The First Anglo-Maratha War (1775–1782) was fought in India between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire. In 1775, the Marathas divided themselves, giving the English the chance to interfere in their affairs. You will find this article helpful in preparing for the UPSC and other government exams if you are interested in learning more about the First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-82).
Background of First Anglo-Maratha War
Following the death of Peshwa Madhav Rao in 1772, there was a succession war among the Marathas. The claimants were Narayan Rao, his younger brother, and Raghu Nath Rao, his uncle. In the struggle Raghu Nath Rao got Narayan Rao murdered and himself became a Peshwa on August 30, 1773. Maratha nobles learned that Raghu Nath Rao was a murderer and decided to replace him and formed the Bara Bhai Council of Ministers.
On 18th April, 1774, Gangabai, Narayanrao’s widow, gave birth to a boy after her husband died. The newborn baby was called ‘Sawai’ (One and a Quarter) Madhavrao, and he was the peshwa’s legal successor. The Council of Ministers commanded by Nana Phadnavis, held the newborn as the next peshwa and rule as regents for him and ordered Raghunath Rao’s arrest.
The Treaty of Surat (1775)
Raghu Nath Rao took shelter with the Company in Surat after hearing the Council of Ministers’ decision on March 7, 1775 and signed a treaty with the English. Its main provisions were:
The Company will provide 2500 soldiers to Raghu Nath Rao in order to enable him to reclaim his gaddi and also be able to become Peshwa of the Marathas. Raghu Nath Rao will pay all the expenses for this army from his own resources.
Upon winning the war and occupying Gaddi, Raghu Nath Rao will cede Salsette, Bassein, and the adjacent islands to the British Company.
There will be no peace treaty between Raghu Nath Rao and Poona Council without the English participating, and the Marathas will not raid Karnataka and Bengal.
Course of First Anglo-Maratha War
On May 11, 1775, English armies under Colonel Kealings defeated the Marathas at Arras after signing the treaty. However, the Governor General did not wish to begin hostilities with the Marathas, and he wished to stop them. Due to serious financial difficulties faced by the Company, retreat was not an easy affair. Since the attack was already underway, retreat wasn’t an easy task. Salsette, however, was captured by the English.
Both parties were keen to end the hostilities, so Colonel Uptan began negotiations with the Marathas at Poona on behalf of Company. At the same time, the Marathas were experiencing serious financial difficulties. The negotiations lasted for about three months before a settlement was reached between the two warring parties. It contained the following main provisions:
The Treaty of Purandhar
On March 1, 1776, the East India Company and the Marathas signed this treaty. Its main provisions were:
- The treaty of Surat signed earlier was to be treated as null and void.
- It was agreed that the hostilities by both the parties on all fronts will be stopped;
- The English will give up the cause of Raghu Nath Rao for Peshwaship.
- The English were permitted to retain Salsette.
- The Peshwa will give a monthly pension of Rs. 25,000/- to Raghu Nath Rao.
- Reghu Nath Rao will retire to Pargaon in Gujarat.
- The English will be paid Rs. 12 lakhs by the Marathas for maintaining Raghu Nath Rao.
A peculiar situation resulted from this. Bombay’s government signed one treaty with one Maratha faction, and Bengal’s government signed another treaty with another Maratha faction. Due to the Government of Bombay’s disapproval of the Purandhar treaty, it requested that the Governor General not accept it. As it was not approved by the Governor General, the English forces attacked Poona in 1778.
In 1779, a war was declared against the Marathas. If the Marathas had not been in negotiations with the French, this attack would not have taken place. Peshwa Madhav Rao Narayan was attacked by an English army of approximately 30,000 soldiers, but they were defeated and forced to sign the treaty of Wadgaon.
The Treaty of Wadgaon
The main provisions of the Treaty of Wadgaon were:
- The English will return to the Marathas all territories conquered by them since 1773.
- The Company will not champion the cause of Raghu Nath Rao and will surrender him to the Marathas.
- Bengal forces of the Company will be ordered to retreat.
- A part of the revenue of Baroach will be paid to Scindia.
The English were humiliated by this treaty and the Governor General refused to accept it. He decided to continue the fight with the Marathas. Meanwhile, the Marathas tried to consolidate their position. Hyder Ali, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and Bhonsle of Nagpur made a cause with each other. In order for the English to face the enemy on three fronts, Hyder Ali was supposed to invade the English in Kamataka, followed by Nizam and Bhonsle from Bengal.
In the meantime, Warren Hastings sent an army under Goddar to defeat the Marathas who had captured Bassein in December 1780. The Marathas then defeated Lord Hastings again at Poona, where another army under Captain Poham captured Gwalior fort on August 3, 1780.
The Marathas had an alliance with Nizam, Bhonsle, and Hyder Ali to invade the English from Karnataka and Bengal. For the purpose of causing cracks in the alliance, Warren Hastings gave Guntur back to Nizam and purchased Bhonsle and Nizam by various means when he learned of the alliance. As a result, he broke the alliance. Only Hyder Ali invaded the English from Kamataka when the time came, while Bhonsle and Nizam remained inactive.
The Marathas were discouraged by this and decided to negotiate a peace treaty. This treaty was known as the Treaty of Salbai and it was signed on May 17, 1782 between the two parties.
The Treaty of Salbai (1782)
The Treaty was signed between the Marathas and the East India Company and its main provisions were:
- The English were to return all the territories of the Marathas conquered by them since 1776 except Salesette which the Company was allowed to retain.
- The Company recognised the independence of Gaekwad.
- The Company agreed to pay a sum of Rs. three lakhs to the Marathas for getting Baroach.
- The English agreed not to champion Raghu Nath Rao’s cause and instead accept Madhav Rao Narayan as Peshwa.
- Peshwa agreed that he would pay a monthly pension of Rs. 25,000/- to Raghu Nath Rao.
- Both the parties agreed to return each other’s territories conquered during wars in South
- Both assured each-other to live in perfect peace.
As a result of the Treaty, at least Salsette was retained by the Company, which was a substantial gain. As a result, the Marathas became friends of the Company for the time being. As a result, the Company was able to deal with Hyder Ali and the Nizam of Hyderabad, two formidable Deccan enemies at the same time. It also benefitted the Marathas.
Since the Maratha had not fought any wars with the Company between the First and Second Maratha wars, they could establish their position in Deccan during that time. The Marathas emerged as a powerful people once again in Deccan after the Third Battle of Panipat during this period. Mahadji Sindhia placed the country’s interests above all else during this period.
The Marathas, however, did not consult Hyder Ali when concluding the peace treaty with the English, even though he had fulfilled his commitment and invaded Kamataka in accordance with their alliance with Bhonsle, Nizam and the Marathas. As well, it would have been appropriate for the Marathas to consult him.