How British conquered Bengal and the consequences of the same

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Title: Understanding the British Conquest of Bengal: Perspectives for UPSC Aspirants

The British conquest of Bengal is a pivotal chapter in the annals of Indian history and, in a broader context, global history too. Its repercussions have continued to shape the socio-cultural, economic and political tapestry of South Asia until today. For Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) aspirants, who dream of serving in the prestigious Indian Administrative Service, grasping this historical event, its context, and consequences is an imperative part of their preparation.

1. British Arrival and Initial Presence: In the late 17th century, the British East India Company started establishing trading posts across different parts of the Indian subcontinent. The Bengal Sultanate, which was then under the rule of Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah, was commercially prosperous, making it a lucrative target for foreign powers, including the British.

2. The Battle of Plassey: The pivotal point that marked the British domination in Bengal was the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The Nawab’s forces and the British East India Company, led by Robert Clive, faced off in this historic confrontation. The British, owing to their superior strategy and the conspiracy within the Nawab’s camp, emerged victorious, leading to the deposition of Siraj Ud Daulah.

3. Mir Jafar’s Role: Mir Jafar, a high-ranking official in the Nawab’s court, played a critical role in the British victory by turning on Siraj Ud Daulah during the Battle of Plassey. Promised to be made the Nawab by the British, Mir Jafar’s betrayal effectively opened the door for British domination in Bengal.

4. The Treaty of Allahabad: The Treaty of Allahabad in 1765 was a significant event in the aftermath of the British victory. The British East India Company secured the Dewani of Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha, essentially offering them the right to collect revenue, giving them substantive control over these regions.

5. Consequences of British Rule: The consequences of the British conquest were both immediate and long-lasting.

– Economic Exploitation: The Company used its Dewani rights extensively to exploit the economic wealth of Bengal, initiating a systemic process of draining resources.

– Introduction of Zamindari System: The Permanent Settlement of 1793 introduced the Zamindari System, which not only changed the rural socio-economic structure of Bengal but also led to intense poverty among the peasantry.

– Political Transformations: Bengal, under British rule, underwent massive political transformations. Bengal was used as a stepping stone to further expand the British Empire across the subcontinent.

– Famine and Poverty: Economic exploitation led to increased poverty levels, eventually culminating in numerous famines, the most devastating being the Great Bengal Famine in 1770.

– Cultural Impact: Conversely, British rule laid the foundation for modern education, literature, and Western thought influx, leading to the Bengal Renaissance with figures like Raja Ram Mohan Roy emerging.

Understanding the British Conquest of Bengal instills a deep comprehension of how colonial powers function, revealing insights into the methods they used and the consequences suffered by the colonised regions. This historical knowledge sets a strong foundation for UPSC aspirants to have informed perspectives on India’s socio-political scenario, past and present.

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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