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Modern India (1707-1813)

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Item Code: NAD337
Author: J.L.Mehta
Publisher: New Dawn Press
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 932705546
Pages: 755 ( 9 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 270 gm
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Book Description
Back of the Book

The subject matter of the present volume of Dr J.L. Mehta’s Advanced Study in the History of Modern India emerges from the historical background provided by him in his earlier works on medieval India. The uniqueness of this book hence lies in the author’s way of reconstructing the period under review by delving deep into the geopolitical ground of medieval India, picking up the threads of various developments from their very roots and portraying these developments as if he is moving through a proverbial ‘Time Capsule’.

Press comments on his earlier works

Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India 3 Volumes

Approved by the National Book Trust, Government of India, as University LevelTextbooks

Vol I: The Sultanate Period (1000-1526)

“For those who consider that history is a mere compilation of past incidents, this book should be a revelation. It is an assault on the traditional approach. It opens a new vista with a progressive and analytical interpretation of medieval history.” The Tribune, Chandigarh

Vol II The Mughal Empire

“It gives a descriptive, analytical and critical survey of the Mughal Empire. The main thesis of the author is that the Mughals were foreign conquerors, albeit Akbar transformed his ruling house into a national monarchy and laid the foundations of a secular nation-state in India. The story of its rise and fall has been reconstructed by the author within the compass of Indian nationhood.

Vol III Medieval Indian Society and Culture

“It gives a glimpse of the medieval Indian society and culture during the period AD 1000 to 1707, the political and military history of which has been given in the preceding volumes.”

About the Author

J. L. Mehta, a product of the Punjab University. Chandigarh has had a brilliant academic record securing merit schoI.anh: throughout his schooldays. He established his reputation as a sober and serious historian by his History of the Punjab University. A specialist in medieval and modern Indian history. And a prolific writer, with proficiency in Urdu, Persian and Tibetan, besides Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit, he had published a number of books, articles and monographs long before he opted for the PhD degree which he received from his alma mater in 1978.

A widely travelled man, Dr Mehta, during one of his sojourns in the UK, attended lectures in a postgraduate course in International Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London. He retired as Reader in History. Punjab University. Chandigarh.

About The Book

Dr J.L. Mehta’s Advanced Study in the History of Modern India is a comprehensive study on the history of modern India between w 1707 and 1813. The study begins with the death of Aurangzeb, the last imperial ruler of the Mughal dynasty, and carries the story of political and military developments through the eighteenth century which comprises ‘an epoch of transition’ from the medieval to the modern period of Indian history The narrative shatters the contention of contemporary European writers that it was ‘the dark age’ of Indian history, characterised by ‘political anarchy and misgovernment’, until the British brought it under their sway. The main thesis of the author is that the political developments of the period were marked by two distinct phases. The first phase, which lasted from 1707 to 1760, saw the rapid disintegration of the Mughal power and its replacement by the Marathas who, having suffered a setback from Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat, recovered their hegemony under their fourth Peshwa Madhav Rao (1761-62); and the second phase, which saw the consolidation of power of the English traders-turned-colonists over Carnatic and Bengal, and the struggle for supremacy between them and the Marathas.

The author makes a judicious use of the contemporary English and Marathi sources and liberally utilises the extensive researches done by modern historians to portray a compact picture of their findings in an extensive treatment of the subject matter in the form of a textbook for the benefit of students of colleges and universities.


It is a political history of early modern India from Al) 1707 to 1813. The study begins with the death, on 21 February 1707, of Aurangzeb, the last imperial ruler of the Mughal dynasty, and carries the story of political developments in India through the eighteenth century, which has been characterised by most of the historians as ‘an epoch of transition’ from the medieval to the modern period of Indian history. It is, in fact, the fourth volume in continuation of my earlier three-volume publication entitled, The Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India, which was brought out by Sterling Publishers more than two decades ago (1979-83). These books have since been revised and passed through numerous reprints year after year, and have gained popularity with the advanced students and scholars of history. On the express demands of the readers from all over India, as many as five distinguished scholars and teachers of the discipline undertook the Hindi translation of these three books with diligence and professional skill, which were brought out by Jawahar Publishers of New Delhi in 1996, and have since been selling very well. In the very first instance, I owe a debt of gratitude and express my sincere thanks to these young associates of mine, Sarvshri Chander Kumar Saxena, Shuker Dev Prasad, Sanjay Sinha, Naval Kishore and Naresh Kumar Rajliwal. It is with great pleasure and immense satisfaction over the success of my humble contribution towards the advancement of historical knowledge and literature that I make known to my readers that the Marathi version of my aforementioned works has already been undertaken by a team of dedicated scholars of the Poona University, and may see the light of day very shortly through the exertions of K’Sagar Publications.

Until very recently, the presentation of an authentic history of the eighteenth century India confronted the modern historians with numerous problems. The voluminous records of the East India Company and the early British historians usually depicted this period as the ‘dark age of Indian history’, and by the distorted version of the indigenous polity and political developments, made it appear that ‘anarchy and misgovernment was the normal state of affairs in India until the British assumed the reins of its government’. They did it partly for want of sufficient historical material, especially the indigenous sources, which were not within their reach, and partly through prejudice, design and even deliberate falsification of history to justify the British conquest of India. In my student life, as a ‘subject’ of ‘British India’ (Punjab University, Lahore) our knowledge in the Indian history of the period under review was very deficient. It was generally held that the eighteenth century was marked by the gradual disintegration of the Mughal Empire under the weak and degenerate Later Mughals, and that the Indian subcontinent was parcelled out into a ‘conglomeration of fighting states’ until the British established their rule by bringing about their annihilation or subjugation. They were said to have created order out of chaos and given a civilised government and modem institutions to the Indian multitude, belonging to diverse religions, races, castes and nationalities. Most of the British historians happened to be civil or military servants and beneficiaries of the East India Company, therefore, they naturally wished for the expansion, consolidation and perpetuation of the British rule in India. James Mill (1773-1836) was the first such historian who divided the history of India into three periods— Hindu period, Muslim period and the British period, corresponding to the ancient, medieval and modern age respectively. As regards the study of the eighteenth century India, it was scrupulously divided into two parts: (a) The Pre-British period, from AD 1700 to 1756, and (b) the British period, from Ar) 1757 to 1800. By this classification, we were given to understand as if, after the death of Aurangzeb, there was a deluge until Clive proclaimed from the historic battlefield of Plassey: ‘Let there be light’, and modern India was born with a bang.

Robert Orme (1728-1801), one of the earliest civil servants of the Company turned historian, is credited with the production of the first magnum opus on the early history of the British conquests in India, it was titled, A History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan, from the Year 1745. Its first volume (published in London in 1763), contained the account of Anglo-French rivalry and the first two Carnatic wars, while the second volume, brought out in 1778, dealt with the Indian affairs from 1756 to 1763. In its revised edition to the first volume (1773), Orme had ‘prefixed’‘a dissertation on the establishments made by Mahomedan conquerors in Indostan’, which was subsequently enlarged and printed separately under the supplementary caption— ‘Historical Fragments of the Mughal Empire, of the Morattoes (Marathas), and of the English concerns in Indostan, from the Year 1659’. Like Robert (later Lord) Clive, Orme started as a writer in the Company’s civil service at Calcutta in 1743, at the age of fifteen, and was promoted to the position of a Factor in the commercial establishment after five years. He earned reputation as a hardworking man of literary taste, but with keen political Insight into the affairs of the Company, and was very helpful to the Calcutta Council in improving the administration of their trading settlements in Bengal. By the year 1755, he had become a member of the Madras Council, and played a vigorous part in crushing the French power in the Deccan. It was on his advice that the Directors requested the British Government in London to pressurise their French counterpart in Paris to recall Dupleix from India. Similarly, when Calcutta was captured by Siraj-ud-daulah in 1756, it was Robert Orme who persuaded the Madras Council to attack the Nawab of Bengal with full force, and it was on his recommendation that Admiral Watson and Clive, whom he knew personally, were entrusted the command of the British forces, which retrieved the situation at Calcutta. The Directors realised the soundness of his choice after the Battle of Plassey, and he was made the Governor-designate of Madras. However, because of his precarious health, Orme had to give up the arduous public duties and sought pre-mature retirement. He returned to England in 1759. The publication of the first volume of his aforementioned book fetched Robert Orme a new assignment of his liking as historiographer to the Company on a handsome salary, with free access to the records in the ‘India House’ to continue his work. He did not know Persian or any other Indian language, and his skeletal treatment of the pre-British history of India is full of errors and rather obsolete. Nevertheless, J P Guha, in his introduction to the Indian reprint of his Historical Fragments (New Delhi, 1982) is all praise for his ‘sheer objectivity, minute details and authenticity’ of his main narrative. Orme gives a very truthful and authentic account of the three Carnatic wars and the fall of Siraj-ud-daulah at Plassey. He applauds the success of Clive’s venture in Bengal, attained by whatever means, and gives vent to his emotions of joy and pride without inhibition as follows: ‘The field of fortune is open to every man, who has courage to make use of his sword, and to whom nature has given superior talents of mind’. It incidentally reveals the territorial ambitions of the Company and the modus operandi for the attainment of its political and military goals in India. James Mill’s ‘classics’ on the History of British India was originally published in 3 volumes in 1817, which was later revised and considerably enlarged by the author and brought out in 6 volumes in 1826. It traces the history of the East India Company from its inception, highlights the achievements of Lord Clive and Warren Hastings as founders of the British dominions in India and carries the story through the administration of Lord Wellesley up to 1805. James Mill had never been to India and he held a very poor opinion about the Indian society and culture, which he branded as ‘barbaric’. To him, India was the land where ‘darkness had always prevailed’. His approach to the Indian history was thus based on certain basic convictions, prejudices and misrepresentations that badly disfigured his monumental work. Nevertheless, being a Utilitarian and Liberal by outlook, he justified the British rule in India on the principle of utility. According to George D Bearce (British Attitudes Towards India, 1784-1858, OUP, 1961), James Mill advocated that ‘India’s utility to Britain was not the military power, which India could contribute, nor tribute and fortunes made in India, but the opportunity for free trade and capital enterprise there’. As a Liberal, he believed in self-rule but only for the white colonies and recommended ‘authoritarian government in India’ to which it was said to have been subjected by its despotic rulers all through the ages. To the misfortune of the Indians, his views were largely accepted by the British Parliament at the time of passing the Charter Act of 1813 and incorporated in the British policy towards India. No wonder, his work ‘provided a historical and philosophical foundation for the attitudes and activities of Liberals and Utilitarians in India’. It was used as a textbook for the new recruits of Hailsbury College in the nineteenth century and prejudiced the minds of the Indian civil servants to the detriment of the Indian commercial and political interests. James Mill was taken in the Company’s civil service in 1819, in appreciation of his monumental study, and he was ‘head examiner of correspondence’ (virtual Under-Secretary of state) at the time of his death in 1836. Thereafter, H H Wilson, ‘the great Orientalist’, edited his work and added three more volumes to it, under the same title, to carry the story of the Company’s rule in India up to 1835, and the number of its volumes rose to ten, after the Great Revolt of 1858, to conclude the account of the Company’s Hundred Years’ Rule in India. S C Mittal, in his treatise, entitled, India Distorted — A Study of British Historians (Vol 1; New Delhi, 1995) corroborates the fact that even the approach of Wilson towards the history of India under review was no different from that of James Mill. He lent support to the prejudices and vague generalizations of James Mill about India and its people, dubbed all the Indian leaders, ‘who aroused passions for struggles’ as ‘ringleaders’. ‘robbers’, ‘dacoits’ or ‘fanatics’, and referred to the local and regional political struggles as ‘insurrections’ or ‘riots’, and ‘troubles’ or ‘disturbances’.

The foundation of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784 gave birth to the Oriental or Indological studies, but up to 1829, not a single Indian scholar was enrolled as its member. The Indologists took enormous pains in digging out India’s past history and culture. However, what to say of others, even Sir William Jones (1746-94), the founding father of the Society, could not rise above the superiority complex of his European compatriots. The focal point of historical writings of all the British scholars, whether Conservatives or Liberals, Imperialists or Romanticists, Orientalists or Occidentalists, Utilitarians or Evangelists, was solely the preservation and consolidation of the British rule in India and the exploitation of its resources in men and materials. Everyone felt proud of the ever-expanding British Indian Empire and none questioned the means by which it was being done. Even the early twentieth century writings on the history of the period under review ‘uncritically accepted’ the ‘projection’ of the earlier British writers, and believed in the ‘stability’ and ‘permanence’ of the British rule in India. Their accounts were generally lopsided, biased against their Indian adversaries and not very helpful in the construction of a well-balanced and comprehensive history of the whole country. Gone were the days when Company’s civil servants, like Robert Orme, could jubilantly record the political manipulations and conspiracies into which their countrymen indulged to browbeat their French and Indian rivals. As the Company developed political ambitions and became deeply engrossed in its wild plans of territorial conquests, its chroniclers became conscious of the risks involved in unnecessary exposure of the misdeeds and nefarious activities of the Britishers in India which tarnished the fair name of their nation. So much so, even the Court of Directors ‘displayed’ their remarkable ‘skill in suppressing such information as they wished not to appear’. Men, like J D Cunningham and Major Evans Bell, who dared to be truthful in their writings about the Company’s high-handedness and unethical treatment towards their indigenous political rivals were severely punished. Even otherwise, though some of the British writers were ‘conscious of the inherent defects’ of the Company’s rule in India, many others felt proud of ‘the Pax Britannica’ and were usually ‘averse to the exposure’ of its shortcomings and excesses. Reference may be made, probably, to the last conventional history of the times, entitled, The British Conquest and Dominion of India (Duckworth, 1989) by. Penderel Moon (1905-87), a late entrant to the Indian Civil Service (ICS) in 1928. He, of his own choice, continued with his career service in independent India after 1947, and retired as Adviser to the Indian Planning Commission in 1961. Penderel Moon was a sober and sanguine writer, who became a celebrity in the field of Indian historical studies for his valuable publication, entitled, Divide and Quit (London, 1961). The author, who died at the ripe old age of eighty-one, during the publication of his first mentioned history of the British rule in India, sticks to the old contention of preceding writers that ‘the British conquered India by military force’ but qualifies his remark by the elaboration that ‘Indian help in the British conquest was afforded (a) by Indian troops (sepoys) who, trained and led by British officers, played a leading part in almost all the British victories, (b) by Indian rulers, who sought the British as allies against enemies and rivals, and, (c) occasionally, by Indian aspirants to power, who were ready to link up with the British in furtherance of their own ambitions. The ease with which foreign intruders like the British and the French, till the British overcame them, won Indian acceptance and support was due to lack of national feeling among Indians and to their long habituation to domination by people of other races and religions’. Secondly, Moon admits that ‘the British liked to think of their Indian empire as comparable with that of Rome’ but clarifies that ‘whereas, the Romans, at least in Britain and Western Europe, were a civilised people conquering and ruling over comparative barbarians, the British in conquering India were subjugating peoples who, so far from being barbaric like the Celtic tribes of Britain, were the products of a very ancient civilisation, as was fully realised by some of the earliest British empire builders and has become still more evident from the scholarship of recent times’. We are beholden to the learned author for his modest clarifications, which mark a positive improvement on the traditional views of the preceding British historians.

James Cunningham Grant Duff (1789-1858), the celebrated author of History of the Mahrattas (3 vols, London, 1826), had joined the Company’s service at Bombay as a military cadet. In 1818, be held the captain’s rank when he was posted at Satara as political agent to the Maratha Chhatrapati, who had been taken under British protection after the abolition of peshwaship and end of the Maratha sovereignty. He stayed at Satara for about five years. It gave him an opportunity to acquaint himself with the Maratha society and institutions and prompted him to collect materials to write their history, which he did after his return to England. The twin objects of his undertaking this study were ‘to introduce the Marathas to the British public, who had yet but imperfect information’ about their most deadly foes in India, and to justify the destruction of their power and show the British superiority over them. In the ‘Preface’ to the first volume of his publication, Duff writes inter alia as follows:

‘The want of a complete history of the rise, progress and decline of our immediate predecessors in conquest, the Mahrattas, has been felt by all persons conversant with the affairs of India, in so much that it is very generaI1y acknowledged we cannot fully understand the means by which our own vast empire in that quarter was acquired, until this desideratum he supplied’.

Whatever the shortcomings of Grant Duff’s work, it forms a landmark in the study of eighteenth century India in historical perspective. Quite contrary to Duff’s expectations and expositions, biased against the contemporary indigenous powers, in general, and the Marathas, in particular, he unconsciously set the ball rolling and showed the direction to the European as well as Indian scholars to explore the true history of this ‘dark century’, during which India was constantly under attack from the foreigners—the European traders turned colonialists along its seashores, and the Afghan intruders from the northwest. The court chroniclersof the Later Mughals and Persian scholars attempted to maintain the old historical tradition during the eighteenth century as far as possible and did leave behind some useful records for the posterity, albeit, the ‘modern’ Indian scholars (products of English or western education) were rather very late in undertaking the critical study of this period. Siyar-ul-Mutakherifl of Ohulam Hussain was one such history of the times, which was rendered into English by Hai Mustafa, a French convert to Islam, and published at Calcutta in 1789. Justice MO Ranade was the first among the prominent Indian scholars to point out the fallacies and inadequacies of Grant Duff’s history of the Marathas in his valuable treatise, entitled, Rise of the Maratha Power (Bombay, 1901). It was, however, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, the doyen of Indian historians, who turned the tide in favour of Indian historical scholarship by his total dedication to the critical studies and researches into this most neglected period of Indian history. Born in 1870, he spent full sixty years of his fruitful life, from 1898 to 1958, in this work and gave training and incentives to a galaxy of brilliant and dedicated historians, from all parts of the country, to unearth and record the true history of Modem India in the political and administrative, economic and commercial, social and cultural, at the local and regional levels. Among his other monumental works, fall of the Mughal Empire (4 vols, 1932-50) presented a fairly authentic history of northern India from the death of Aurangzeb to the conquest of Dethi by the British in.v 1803. G S Sardesai, the foremost historian of Maharashtra, and the reputed author of the Main Currents of Maratha History (Bombay, 1933) and New History of the Marathas (3 vols, Bombay, 1946), was introduced to Sir Jadunath Sarkar in 1904; and, ever since, there was no parting of the ways between them for about fifty years. They were ‘travelling together, living together, and conducting joint literary work, year after year, so that Sarkar and Sardesai became a byword in the Deccan’. Needless to say, I have drunk deep at the fountain of their invaluable researches all through my professional life as a teacher and humble student of history.

In 1963, Dr K K Datta published ‘A Survey of Recent Studies on Modern Indian History’ (Calcutta), a fairly comprehensive book penned, by Indian as well as foreign scholars and since then scholars engaged in Indian historical studies and their contributions have increased manifold. Quite a few of them have produced valuable dissertations, monographs and treatises, and contributed research papers from the platforms of Indian History Congress and other national and regional institutions and organisations on the history of various ‘succession states’ of the erstwhile Mughal Empire in the eighteenth century, besides the Marathas, Rajputs, Jats, Bundelas, Afghan immigrants to India, European settlements in India, and the Silchs, etc, some of which do have a bearing on my subject of study. Obviously, this study is based on my dedication of half a century to the discipline as serious student, teacher and researcher in the fields of medieval and modern Indian history, and its contents have been culled from a large mass of documentary materials, collected by me from the archival records and the latest research publications. Besides, I made use of the original or edited reprints of the relevant British historical writings, without any reservations or prejudice but as raw material, for the preparation of this book, and have also utilised with advantage the published English translations of the various Persian and Marathi sources as far as possible. I have exerted myself to the best of my ability to hammer my findings into shape, and moulded them in the framework of a textbook for the benefit of my readers, especially the degree and postgraduate students of colleges and universities and those preparing for the civil service examinations. A select bibliography of important books in print, available easily in the market, and having an exclusive or substantial bearing on the subject, is being appended towards the end of the main text.

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the historians and chroniclers of the past and the present, whose works added to my knowledge of the subject and enabled me to write this book. I use this opportunity to pay homage to the sweet memory of my revered teachers, Dr Ganda Singh and Dr Han Ram Gupta, to whom I owe all the wisdom but none of my deficiencies and demerits as a student of history and the historiographer. I beg to offer my childlike sentiments of love and best regards to revered Professor B S Khana, who initiated me into the in-depth study and research in the administrative history of modern India. With due regards to the lines of approach and considered opinions of all the authorities, dead or alive, consulted by me in the present context, the historical facts have, nevertheless, been reorganised and reinterpreted by me wherever deemed necessary. I have attempted to give a critical analysis of the important political and military events and developments, and have reassessed their impact on the course of history of the times. How far I have been successful in this endeavour and whether the assessment so made is objective and Impartial or not is for the readers to judge. On my part, I reiterate my earlier commitment that lam fully conscious of my duty to the society and posterity to conduct myself as an honest and objective writer. All constructive suggestions for the improvement of the book would be highly appreciated.

I do not intend to explain the contents of the book, but leave it to the readers to glean through the list of contents, and peruse the relevant chapters or topics of their choice or requirement to form their own opinions. I am fully confident that this book, like my earlier three-volume publication on medieval India, will find the approval of, and provide enough food for thought to not only to the advanced students of history but also their teachers and general readers, especiafly the youthful bureaucrats and persons at the helm of public affairs, who strive to update their knowledge about the historical developments in India and achievements or failures of the men who mattered in the recent past.

Through the pages of this write-up, I am glad to inform my young readers, the custodians of future India and the hope of mankind in the twenty-first century, that Paras and Daisy, my grandchildren, to whom I had dedicated my earlier publications, a quarter of a century ago, have since grown up into healthy, happy and highly educated persons, and are now self-dependent, happily married and fully responsible citizens of the society. Daisy, ie Daisy G Sharma, who is an artist and fashion designer by profession, also holds the degree of Master of Arts (MA) in History just because of her filial attachment to me, and has prepared as many as nine excellent historical sketch-maps, bearing on the subject, which I have incorporated in this study. For her valuable contribution to my work, I am very thankful to her and feel highly proud of her professional competence.

Another very personal reference that I would like to make here of my three benefactors or rather saviours and well-wishers, they are esteemed Dr. R K Suri, the heart specialist of PGI, Chandigarh, who performed my triple bypass operation and gave me a fresh lease of life, Dr B S Lal, MBBS, MD (Medicine), my family physician of the Punjab University Health Centre, Chandigarh, who affectionately takes care of my health and keeps me going, and Dr Daijit Singh, the renowned eye specialist of Amritsar, who operated upon both my eyes to remove the white cataracts, so as to enable me to continue my academic work as a useful member of the society for some time more. I express heart-felt gratitude to all the three of them, who not only practice their professional skills with competence but have also developed very intimate personal relations with me as friends. Man is mortal but these medical men hold out an assurance to my people and the nation that they will not allow any patient, who is put to their care, to die or be left in sufferance for want of adequate medical aid in our country.

My grateful thanks are due to Shri S K Ghai, the proprietor of the Sterling Publishers Private Limited and his illustrious sons, Sarvshri Gaurav Ghai and Vikas Ghai, who took keen interest in my book and saw through its publication. But for them it would not have been possible for me to bring it out in the beautiful shape in which it is being placed in the hands of the readers.

In the end, I have to perform the most pleasant duty to express my gratitude and obligations towards my sweetheart and wife, Swaran Lata Mehta, but for whose constant encouragement and support, this book could never have seen the light of day. I am overwhelmed with my feelings of love and personal attachment to my life-partner while dedicating this book to her in the golden jubilee year of our blissful conjugal lives. My heartiest felicitations to her on our having become the great grandparents of baby Madhurima, the newly born child of Daisy G Sharma.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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