Important Modern History Events Before 1857

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Later Mughals

  • Aurangzeb's Reign (1658-1707): Aurangzeb was the last powerful Mughal ruler. 
  • Succession Crisis: Following Aurangzeb's death in 1707, a succession crisis ensued among his sons, leading to a series of conflicts and power struggles. Weak rulers and infighting weakened the central authority of the Mughal Empire. 
  • Regional Fragmentation: As the Mughal central authority weakened, regional governors (subadars) and local rulers began asserting their independence. 
  • Decline and Disintegration: The later Mughal emperors faced constant invasions and conflicts with regional powers, including the Marathas, Sikhs, and Afghans. The empire's financial instability, administrative corruption, and lack of effective leadership contributed to its decline. 
  • British Intervention: The British East India Company took advantage of the weakened Mughal Empire and gradually expanded its influence and control over parts of India.

Arrival of Europeans

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment (

  • British Raj to Billionaire Raj, Voyage of discovery
  • In 1600, the East India Company obtained a charter granting it a monopoly on trade with the East.
  • Despite competition from other European powers, including the Portuguese and Dutch, the Company ventured into the Indian Ocean.
  • By the early seventeenth century, the Dutch too were exploring the possibilities of trade in the Indian Ocean.
  • Soon the French traders arrived on the scene.

Competition and Conflict in European Trade in India: 

  • In their pursuit of profitable trade, European companies faced intense competition for Indian goods, resulting in higher prices and reduced profits.
  • Demand for Indian Goods in Europe: The exquisite cotton and silk fabrics of India found a significant market in Europe, while spices like pepper, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon were also highly sought after.
  • Fierce battles, ship sinkings, blockades, and fortifications were common as companies sought to eliminate rivals. 
  • The blending of trade and politics led to conflicts with local rulers, making it challenging to separate economic interests from political considerations.

Interesting Facts:

Portuguese Arrival: 

  • Vasco da Gama reached Calicut in 1498 AD but the political rise of Portuguese and East started with Albuquerque as governor.
  • They issued licenses known as Cartazes for the eastern trade. 

British East India Company: 

  • Their first factory in South India came to be established at Masulipatnam in 1611.

Anglo-French Rivalry

  • Economic Competition: British and French competed for control over lucrative trade routes and resources, including textiles and spices. 
  • Political Influence: Both powers sought alliances with Indian rulers to gain political leverage and secure their interests. 
  • Colonial Ambitions: The British East India Company and French East India Company aimed to establish colonial dominance in India. 
  • Military Conflicts: Battles like the Carnatic Wars and the Seven Years' War witnessed direct clashes between British and French forces. 
  • Support to Indian Allies: Both sides supported rival Indian rulers, using them as proxies in their struggle for supremacy.

Anglo-French Rivalry

British emerged as the winners in the Anglo-French rivalry: 

  • They gradually gained the upper hand through a series of military victories and strategic alliances.
  • The defeat of the French forces in the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760 and the Treaty of Paris in 1763 marked significant turning points in favor of the British. 

Reasons for the success of British:

  • Commercial and naval superiority of the English.
  • The French East India Company lacked adequate support from the French government.
  • The English had a strong base in Bengal while the French were supported only in the Deccan.
  • Unity of objective of British officials like Robert Clive, Sir Eyre Coot, etc.
  • England’s victory in the European wars decided the destiny of the French in India. 

Regional Kingdoms in 18th century

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment (

Autonomous governance, Rebels, Diversified political power, Independent states, Destabilization of imperial control

The trend of making independent authority is clearly visible in different regions whether directly under the Mughals or not in the first half of the 18th century. The states that emerged during this period can be classified into three broad categories: 

  • The states which broke away from the Mughal Empire: 
  • Example: Awadh, Bengal, Hyderabad 
  • Autonomous governance within Mughal framework. 
  • The new states set up by the rebels against the Mughals: 
  • The 'new states' emerged in protest against the Mughals. 
  • They include the Marathas, Punjab, and the Jat State. 
  • These states challenged Mughal authority and diversified political power in India.
  • Independent states:
  • They emerged primarily due to the destabilization of imperial control. 
  • These included the kingdoms of Mysore, the Rajputs, and Kerala.

Battle of Plassey and the Company's Victory:

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment (

Puppet ruler, Company's confrontation, Company's triumph, Sponsored and plundered state, Misuse of trading privileges, Weakening of Mughal Empire's authority, Black Hole Tragedy 

Battle of Plassey and the Company's Victory
  • In 1756, Sirajuddaulah becomes Nawab of Bengal. 
    • The Company seeks a puppet ruler but fails. 
    • Sirajuddaulah confronts the Company, captures officials, and blockades ships. 
    • Robert Clive leads Company's forces to defeat Sirajuddaulah at Plassey in 1757. 
    • Mir Jafar's support aids in victory. 
  • First major Company triumph in India.


  • Bengal became a sponsored and plundered state.
  • East India company became capable of deciding the fate of incumbents i.e., puppet nawabs.
  • Misuse of trading privileges.
  • Weakening of Mughal Empire's authority in Bengal.
  • Mir Jafar was proclaimed as the Nawab of Bengal by Clive but was soon replaced by Mir Kasim as the new Nawab of Bengal.

Interesting Facts:

The Black Hole Tragedy (June 20, 1756) in Calcutta:

  • After the capture of Calcutta by Nawab Sirajuddaulah of Bengal, a large number of British prisoners were allegedly confined overnight in a small prison cell known as the "Black Hole." The cell had limited space and inadequate ventilation, resulting in the deaths of many prisoners due to suffocation and heat exhaustion.

Battle of Buxar (1764)

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment (

Treaty of Allahabad, Puppet nawabs, Diwani rights, British territory expansion, Economic exploitation, Company's changing approach 

It took place between the forces of the British East India Company, led by Hector Munro, and a coalition of Indian rulers comprising the Nawab of Bengal, the Nawab of Awadh, and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II in which the coalition was defeated. The war led to Treaty of Allahabad in 1765.

Reasons and consequences of War:

  • Mir Jafar as Nawab: Sirajuddaulah assassinated, Mir Jafar installed as nawab. Company faces challenges with puppet nawabs' cooperation 
  • Mir Qasim and Battle of Buxar: Mir Qasim replaces Mir Jafar briefly. Defeated at the Battle of Buxar in 1764. Mir Jafar reinstated as nawab 
  • Consequences of the Battle of Buxar:
  • Company secured diwani rights over Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa through the Treaty of Allahabad (1765).
  • Weakening of the Mughal Empire.
  • Expansion of British Territory over significant parts of Bengal, Bihar, and parts of Awadh.
  • The company intensified its economic exploitation leading to economic drain and impoverishment of the region.

Interesting Facts:

  • By the time Mir Jafar died in 1765, the mood of the Company had changed. 
  • Having failed to work with puppet nawabs, Clive declared: “We must indeed become nawabs ourselves”.

British Confrontation and Expansion in India

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment (

Threat to British interests, Alliance, Battle of Seringapatam, Subsidiary alliance, Treaty of Seringapatam, Influence over strategic territories, Third Battle of Panipat, Maratha Confederacy, Treaty of Salbai 

British Confrontation with Mysore: 

    • Mysore, led by powerful rulers Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, posed a threat to British interests. 
    • Mysore controlled profitable trade on the Malabar coast, disrupting Company's access to pepper and cardamom. 
    • Tipu Sultan halted the export of sandalwood, pepper, and cardamom, and refused trade with the Company.
    • He formed an alliance with the French and modernized his army. 
  • Four wars were fought with Mysore (1767–69, 1780–84, 1790–92 and 1799)
  • Battle of Seringapatam:
    • Tipu Sultan died defending his capital, Seringapatam. 
    • Mysore came under the Wodeyar dynasty, and a subsidiary alliance was imposed by the British.

Interesting Facts:

Treaty of Seringapatam (1792):

    • Agreement signed between the British East India Company and Tipu Sultan. 
The treaty followed the Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-1792).
  • It resulted in the cession of territories by Tipu Sultan, payment of war reparations, the alliance with the British, surrender of weapons, and British control over the Malabar region.

British Expansion in North-West:

  • War with Afghanistan (1838-1842): The British fought a prolonged war with Afghanistan to establish indirect Company rule. The objective was to prevent any potential Russian advancement and maintain control over the region. 
  • Annexation of Sind (1843): Following the war with Afghanistan, the British annexed Sind in 1843. This further strengthened their hold in the north-west and ensured their influence over strategic territories. 
  • Wars with the Sikh Kingdom: Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule in Punjab deterred the British from immediate expansion. After his death in 1839, two prolonged wars were fought with the Sikh kingdom to assert British dominance. 
  • Annexation of Punjab (1849): In 1849, the British successfully annexed Punjab, ending the Sikh kingdom's sovereignty. This marked a significant milestone in British expansion, securing their control over the north-western region.

British Confrontation with the Marathas: 

  • Marathas after the Third Battle of Panipat: 
    • The Marathas suffered a significant defeat in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, ending their aspirations of ruling from Delhi. 
    • The Maratha Empire fragmented into various states under different chiefs, including Sindhia, Holkar, Gaikwad, and Bhonsle. 
  • Maratha Confederacy and Peshwa: 
    • The Maratha chiefs were united in a confederacy under the leadership of the Peshwa, who held military and administrative control from Pune. 
    • Mahadji Sindhia and Nana Phadnis emerged as prominent Maratha soldiers and statesmen during the late 18th century. 
  • First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782): 
    • It ended with the Treaty of Salbai in 1782 but did not yield a clear victor. 
  • Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805): 
    • Fought on multiple fronts, the British emerged victorious, gaining territories such as Orissa and regions north of the Yamuna River, including Agra and Delhi. 
  • Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1819): 
    • It led to the crushing defeat of the Marathas, resulting in the removal of the Peshwa and his exile to Bithur near Kanpur. 
    • The British now had complete control over territories south of the Vindhyas.

Impact of British Rule on India: Economic, Social and Cultural (1757-1857 and beyond):

Keywords from Aaj Ka Quality Enrichment (

Land Revenue Policy and Settlements, Commercialization of Agriculture, Drain of Wealth, Rise of New Money-lending Class, Rise of New Middle Class, Deindustrialisation of traditional industries, Impact of Modern Ideas, Reform Movements and Radical, Revivalist, Reformist movements 


  • Textile Industry and Trade: 
    • Massive import of machine-made clothes from England to India. 
    • British goods sold at lower prices, causing threat to Indian handicrafts. 
    • India became importer of British clothes, exporter of raw cotton.
    • Indian handloom industry collapsed, leading to unemployment and rural pressure. 
  • Land Revenue Policy and Settlements: 
    • British increased land revenue to finance their policies and administration. 
    • Different land revenue experiments caused hardship to cultivators.
    • Permanent, Mahalwari, and Ryotwari settlements introduced. 
  • Commercialization of Agriculture: 
    • Introduction of commercial crops for British trade. 
    • British controlled opium and indigo markets, limited profit for Indian producers. 
    • Tea plantations brought hardships for workers. 
    • Commercialization increased transfer of land ownership and exploitation. 
  • Drain of Wealth: Taxes, trade profits, and salaries benefited the East India Company and British Empire. 
  • Rise of New Money-lending Class: Moneylenders exploited peasants, leading to transfer of land ownership. 
  • Rise of New Middle Class: 
    • British commercial interests created opportunities for a new elite. 
    • Landed aristocracy and professionals emerged. 
    • Spread of British power created job opportunities. 
  • Transport and Communication: 
    • British built railways for trade and transportation. 
    • Railways benefited British capitalists and facilitated trade. 
    • Railways played a role in national awakening and modernization. 
  • Deindustrialisation of traditional industries and introduction of few modern industries controlled by them.
  • Impact of Modern Ideas: India adopted ideas of liberty, equality, human rights, science, and technology from the West. Modernization accelerated through transport and education.

Socio-Cultural Reforms:

The socio-cultural reforms in 19th and 20th-century India were pivotal in challenging regressive customs, advocating for social progress, and setting the stage for a more inclusive and egalitarian society.

Social Practices and Reform Movements: 

  • British rule led to the prevalence of regressive social practices in India. 
  • Reform movements emerged to challenge practices like female infanticide, child marriage, sati, polygamy, and the caste system. 
  • Visionary Indians such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Aruna Asaf Ali, and Pandita Ramabai played significant roles in these movements. 
  • Legal measures were introduced to improve the status of women, including banning sati, permitting widow remarriage, and discouraging child marriage. 

Social and Cultural Policy: 

  • Western ideas were perceived as modern and superior, leading to a clash with Indian traditions. 
  • Some British radicals advocated for India's integration into the modern world. 
  • The British government pursued cautious reforms to avoid reactions against religious beliefs and social customs. 
  • English language promotion and education aimed to create a loyal class of Indians and increase the market for British goods. 
  • Western ideas influenced reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Swami Vivekananda.

Approaches to social religious reforms:

  • Radical: Contemptuous attitude towards traditional norms and values. Favoured the policy of westernisation as a solution to social cultural evils.
  • Ex: Young Bengal movement led by Henry Vivian Derozio.
  • Revivalist: Glorifying the traditional norms and values. Conceptualised pure forms of their respective religions.

Examples of Revivalist:

Dharma Sabha: Founded by Pandit Radha Kanta Deb in first half of 19 century. Opposed western education and abolition of Sati and was against the reformist agenda of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.Arya Samaj: Found by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in 1875 in Bombay. Led Hindu revivalism but criticised Puranic evils like polytheism, idol, worship,superstitious beliefs,etc.

Revivalism among Muslims:

Wahabi movement:

Founder- Syed Ahmed of Bareilly.Emphasised upon puritan reconstruction of the Islam.Stood for the right of every man to read and interpret the religious text.

Faraizi movement:

  • Started by Haji Shariatullah in 1819.
  • An effort by Muslims in Eastern Bengal to prevent un-Islamic behaviour and carry out their religious obligations. 

Deoband Movement:

launched by Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi and Rashid Ahmad Gangohi in 1866.
  • Preserving spirit of warfare against foreign rulers and disseminating the clear teachings of the Quran and Hadis among Muslims.


  • Neither favoured a blind revival of the past, nor the blind imitation of the West.
  • Impressed by modern values like humanism, rationalism, liberalism.

Reformism among Hindus:

  • Educational reforms: Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar opened 36 schools for girls and introduced modern education in Sanskrit College in Bengal.
  • Social religious reforms: Brahmo Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1828, which advocated monotheism, rejected idol worship, etc.
  • Religious modernism: Organizations, like Ramakrishna Mission, tried to combine traditional Hindu knowledge with modern curriculum through educational institutions.
  • Women's rights and empowerment: Prarthana Samaj by Atmaram Pandurang in Bombay in 1867, focused on social reform, education, and women's rights. 

Reformism among Muslims:

Educational Reform: Reformists established educational institutions, such as Aligarh Muslim University by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, to provide Western and scientific education alongside Islamic teachings. Socio-Religious Reform: They worked towards the abolition of practices like polygamy, purdah, etc and progressive reinterpretation of religion, Syed Ahmad Khan and Abdul Latif, advocated for women's empowerment.Interfaith Harmony: Reformist Muslims, like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, emphasized the cordial relations between Muslims and Hindus by promoting interfaith dialogue, cultural exchanges, etc.Religious Modernism: A section of reformist Muslims sought to reconcile Islamic teachings with scientific knowledge and rationality.Political Awareness: They advocated for political participation, representation, and social justice.

Overall, the reforms played a crucial role in shaping the intellectual, social, and political landscape of the country and laid the foundation for the broader nationalist movement in the early 20th century.