Anglo-Maratha Wars Modern India History Notes

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The Anglo-Maratha Wars were a series of three wars fought between the British and the Maratha Empire in India. Both sides fought four wars between 1775 and 1818, when the conflict began in 1775 and ended in 1782. The first Maratha war began in 1775 and ended about seven years later in 1782. It was just a few years later in 1803 that the second Maratha war broke out, which lasted three years and ended only in 1805. Following that, the Marathas fought their third war against the English in 1806. 1817 was the last and fourth war between the two, which ended in 1818. There was no doubt the wars proved detrimental to the Marathas. Their prestige and power significantly decreased.

Marathas were brave soldiers who cherished independence above all else. They were aware that the English had vast economic and military resources, and any confrontation would be disadvantageous to them. Once the English realized the discipline, strength, and devotion of the Marathas, they wanted to remove them from the Deccan power scene as soon as possible. They wanted to greatly diminish their prestige and power. Following the death of Peshwa Madhav Rao I, the Marathas fought a succession war which gave the English an opportunity they were seeking to interfere in the internal politics of Marathas.

Rise of Marathas and death of Peshwa Madhav Rao I

There has been a significant change in India’s history since the rise of the Marathas in the 17th Century. Maratha power added a new dimension to the Deccan politics. Not only did this change the complexion of the Deccan, but it also affected the Mughal Deccani relations.

When the Mughal Empire collapsed, the Marathas took advantage of the opportunity. Despite the Third Battle of Panipat (1761), in which they were beaten by Ahmad Shah Abdali, they dominated the vast majority of the land and received tributes from territories that were not immediately under their control. They reorganized and managed to restore their power in the north within ten years by becoming the guardians of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam.

Madhav Rao, the son of Balaji Baji Rao, became the Peshwa in 1761 under the regency of Raghoba, his younger brother. By defeating the Rohillas (Pathans) and subjugating the Rajput states and Jat Chiefs, the Peshwa restored northern India’s rule. During the 17th century, Shah Alam II, the fugitive Emperor, was in Allahabad under British protection. The Marathas brought him back to Delhi in 1771. Kora and Allaha were ceded to the Marathas. Peshwa’s glorious career was ended by his sudden death in 1772.

The First Maratha War (1775-1782)

After Ragunath Rao usurped power from the former Peshwa Madhava Rao I, the Company administration interfered in the internal and foreign affairs of the Marathas. Ragunath Rao was supported by Bombay’s company administration in return for Salsette and Bassein.

The Marathas surrendered Thane and Salsette to the British when Mahadaji Scindia and the Bhonsle of Nagpur turned pro-British. A two-decade peace reigned between the Company and the Marathas following the treaty of Salbai, in 1782, when Ragunath Rao was pensioned off.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803–05)

The defeat of Peshwa Baji Rao II by the Holkars, a key Maratha clan, was the primary cause of the second Maratha war. Wellesley, the then Governor General, forced the Subsidiary Alliance on the Peshwa Baji Rao II. In those trying circumstances, he had to accept the British assistance.

The treaty of Bassein was signed in 1802. According to the treaty, the territory to be ceded should generate Rs. 26 lakhs. The leading Maratha States considered the treaty humiliating and so decided to defy it, so the second Anglo-Maratha war broke out. In spite of the brave resistance put up by the Marathas, the Marathas leaders were completely routed. The Subsidiary Alliance was accepted. The British gained Doab, Ahmednagar, Broach, and all of the hilly regions.

The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818)

After the prime minister of the Gaikwar (ruler) of Baroda Gangadhar Sastri was murdered by Trimbakji, a favourite of Peshwa, Peshwa Baji Rao II became anti-British. Mount Stuart Elphinstone, resident of Poona, imprisoned Trimabakji.

With the help of the Peshwa, the murderer managed to escape from the prison. The British also fought with the Pindaris, whom the British believed were being protected by the Marathas. Peshwa was accused of creating the Maratha confederacy and plotting against the British.

In 1817, the British forced the Peshwa to sign a new treaty at Poona, resigning as head of the Maratha confederacy and recognizing Gaikwar’s independence.

When the British were suppressing the Pindaris, Baji Rao II burned down the Poona Residency because he was not reconciled to this humiliation. As General Smith rushed to Poona, he captured it, and the Peshwa fled to Satara, where he also captured. In 1818, Baji Rao surrendered to Elphinstone after Smith defeated his forces at Ashta, Kirkee, and Korgaon.

Baji Rao II remained a prisoner until he died in 1851. The British abolished the Peshwai (office of the Peshwa) and annexed all the Peshwa’s dominions, but the fief holders were restored to their jagirs. Pratap Singh, a descendent of Shivaji, was made king of a small kingdom around Satara. Baji Rao I dissolved the Maratha Confederacy comprising Bhonsle, Holkar, and Scindia. Mountstuart Elphinstone became Governor of Bombay after serving as Resident at Poona.

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