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GROWTH OF THE BRITISH POWER, 1765-1798

1Some records originally kept at Maheshwar, the old capital of the Holkars, and recently brought to light (Proceedings, Indian Historical Bm”de Commien, December, 1930) by Sard&r Rio Bahfidur Kibe, M.A., Deputy Prime Minister, Indore State, “show what a leading part the piota lady Ahalyi Biii took in the stirring events of the time”.

Maratha affairs at the centre now passed under the absolute control of Nana Fadnavis. One of the objects of Nana was to recover the lost territories of the Marathas to the south of the Narmada. This made a collision with Tipu Sultin o Mysore inevitable. The Marathas, therefore, concluded a treaty of alliance with the Nizam in July, 1784, and a Maratha army under the command of Hari Pant Phadke started from Poona on the lst December, 1785. Tipu made some feeble attempts to oppose the invaders, but, apprehending the formation of an alliance between the English and the Marathas, opened negotiations for peace, which was concluded in April, 1787. Tipu agreed to pay forty-five lacs of rupees, and to make over the districts of Badami, Kittur, and Nargund to the Marathas, and got back the places which the latter had conquered. But this agreement between Tipu and the Marathas did not last long, as on the outbreak of hostilities between the English and Tipu (A.D. 1789-1792), the Marathas and the Nizam formed an offensive and defensive alliance with Cornwallis against the Sultan of Mysore. This triple alliance became for some time, in spite of section 34 of Pitt’s India Act, “a definite factor in Indian politics”.

It rested, however, on too insecure a bask to be effective for a long time, as the allies had united together only to serve the’ respective interests against the aggressions of Tipu and not out Ir of any feeling of sincere attachment towards one another. The Nizam was an old foe of the Marathas, and as soon as the danger on the part of Tipu had been somewhat lessened, all the Maratha leaders-the Peshwa, Daulat Rao Sindhia, Tukoji Holkar and the Raja of Berar-combined together against him. The Peshwa’s claim to chauth and sardeshmukhi over the Nizam served as the immediate cause for war. The Nizam’s troops had been trained by the Frenchman, Raymond,’ and all negotiations having failed, the two parties were driven to “decide their differences by the sword”. The Nizam appealed to the English for help, but got nothing from them. He was defeated by the Marathas at Kharda or Kurdla (fifty-six miles southeast of Ahmadnagar) in March, 1795, and was compelled to conclude a humiliating treaty which subjected him to heavy pecuniary losses and to large territorial concessions. Had Shore intervened, the result of the battle might have been different. His critics point out that the Nizam was entitled to British support on the strength of the treaty of February, 1768, by which the Nizam had placed himself under the protection of the English. But it might be argued in defence of Shore that he was precluded from such intervention by section 34 of Pitt’s India Act. Further, the Marathas were than at peace with the English, who were not bound by any previous agreement to help the Nizam against a friendly power.

Anglo-Mysore Relations

The First Anglo-Mysore War

Mysore under Hyder and Tipu was a source of danger to the rising British power in India during the second half of the eighteenth’ century. While the Carnatic was distracted by wars, and Bengal was passing through political revolutions, Hyder steadily rose to power in Mysore. Originally an adventurer, he entered the service of Nanjraj, the Dalwai or prime minister of Mysore, who had made himself the practical dictator over the titular Hindu ruler of the State. Though uneducated and illiterate, Hyder was: endowed with a strong determination, admirable courage, keen intellect and shrewd common sense. Taking advantage of the prevailing distractions in the south, he increased his power and soon supplanted his former patron. He extended his territories by conquering Bednore, Sunda, Sera, Canara, and Guti and by subjugating the petty Poligarh of South India.2 The rapid of Hyder naturally excited the jealousy of the Marathas, the Nizam and the English. The Marathas invaded his territories in A.D. 1765 and compelled him to surrender Guti and Savanur and to pay an indemnity of thirty-two lacs of rupees. In November, 1766, the Madras Government agreed to assist the Nizam against Hyder in return for his ceding the Northern Sarkars. In short, the Marathas, the Nizam, and the English entered into a triple alliance against Hyder. But the Marathas, who first attacked Mysore, were soon bought off by the Mysore chief. The Nizam, accompanied by a company of British troops under the command of General Joseph Smith, invaded Mysore in April, 1767, but, influenced by Mahfuz Khan, brother and rival of the pro-British Nawab Muhammad ‘ of the Carnatic, he quickly deserted the English and allied himself with their enemy. It should be noted that the Madras Government failed to manage affairs skillfully, but Smith was able to defeat the now allies at the Pass of Changama and Trinomali in September, 1767. Hyder was soon abandoned by his fickle ally, the Nizam, with whom the Madras Government tactlessly concluded an ill-advised treaty on the 23rd February, 1768. By this the Nizam confirmed his old treaty obligations in as irresponsible a manner as he had broken them; and declaring Hyder a “rebel and usurper” he agreed to assist the English &,nd the Nawab of the Carnatic in chastising him. This alliance with the vacillating Nizam was of no help to the English, but it needlessly provoked the hostility of Hyder. “You have brought us into such a labyrinth of difficulties,” observed the Court of Directors, “that we do not see how we shall be extricated from them.” The Court of Directors, then not in favour of the further expansion of British territories in India but eager to preserve what had already been acquired, further wrote: it is not for the Company to take the part of umpires of Indostan. If it had not been for the imprudent measures you have taken, the country powers would have formed a balance among themselves. We wish to see the Indian princes remain as a check upon one another without-our interfering.”


1The Nizam kept “two battalions of female sepoys ” who “took part in the battle and behaved no worse than the rest of the army”. Beval : Past and Presetti, 1933.

2The eighteenth-century history of India was largely Muenced by the rise of adventurers to power: ‘Alivardl in Bengal, S&,Mat and Safdar Jang in Oudh, Saif-ud-aulah in the Punjab, and the Nizam-ul-mulk, Ryder and Tipu in South India.

In spite of the Nizam’s desertion Hyder continued to fight with great vigour. He recovered Mangalore after defeating the Bombay troops, appeared within five miles of Madras in March, 1769, and dictated a peace on the 4th April, 1769, which provided for the exchange of prisoners and mutual restitution of conquests. It was also a defensive alliance, as the English promised to help Hyder in case he was attacked by any other power.

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