In Indian history, numerous battles were fought for succession, territory, and expansion. Among others, a few wars such as the famous Carnatic War are remembered for the massive loss of human lives and the far-reaching impact they had on the Indian subcontinent. These wars not only shaped the political landscape but also left a huge impact on economic, cultural, and social aspects. The Carnatic Wars refer to military conflicts that arose in the mid-18th century between the French East India Company and the British East India Company. These wars took place in India’s coastal Carnatic region which was then a dependency of Hyderabad State. Moreover, the Carnatic wars were fought between 1744 and 1763.
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Background: India during the 1700s
Upon the demise of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, Bahadur Shah I ascended the throne. However, there was a gradual decrease in the overall control over the region and empire especially after future emperors such as Jahandar Shah. On the other hand, Nizam-ul-Mulk became the first Nizam of Hyderabad in 1724 by managing to establish Hyderabad as an autonomous kingdom.
However, after his death, a power struggle between his son Nasir and grandson Muzaffar began which included support from foreign nations. While Muzaffar Jung was aided by France, Britain extended its help to help Nasir Jung. As the two nations became more involved in the conflicts of Nawab, the overall political tension between them also rose.
The First Carnatic War
The first Carnatic War was fought between 1746 and 1748, marking the beginning of the struggle between the British and French forces for control over the Indian subcontinent. It is widely believed that the war was sparked by the death of the Nawab of Arcot who was an important ally of the British East India Company.
Upon his death, a power struggle between his two sons, Muhammad Ali and Dost Ali began. While the former was backed by the British, the latter had the support of the French. On one side there was the French army under the leadership of Joseph Francois Dupleix, its Governor-General. On the other hand, there was Robert Clive and his British forces, equally intended to defeat opponents.
Result of the First Carnatic War
In the year 1746, the French managed to capture the British stronghold of Madras. However, the British forces retaliated by launching counterattacks and defeating the French at the Battle of Pondicherry in 1748.
Also Read: First Carnatic War: History, Significance
The Second Carnatic War
The second Carnatic War happened between 1749 and 1754. The roots of this war can be traced back to the death of Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah I, in 1748. It triggered an inevitable power struggle between his son Nasir and grandson Muzaffar. There were numerous supporters of Nasir Jung’s claim to the throne including Anwaruddin Khan, the Nawab of the Carnatic.
In Arcot, Anwar-ud-din’s demise led to a clash of powers between his son-in-law Chanda Sahib, and his son Muhammad Ali.
1749: To assert his claim over the throne, Muzaffar Jung along with Chanda Sahib, with French support, launched the Battle of Ambur against Anwaruddin Khan (the Nawab of Carnatic). While Muhammad Ali ran away to Trichonopoly to seek protection from the British, the end of Nasir Jung’s life cleared the path to the throne.
1750: Chanda Sahib was crowned as the new Nawab of Carnatic. On the other hand, Muzaffar Jung was declared the Nizam of Hyderabad. These events led to the dominance of French forces dominance in the respective regions.
1751: Due to his untimely death, Muzaffar Jung’s reign as the Nizam of Hyderabad terminated shortly. The French replaced Salabat Jung as the new Nizam of Hyderabad. Moreover, Rober Clive, an ally of Muhammad Ali, attacked and won the capital of Arcot by defeating Chanda Sahib. This helped Muhammad Ali in replacing the power and becoming the Nawab of Carnatic.
1754: The war concluded with both sides signing the Treaty of Pondicherry. France also called Dupleix back to the country due to the immense financial losses incurred by the country in the war.
Third Carnatic War
The outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in Europe in 1756 led to renewed conflicts between both nations. While the French forces allied with Indian rulers such as the Marathas and Chanda Sahib, the British had the support of Mohammad Ali, the new Nawab of Arcot. Apart from this, the territorial disputes for South Indian territories were also a major trigger of the war.
Unlike the previous battles, the Third Carnatic War extended beyond the southern parts of India into Bengal. The British forces not only took over Chandernagore, a settlement occupied by the French but also successfully defended other regions.
While Britain had just emerged victorious in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 against the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, the French commander Comte de Lally seized the fort of St. David and attacked Madras. However, the Battle of Wandiwash changed everything. SIr Eyre Coot and his British troops defeated Lally, followed by Pondicherry, a French capital, falling into the British hands.
The Third Carnatic War came to its conclusion with the famous Treaty of Paris. According to the implementation of this treaty, both the Pondicherry and Chandernagore regions were returned to France. Moreover, the treaty also allowed France to set up its French factories in India with the exemption of French businessmen.
Impact of Carnatic Wars
The result of the Carnatic Wars was that it established British supremacy in the Indian subcontinent. These wars also eliminated all the other budding foreign forces in India and established British ports in major cities like Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay. In addition to this, the Carnatic Wars were able to expose all the weak points that were prevalent in the rulers of India.
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