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Expansion of the Company Rule

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Expansion of the Company Rule - Lesson Summary

The Battle of Plassey fought in 1757 was a turning point for the East India Company and marked the start of its rule in India. The Company annexed many Indian states by using different well thought strategies.

It started with Bengal and a few states on the east coast and southern India but soon they spread to almost all of south India and parts of western, central and northern India. By1857, they virtually had the whole of India under their control. The Company used a combination of political, diplomatic and economic methods to annex the states, and rarely resorted to a direct military attack on an unknown territory.

In 1764, after the Battle of Buxar, the British decided to appoint Residents in many of the Indian states. The Residents were political or commercial agents used by the Company to meddle in the internal affairs of the states. The residents hence began to decide the successor to the throne and other administrative posts.

Another strategy introduced by the Company was forcing a state into a subsidiary alliance. Under this strategy, an Indian ruler wasn’t allowed to maintain independent armed forces and had to pay the Company for the subsidiary forces it provided.

Direct military confrontation was also a strategy pursued by the Company to annex the Indian states. The Company resorted to a direct military attack only when it felt a threat to its economic and political interests.

Mysore was however annexed through a direct military attack. The British fought a series of four wars known as the Anglo-Mysore Wars against Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan and in 1799, got victory in the war at Seringapatam.

The Marathas also lost the Third Battle of Panipat to the Afghans. After the Battle of Panipat, the Maratha states were ruled by chiefs belonging to dynasties like the Holkars, Scindias, Bhonsles and Gaikwads. The Maratha chiefs had to report to a principal minister, known as the Peshwa, who was their military and administrative head.

The Maratha kingdom was also annexed by the company through a direct military attack. They fought a series of wars known as the Anglo-Maratha Wars and by 1819 managed to gain control over the territories to the south of the Vindhyas.

Between 1830 and 1850, Afghanistan, Sind and Punjab were also attacked by the Company. It wanted to gain control over these territories as it felt Russia might enter India through these states.

Another policy introduced by the Company to annex the Indian states was the policy of paramountcy. This was introduced by Lord Hastings, the first Governor-General of India from 1813 to 1823. The Company through this policy claimed that it was the supreme power and had all the rights to directly annex or threaten to annex any Indian state.

Later, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India introduced a policy known as Doctrine of Lapse, according to which a kingdom without a male heir would automatically come under the rule of the Company after the death of the ruler.

Kingdoms like Jhansi, Udaipur, Satara, Nagpur and Sambalpur were annexed under this strategy. In 1856, the Company took over Awadh, claiming to protect it from the bad governance of the Nawab of Awadh.

All these annexation strategies led to a wave of hatred against the English and culminated as the great revolt of 1857.

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