee year 1176. Million people died in this famine. This amount was one-third of the total population of the then Bengal.
The prominent governors of ‘East India Company’ at the initial stage were: Lord Wellesley, Warren Hasting, Lord Kornwalish, Lord William Bentinck, Lord Hardinge, and Lord Dalhousie.
They adopted different plans to make English rule permanent in India. Though they worked to exploit the people, even then the countrymen were benefited from some of their work e.g. railways, steamer, postal, and telecommunications. The major works of the English rulers are given below:
- Land and revenue management was given to the British Governor-General according to the Indian administration law passed by the British parliament in 1786.
- A class of Zamindars was created by implementing ‘Permanent Settle meant in 1793 and those Zamindars always remained loyal to the British.
- British authority in the control of administration was ensured.
- Administrative offices, educational and commercial institutions were shifted to Kolkata from Murshidabad. This shift made Kolkata an important city. Later, Kolkata was made the capital of Bengal officially.
But English governors like Lord William Bentinck and Lord Hardinge indeed took steps to expand education, stop early marriage, and introduce widow marriage. They also introduced the practice of modern science.
Besides, they co-operated with Bengalees like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in their attempts to eradicate some social superstitions including ‘Sateedah’ which means that widow will also be burnt with her dead husband.
Thus, a new educated civil society emerged in the country, but the greater Bengalee community was oppressed by British rule.
The British East India Company did not stop even after getting control of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa. The Mughal Empire faced a crisis after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb. Some Nawabs and local kings started to contest the power of the Mughal Empire. Thus, the throne of Delhi became weaker consequently. Company army officers tried to expand their control in different fields.
A mutiny spread among sepoys in different barracks of British controlled reign in 1857. Sepoy Mongol Pandey and havildar Rajab Ali led this mutiny in Bengal. The rulers of different areas of India who wanted freedom joined their hands with the sepoys in this mutiny.
Some of these groups are Queen Lakshmibai of Jansey and Tatiya Tupee of Maharashtra. Delhi-monarch Bahadur Shah Jafar also supported the sepoys. But the English could control this mutiny as they had sophisticated weapon-skilled soldiers. Their tricks and barbarism also helped them to this effect. After this incident, the Indian Rule Act was passed in the British Parliament on 2nd August 1858