The Age of George III
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Wellesley's superior attitude towards the Indians, especially Hindus, did leave much to be desired, however. Indians were not allowed in top administrative posts and could not attend social events organised by whites. His excessive vanity caused him to wear his medals and decorations even in bed - according to "reliable reports".
The three Mahratta Wars illustrate how British power led to interference with the succession of native rulers, since the continual threat of war between usurper and usurped made peaceful government and trade impossible. British ascendancy in India made the East India Company the 'policemen' for the native rulers. By a policy of supporting contender or ruler (according to how one or the other viewed the British) the Company was able to prevent the Mahrattas from extending their alliances to challenge the position of the British.
The Mahrattas did not have the financial resources to finance an extended campaign, nor a system of succession that assured united support behind one leader. Disputes between Hindu chiefs coupled with intrigues and quarrels made the Mahratta federation susceptible to the skilful British diplomacy of dividing the enemy by drawing off a section of his support. Defeat on the battlefield led to the loss of Mahrattan territory and revenue.
Similarly the Mysore Wars (1767-9; 1780-4; 1790-2) were caused by the threat of adventurous Indian rulers seeking to extend their possessions and thus endangering the supreme position of the East India Company. Hyder and his son Tipoo, the rulers of Mysore, took territory at a time when the British and the Nawab of the Carnatic were distracted by the French Wars.
At various times the British entered alliances with the Nawab of the Carnatic, the Nizam of Hyderabad and even the Mahrattas, to prevent the ruler of Mysore from winning a decisive victory. With Tipoo's defeat in 1799 the Company gained more territory, extracted from the defeated state a subsidy for the British military force and the right of the Governor-General to take over the administration of Mysore should he believe it to be necessary.
Wellesley was succeeded by Lord Minto.
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Last modified 5 January, 2011
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