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Travels Through Time: Bloodshed and Confusion in India

How did the East India Company become ‘an empire within an empire’?

History Today | Published in History Today

The Last Effort and Fall of Tipu Sultan by Henry Singleton, c. 1800.

By the second half of the 18th century, millions in India had been brought under British rule, due to the presence of the East India Company.

The Company was first granted its charter in 1600, and initially sought access to Asian markets and commodities. By the mid-18th century, it was facing fierce competition from Dutch merchants, and so moved its focus to South Asia. Commercial presences became established in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, and the Company began to create an empire for itself. 

In this episode of Travels Through Time, historian William Dalrymple discusses this moment, looking specifically at the year 1764 which culminated in the Battle of Buxar.

Dalrymple begins by discussing February 1764 as Mir Qasim, Shah Alam and Shuja ud-Daula united forces against the East India Company in Avadh. Their combined army totalled 150,000 men, who reached the fortified walls of Patna, an ancient city on the banks of the Ganges, on 3 May 1764.

Finally, on 22 October 1764, the decisive British victory at the Battle of Buxar marked the end of any autonomy for future nawabs.

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Travels Through Time. Tailored tours of the past. 
Travels Through Time is presented by bestselling historian Peter Moore. In each episode we are joined by an expert guest, to journey to the time and place of their choice. Enjoy a ringside view of history as never before, with the action described by those who understand it best. Browse other episodes in this series here.

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Further reading: related articles from the History Today archive

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