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Lord Clive meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, oil on canvas (Francis Hayman, c. 1762)
|Mughal Empire1||Kingdom of France||Kingdom of Great Britain|
|Commanders and leaders|
Nasir Jung †
Muzaffar Jung †
Chanda Sahib †
Comte de Lally
De la Touche
The Carnatic Wars (also spelled Karnatic Wars) were a series of military conflicts in the middle of the 18th century on the Indian subcontinent. The conflicts involved numerous nominally independent rulers and their vassals, struggles for succession and territory, and included a diplomatic and military struggle between the French East India Company and the British East India Company. They were mainly fought on the territories in India which were dominated by the Nizam of Hyderabad up to the Godavari delta. As a result of these military contests, the British East India Company established its dominance among the European trading companies within India. The French company was pushed to a corner and was confined primarily to Pondichéry. The British company's dominance eventually led to control by the United Kingdom over most of India and the establishment of the British Raj.
The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707 CE. He was succeeded by Bahadur Shah I but there was a general decline in central control over the empire during the tenure of Jahandar Shah and later emperors. Several erstwhile Mughal territories were autonomous such as the Carnatic was ruled by Nawab Dost Ali Khan in the 1730s, despite being under the legal purview of the Nizam of Hyderabad (who was nominally the emperor's viceroy over that territory). Dost Ali's death sparked a power struggle between his son-in-law Chanda Sahib and the Nizam's own son and natural heir to the throne, Anwaruddin Muhammed Khan.
One major instigator of the Carnatic Wars was the Frenchman Joseph François Dupleix, who arrived in India in 1715, rising to become the French East India Company's governor in 1742. Dupleix sought to expand French influence in India, which was limited to a few trading outposts, the chief one being Pondicherry on the Coromandel Coast. Immediately upon his arrival in India, he organized Indian recruits under French officers for the first time, and engaged in intrigues with local rulers to expand French influence. The First Carnatic War, however, had its origins in Europe. However, he was met by the equally challenging and determined young officer from the British Army, Robert Clive.
In 1740 the War of the Austrian Succession broke out in Europe. Great Britain was only drawn into the war in 1744, when it entered the war opposed to France and its allies. The trading companies of both countries maintained cordial relations among themselves in India while their parent countries were bitter enemies on the European continent. Dodwell writes, "Such were the friendly relations between the English and the French that the French sent their goods and merchandise from Pondicherry to Madras for safe custody."2 Although French company officials were ordered to avoid conflict, British officials were not, and were furthermore notified that a Royal Navy fleet was en route. After the British initially captured a few French merchant ships, the French called for backup from as far afield as Isle de France (now Mauritius), beginning an escalation in naval forces in the area. In July 1746 La Bourdonnais and British Admiral Edward Peyton fought an indecisive action off Negapatam, after which the British fleet withdrew to Bengal. On 21 September 1746, the French captured the British outpost at Madras. Dupleix, to placate the Nawab of Arcot, had promised him Madras, but withdrew that promise after the capture. The Nawab then sent a 10,000-man army to take Madras from the French, but was decisively repulsed by a small French force in the Battle of Adyar. The French then made several attempts to capture the British outpost at Cuddalore, but the timely arrivals of reinforcements halted these, and eventually turned the tables on the French. British Admiral Edward Boscawen besieged Pondicherry in the later months of 1748, but lifted the siege with the advent of the monsoon rains in October.
With the termination of the War of Austrian Succession in Europe, the First Carnatic War also came to an end. In the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), Madras was given back to the British in exchange for the French fortress of Louisbourg in North America, which the British had captured. The war was principally notable in India as the first military experience of Robert Clive, who was taken prisoner at Madras, escaped, and then participated in the defense of Cuddalore and the siege of Pondicherry.
After the death of the Nizam-ul-Mulk in 1748, the Nizam of Hyderabad, a civil war for succession, now known as the Second Carnatic War, broke out in the south between Mir Ahmad Ali Khan (Nasir Jung), the son of the Nizam-ul-Mulk, and Hidayat Muhi ud-Din Sa'adu'llah Khan (Muzaffar Jung), the grandson of Nizam-ul-Mulk.
This opened a window of opportunity for Chanda Sahib, who wanted to become Nawab of Arcot. He joined the cause of Muzaffar Jung and began to conspire against the Nawab Anwaruddin Muhammed Khan in Arcot. The French allied with Chanda Sahib and Muzaffar Jung to bring them into power in their respective states. But soon the British also intervened. To offset the French influence, they began supporting Nasir Jung and Muhammad Ali Khan Walajah (son of the deposed Nawab Anwaruddin Muhammed Khan of Arcot). Initially, the French succeeded in both states in defeating and murderingcitation needed their opponents and placing their supporters on thrones in 1749. In 1751, however, Robert Clive led British troops to capture Arcot. Clive's success led to additional victories for the British and their Nizam and Arcot allies. The war ended with the Treaty of Pondicherry, signed in 1754. Muhammad Ali Khan Walajah was recognized as the Nawab of Arcot. The French leader Dupleix was asked to return to France. The directors of the French East India Company were dissatisfied with Dupleix's political ambitions, which had led to immense financial loss. In 1754, Charles Godeheu replaced Dupleix.
The outbreak in 1756 of the Seven Years' War in Europe resulted in renewed conflict between French and British forces in India. The Third Carnatic War spread beyond southern India and into Bengal where British forces captured the French settlement of Chandernagore (now Chandannagar) in 1757. However, the war was decided in the south, as British commander Sir Eyre Coote decisively defeated the French under the Comte de Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760. After Wandiwash, the French capital of Pondicherry fell to the British in 1761. The war concluded with the signing of the 1763 Treaty of Paris, which returned Chandernagore and Pondichéry to France, and allowed the French to have "factories" (trading posts) in India but forbade French traders from administering them. The French agreed to support British client governments, thus ending French ambitions of an Indian empire and making the British the dominant foreign power in India.
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- Dodwell, H. H. (ed), Cambridge History of India, Vol. v.