Anglo–Maratha Wars (1775-1818)

In 1772, Peshwa Madhav Rao died. He was a capable leader. After the disastrous defeat of Maratha in the 3rd battle of Panipat, he revived Maratha power successfully within a short time of 10 years. His death left behind a big vacuum & power struggle commenced in Maratha land.

Madhavrao was succeeded by his younger brother Narayanrao but his uncle Raghunathrao wanted to become Peshwa. He got Narayanao murdered. This pushed the Maratha nation into a civil war. Supporters of Narayanrao placed his infant son Madhavrao Narayanrao on the throne & fought the war against Raghunathrao. In this war, Raghunathrao got defeated. After having lost by supporters of Narayanrao in that conflict, Raghunathrao sought help from the East India Company (The Bombay Government) to gain the throne.

First Anglo-Maratha war (1775-1782)

The Bombay government of the company was waiting for such an opportunity. Because the British were yet to established themselves in Bombay as supreme political power as they were in Bengal and Madras. The Bengal and Madras government of the company had transformed themselves into important political power. In western India Company was just a commercial entity because Marathas were very powerful. This conflict of Marathas provided an opportunity for the Bombay government to establish and fulfill their political ambitions. The Treaty of Surat was signed between the Bombay government & Raghunathrao in 1775 through which the company agrees to assist Raghunathrao in getting the crown.

First Anglo-Maratha War
First Anglo-Maratha War

When the news of conflict reached Calcutta, governor-general Warren Hastings strongly condemned the decision of the Bombay government to indulge in the fight against Marathas. He sent his representative Cap Pappon to sign peace with Marathas & under these circumstances the Treaty of Purander was signed in 1776. Through this treaty of Purander, the ongoing war came to an end. The company recognized Madhav Narayanrao as Peshwa of the Marathas, and Raghunathrao was a pensioned officer and the company was to get the Island of Salsette. Within a few months of signing the treaty of Purander, the news of French participation in the war of American Independence reached India.

Numbers of French commanders were in Maratha service as well as in the service of other states of India. Warren Hasting was apprehensive that all these French could join hands with Maratha to challenge the company. To prompt such a threat, the treaty of Purander thrown in the dustbin & war was declared on Marathas once again. This war continued with up & down on both sides till 1782.

In 1779, the Marathas defeated English forces in the battle of Wadgaon & the company had to sign a very humiliating peace in form of the convention of Wadgaon but the war had continued. Gradually company had realized that Maratha’s power was still intact even after the disaster of Panipat and the untimely death of Peshwa Madhavrao. In 1782, the treaty of Salbai was signed between the company & Marathas. Through this treaty, Madhavrao Narayanrao was once recognized as Peshwa by the company and the company agreed to give up the cause of Raghunathrao. The company retained control of the Island of Salsette & Elephanta. Also, the Marathas guaranteed that no French or their representatives could establish their settlement in the territories of the Marathas.

The treaty of Salbai guaranteed the English Company the support of Maratha against Mysore because both agreed to help the other with this support company could wipe out the challenge of Mysore by defeating Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan in the 3rd & 4th Anglo-Mysore wars. The treaty of Salbai gave the company 20 years of peace with Marathas. During this period company could consolidate itself in Bengal as well as in other parts of India. By the time the 2nd Anglo-Maratha commenced in 1803, the company had even captured Delhi.

1st Anglo-Maratha was fought by the English Company by 1775-1782 during this period British were facing many challenges both in India & outside. At that time, Company had more enemies than friends in Britain because the overarching class of companies official returning London from India was disliked by traditional British elites. When the company was somehow tackling the challenge of Marathas with up & down, Haider Ali declared war on the company in 1780 because of these multifarious challenges British fought 1st Anglo-Maratha at a time of their fortune were at the lowest ebb.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803–1805)

In March 1800, Nana Fadnvis, in the word of Col. Palmer with him departed wisdom & moderation from Maratha land. Nana was one of the wisest rulers among Marathas at that time as he was able to understand the nature of the challenge of the English Company. He kept the internal difference of Marathas in check because he knew that English would use this international difference to subjugate Marathas.

Second Anglo-maratha War
Second Anglo-Maratha War

But after the death of Nana Fadnavis, these international differences started spilling out. In April 1801, Peshwa Bajirao II (1798-1817) got Vithoji, the brother of Jaswantrao Holkar murdered. This triggered a fight between Holkar & Peshwa. Peshwa lost battle & took shelter with the English Company. He signed the treaty of Bassein with the company to get back his throne with English support.

Significance of the Treaty of Bassein

The treaty of Bassein was a subsidiary alliance treaty it contained all provisions of the subsidiary alliance. Peshwa agreed to keep a permanent subs force in his capital at Poona. Further, an upkeep of this force the city of Surat & territory yielding revenue of Rs 26 lacs/annum were to be surrendered to the English Company. An English resident was to stay at Poona. Peshwa had to surrender his foreign relation to the English Company. He was not allowed to enter any offensive-defensive alliance & was not allowed to sign any war/peace without the permission of the company.

No Frenchman was to be employed in Maratha service. The provisions of the treaty of Bassein subjugated the entire Maratha kingdom to the company because theoretically, Peshwa was the head. This resulted in the expansion of territories controlled by 3 times because the Maratha kingdom was extent large. Treaty of Bassein transformed the company from being a commercial entity in western India into the biggest political power in one instant. Treaty of Bassein paved the way for the 2nd Anglo-Maratha war because Maratha realized its implication of provisions, they attacked the company. The defeat of Marathas 2nd Maratha-Anglo (1803-1805) subjugated them effectively to the English Company.

Since the treaty of Bassein was voluntarily accepted by Peshwa Bajirao II without any pressure of persuasion it’s timed as a just and politic measure. The direct & indirect implication of the treaty of Bassein paved way for the British Indian Empire because once the Marathas fail under British control, there was hardly any other important native power left in India.

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818)

3rd Anglo-Maratha War
3rd Anglo-Maratha War

The Pindaris were highway robbers. They were the former Maratha soldiers & after the 2nd Anglo-Maratha war, they lost traditional professions. Maratha army used to have two components i.e. regular forces & irregular forces. Regular forces maintain by state these soldiers were given arms, horses along with salary. Pindari formed irregular troops, they used to bring their horses and weapons, they didn’t receive any salary from the state, and they used to get the opportunity plundered the conquered territory after the war.

After the 2nd Anglo-Maratha war, when Maratha accepted the subsidiary alliance system, they had to disband their forces having lost their traditional professions pindari took highway robbery. With the arrival of Lord Hastings as Governor-General in 1813, the nature of the British in India changed quite significantly. He emphasized the idea of the British paramount.

The activities of Pindari were posing a direct challenge to British paramount. He planned a campaign to wipeout Pindari. In 1816, a military campaign organized against Pindari, the company was expecting full Maratha support during the anti-Pindari campaign but since Pindari was a former soldier, Maratha commanders were emotionally attached to them. Marathas didn’t support the anti-Pindari campaign wholeheartedly. This attitude angered Lord Hasting.

After completion of the anti-Pindari campaign, Lord Hasting asked Maratha to sign a new treaty providing greater control when Maratha commander them. Hunt of Pindari got merged into the 3rd Anglo-Maratha war. Maratha got defeated in this war, Peshwaship was abolished. Peshwa was exited to Bithur (Kanpur) & small Maratha kingdom left with the capital of Satara.