In mid-18th-century India, various historical forces were at work, consequent to which the country moved towards a new direction. Some historians regard the year 1740, when the Anglo-French struggle for supremacy in India began in the wake of the War of Austrian Succession in Europe, as the beginning of the British period. Some see the year 1757, when the British defeated the Nawab of Bengal at Plassey, as the designated date. Still others regard 1761, the year of the Third Battle of Panipat when the Marathas were defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali, as the beginning of this phase of Indian history. However, all such chronological landmarks are somewhat arbitrary because the political transformation which began around that time took about eighty years to complete.

For instance, as we think of 1761, the British would certainly come to mind (because of their victory over the Nawab of Bengal at Plassey and over the French) but we would not entirely write off the Marathas and would probably also consider the prospects of Haidar Ali. In fact, it was a period of Indian history which it would probably be a mistake to interpret in terms of what we know in the present. Nonetheless, the circumstances under which the British succeeded are not clear, and the few bottlenecks which they faced were not of a serious nature. It is this paradox which makes the causes of British success in establishing an empire in India a matter of considerable interest.


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