The beginning of British political influence over India may be traced to the battle of Plassey in 1757, when the English East India Company’s forces defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal.
As result of the Battle of Plassey, the English proclaimed Mir Jafar the Nawab of Bengal and set out to gather the reward i.e. the company was granted undisputed right to free trade in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.
The East Company received the zamindari of the 24 Parganas near Calcutta. Mir Jafar paid a sum of Rs 17,700,000 as compensation for the attack on Calcutta and the traders of the city.
The battle of Plassey was of immense historical importance, as it paved the way for the British mastery on Bengal and eventually on the whole of India.
The victory of Plassey enabled the Company and its servants to amass untold wealth at the cost of the helpless people of Bengal.
Mir Qasim realized that if these abuses continued he could never hope to make Bengal strong or free himself of the Company’s control. He therefore took the drastic step of abolishing all duties on internal trade.
Mir Qasim was defeated in a series of battles in 1763 and fled to Avadh where he formed an alliance with Shuja-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Avadh, and Shah Alam II, the fugitive Mughal Emperor.
The three allies clashed with the Company’s army at Buxar on 22 October 1764 and were thoroughly defeated.
The result of Buxar battle firmly established the British as masters of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa and placed Avadh at their mercy.
Dual Administrative System in Bengal
The East India Company became the real master of Bengal from 1765. Its army was in sole control of its defence and the supreme political power was in its hands.
The Nawab of Bengal became dependent for his internal and external security on the British.
The virtual unity of the two branches of Government under British control was signified by the fact that the same person acted in Bengal as the Deputy Diwan on behalf of the Company and as Deputy Subedar on behalf of the Nawab. This arrangement is known in history as the Dual or Double Government.
Dual system of administration of Bengal held a great advantage for the British: they had power without the responsibility.
British controlled the finances of Bengal and its army directly and its administration indirectly.
The Nawab and his officials had the responsibility of administration, but not the power to discharge it.
The consequences of double government for the people of Bengal were disastrous: neither the Company nor the Nawab cared for their welfare.
In 1770, Bengal suffered from a famine which in its effects proved one of the most terrible famines known in human history.
Bengal famine killed millions of people and nearly one-third of Bengal’s population fell victim to its ravages. Though the famine was due to failure of rains, but its effects were heightened by the Company’s policies.