Describe Anglo Maratha Wars

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The Anglo-Maratha Wars were some of the most significant and transformative events in the history of the Subcontinent, with major consequences for both the Maratha Empire and the East India Company. The conflicts in question took place over the course of nearly five decades, divided into three separate wars. The complexity and range of these wars make them a topic of interest for UPSC aspirants. Looking at the causes, major events, and eventual outcomes can provide a more nuanced perspective on these wars.

1. First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782):

Started as a power struggle within the Maratha Empire, The first Anglo-Maratha War was sparked off by the Treaty of Surat between the East India Company and Raghunathrao, an influential Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. Raghunathrao hoped to gain the throne with the help of the British.

However, the unauthorised Treaty of Surat led to internal conflict within the British administration, resulting in a newer Treaty of Purandar. The treaty was unfavourable for Raghunathrao who now sought help from the French.

The war soon concluded with the Treaty of Salbai in 1782, ensuring peace between the English and Marathas for 20 years. The understanding was that the Company would prevent any French intrusions in Maratha territories and stay neutral in any conflicts between the Marathas and their neighbours.

2. Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805):

The Treaty of Bassein marked the beginning of the second Anglo-Maratha War. After the death of the young Peshwa Madhavrao II, Daulatrao Scindia and Yashwantrao Holkar, two most powerful rulers in the Maratha Confederacy, fought to gain the control of the Empire, and the latter won.

Fearing Holkar’s power, the new Peshwa, Bajirao II, signed the Treaty of Bassein in 1802 with the British, giving them control over his foreign affairs and defence. The other Maratha chiefs, especially Scindia and Bhonsle, were against this treaty, resulting in the second war.

The second war resulted in the British gaining control over Delhi and thus, the symbolic control over India. The Marathas lost large territories in the conflict.

3. Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818):

The third and conclusive war between the Marathas and the East India Company happened primarily due to Peshwa Bajirao II’s aggressive policies and the ambition to revive the Maratha influence and establish supremacy.

However, the British, aware of the Maratha strategies, seized the opportunity and attacked the Empire from all sides. The Company’s disciplined forces went on to defeat Peshwa Bajirao II, marking the end of the Maratha Empire and the Peshwa lineage.

In conclusion, the Marathas surrendered their powers to the British via the Treaty of Mandeswar. Post-war, the British accelerated the pace of their expansion and by 1856, virtually the whole of India was under the British.

The strategic approach adopted by the British East India Company, the internal rivalry within Maratha Confederacy, and the superior military power of the British were significant factors leading to the eventual downfall of the Maratha Empire.

The Anglo-Maratha Wars became a turning point in Indian history, establishing the East India Company as a dominant political power in India. For UPSC aspirants, understanding these wars will offer an insightful study into the dynamics of power, diplomacy, and military strategy in colonised India.

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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