The Battle of Plassey, in 1757, is usually regarded by historians as the decisive event that brought about ultimate British rule over India. However, one cannot quite ignore the view that the true turning point for control of the subcontinent was the victory of British forces over the French forces at Wandiwash in 1760. The victory at Wandiwash left the English East India Company with no European rival in India. Thus they were ready to take over the rule of the entire country.
Prelude to the Battle
The officials of the Company made rampant misuse of its trade privileges that adversely affected the nawab’s finances. The English fortified Calcutta without the nawab’s permission. The Company further tried to mislead him, and compounded their sin by giving asylum to a political fugitive, Krishna Das, son of Raj Ballabh who had fled with immense treasures against the nawab’s will. The Company, on its part, suspected that Siraj would drastically reduce its trade privileges in collusion with the French in Bengal. Thus, when Siraj attacked and seized the English fort at Calcutta, it brought their hostility into the open.
Mention may be made here of the much propagated ‘Black Hole Tragedy’. Siraj-ud-daula is believed to have imprisoned 146 English persons who were lodged in a very tiny room due to which 123 of them died of suffocation. However, historians either do not believe this story, or say that the number of victims must have been much smaller.
The Battle of Plassey
The arrival of a strong force under the command of Robert Clive at Calcutta from Madras strengthened the English position in Bengal. Clive forged a secret alliance with the traitors of the nawab—Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh, Jagat Seth (an influential banker of Bengal) and Omichand. Under the deal, Mir Jafar was to be made the nawab who in turn would reward the Company for its services. The secret alliance of the Company with the conspirators further strengthened the English position. So the English victory in the Battle of Plassey (June 23, 1757) was decided before the battle was even fought. Due to the conspiracy of the nawab’s officials, the 50,000-strong force of Siraj was defeated by a handful of Clive’s forces. Siraj-ud-daula was captured and murdered by the order of Mir Jafar’s son, Miran. The Battle of Plassey placed at the disposal of the English vast resources of Bengal. After Plassey, the English virtually monopolised the trade and commerce of Bengal.
Significance of Battle of Plassey
As a result of this victory, Mir Jafar became the Nawab of Bengal. He gave large sums of money plus the zamindari of 24 parganas to the English. The Battle of Plassey had political significance for it laid the foundation of the British empire in India; it has been rightly regarded as the starting point of British rule in India. The battle established the military supremacy of the English in Bengal. Their main rivals, the French, were ousted. They obtained a grant of territories for the maintenance of a properly equipped military force, and their prestige increased manifold. But there was no apparent change in the form of government, though the supreme control of affairs passed to Clive, on whose support the new nawab, Mir Jafar, was entirely dependent for maintaining his newly acquired position. The sovereignty of the English over Calcutta was recognised, and the English posted a Resident at the nawab’s court.