British India

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Robert Clive

In 1764 the native princes of Bengal and Oudh combined to try to eject the British but their revolt was crushed by Clive; the Company extended its influence over the province of Oudh. Clive's next step was to settle Bengal's own status. The Mogul emperor still had much influence but little power. His complete discountenance might therefore have done the company more harm than good. Clive's solution was to obtain from Shah Alam the dewanee, or revenue-collecting power, in Bengal and Bihar (the company was thus the imperial dewan for those two provinces). The nawab was left in charge of the judiciary and magistracy, but he was helpless because he had no army and could get money to raise one only from the company. This was Clive's system of "dual government."

The actual administration remained in Indian hands, and for superintendence Clive appointed a deputy dewan, Muhammad Rida Khan, who was at the same time appointed the nawab's deputy. The chain was thus complete. The company, acting in the name of the emperor and using Indian personnel and the traditional apparatus of government, now ruled Bengal. Their agent was Rida Khan; the success of the experiment turned on his efficiency and the extent of the governor's support.

Within the company, Clive enforced his authority by

Clive left Calcutta in February 1767. His work - diplomatic, political, and administrative - was a beginning rather than a complete settlement but in each direction, instead of looking back to the past, it reached out to the future. This creative period exacted a heavy price. Clive was pursued to England by his enemies who launched a parliamentary attack which, though triumphantly repulsed in 1773, led to his suicide the following year.

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Last modified 13 February, 2019

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