The Carnatic Wars were a direct result of the English-French rivalry in Europe and India. These were a series of military conflicts during the 18th century in the Carnatic region, especially around the Hyderabad state. There were three Carnatic wars fought between 1744 and 1763. Read here to learn about the Carnatic wars.
The Carnatic wars included battles over territory and succession between various nominally independent kings and their vassals in the Carnatic region.
It was also the result of direct diplomatic and military rivalry between the French and British East India Companies. With the aid of several dispersed polities loyal to the Great Mughal, they were mostly fought within the borders of Mughal India.
Background: India in the 1700s
After the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, Bahadur Shah I succeeded to the throne of the declining Mughal Empire. The control of the Mughals in central India had started to decline by this time.
During the rule of Jahandar Shah in Delhi, Nizam-ul-Mulk (Asaf Jah I) established the independent kingdom of Hyderabad becoming the first Nizam of Hyderabad in 1724.
In 1720, France nationalized the French East India Company to expand its imperial interests. This became a source of conflict between the British and French in India.
The Austrian war of succession (1740-48) in Europe led to the first Carnatic war in India. Great Britain and France were at opposite ends in the war. Till this, the trading companies in India maintained cordial relations with each other. The spill of the Austrian war was seen in India, leading to First Carnatic War.
After the death of Asaf Jah I in 1748, a power struggle broke out between the successors of Nizam. The English and French supported opposing claimants leading to the second Carnatic war.
First Carnatic War (1744-48)
1740: The Austrian War of Succession broke out in Europe after the death of Emperor Charles VI. The inheritance of the Habsburg Monarchy was the major cause of the war.
1744: The British were drawn into the war in 1744 on the opposite side of France and its allies. This led to conflict between the trading companies in India as well.
1745: The British Royal Navy attacked the French fleet which led to the French Gove General Dupleix calling for additional forces leading to the escalation of naval forces in the area around Madras and Pondicherry.
1746: The French fleet commanded by La Bourdonnais arrived to aid Dupleix. After a few indecisive fights, the French entered Madras and captured the outpost from the British. The British officers including Robert Clive were held captives.
The British sought help from the Nawab of Arcot Anwar-ud-din who sent out a 10,000 men army against the French. The French forces defeated Nawab’s army in the ‘Battle of Adyar’.
1748: The Austrian War of Succession came to end after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle restored peace in Europe. Madras was returned to the British in exchange for the French fort captured by the British in North America.
Second Carnatic War (1749-54)
The death of Asaf Jah I in 1748 led to a succession struggle in Hyderabad. A power struggle ensued after his death between his son, Nasir Jung, and his grandson, Muzaffar Jung, which soon involved foreign powers eager to expand their influence.
Similarly, a power struggle was underway in Arcot as well after the death of Nawab of Carnatic Anwar-ud-din between his son-in-law Chanda Sahib and his son Muhammad Ali. Here also, the foreign powers got involved in the struggle.
- The French supported Chanda Sahib for the throne of Carnatic and Muzaffar Jung for the throne of Hyderabad.
- The British supported Muhammad Ali in Carnatic and Nasir Jung in Hyderabad.
1749: Muzaffar Jung and Chanda Sahib supported by the French (under Dupleix), defeated and killed Anwar-ud-din, the then Nawab of Carnatic in the Battle of Ambur.
Muhammad Ali fled to Trichonopoly under British protection.
Nasir Jung’s death cleared the way to Nizami for Muzaffar Jung.
1750: Chanda Sahib became the Nawab of Carnatic, and Muzaffar Jung became the Nizam of Hyderabad. Both of them were supported by the French, hence establishing French dominance in the region.
1751: Muzaffar Jung’s reign as Nizam of Hyderabad was short-lived as he was killed in a skirmish. The French installed Salabat Jung as the Nizam of Hyderabad.
Robert Clive, the British commander in support of Muhammad Ali, attacked Arcot, the capital of Arcot, and defeated Chanda Sahib. Muhammad Ali became the Nawab of Carnatic and remained so until he died in 1795.
1754: The war ended with the Treaty of Pondicherry. Dupleix was called back to France due to the huge financial losses in the war and replaced by Charles Godeheu.
Third Carnatic War (1758-63)
The Seven Years’ War broke out in Europe in 1756, which led to fresh conflict between French and British soldiers in India.
The French at this time were struggling financially. British soldiers took the French town of Chandernagore (now Chandannagar) in Bengal during the Third Carnatic War, which had stretched beyond southern India.
1757: The British had just won the Battle of Plassey in 1757 against the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies.
1758: The French commander Comte de lally captured fort St. David in Cuddalore and attacked Madras.
1759: The British defeated the Dutch in the Battle of Bedara or Chinsura eliminating them from the scene as well.
1760: Lally was defeated by the British troops under Sir Eyre Coot in the Battle of Wandiwash.
1761: The French capital of Pondicherry also fell to the British.
1763: The war concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which returned Chandernagore and Pondicherry to the French. The treaty allowed the establishment of factories (trading establishments) by the French in India but barred French businessmen from running them. In exchange for British assistance, the French decided to abandon their plans for an Indian empire, making the British the preeminent foreign force in India.
Impact of Carnatic wars
British supremacy was established in the Indian subcontinent as all other foreign powers were eliminated. The British now had the big port cities of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras under their control.
The Carnatic wars exposed the weakness of the Indian rulers and showed that even a small but disciplined foreign army can defeat the Indian rulers’ armies.
The Anglo-French battles also brought forward the importance of naval warfare in the Deccan and Carnatic regions.
-Article written by Swathi Satish