Bataille de Plassey

Article

July 3, 2022

The Battle of Plassey (Bengali: পলাশীর যুদ্ধ Pôlashir Juddho) is traditionally considered the starting point of British rule in India, the founding act of the British Raj. On June 23, 1757, on the outskirts of the small village of Palashi (between Calcutta and Murshidabad), the forces of the English East India Company under the command of Robert Clive defeated the army of the Bengal divan, Siradj al-Dawla, supported by French artillery. This battle also marks the end of French domination in India; France will indeed never regain possession of the Indian subcontinent, with the exception of a few counters until 1954. This defeat leads to the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, which consecrates Great Britain as the first world power, with the loss of French possessions in North America and India.

Context

In 1756, Siraj al-Dawla ordered the British, then in conflict with the French, to stop fortifying the city of Calcutta, in accordance with their agreement. The city is then the main possession of the English East India Company (BEIC) in India. Siraj al-Dawla is also very irritated by Krisnadâs, the son of the Hindu court official Râj Ballabha, who had stolen a large sum when he was stationed in Dhaka, then had taken refuge in Calcutta, under British protection. . This ultimatum having had no effect, he took the city on June 20 and occupied it with the stronghold of Fort William. Robert Clive, a lieutenant-colonel of the BEIC, then takes the head of a troop stationed in Madras and goes to Bengal.

The battle

Clive leads the 900 men of the 39th Infantry Regiment and 2,200 sepoys. Opposite him, entrenched in the Palashi camp, are about 50,000 men equipped with heavy artillery. During the battle, a monsoon storm, lasting almost an hour, soaked the men on both sides and soaked the ground. Indian weapons became ineffective, their powder having been insufficiently protected. When the Indian cavalry charged in the hope that the British guns would be in the same condition, they encountered heavy fire. The battle lasts no more than a few hours, its outcome having been decided long before the men meet on the battlefield. Indeed, Clive, who is wary of French influence, had agreed with Mîr Jafar to offer him the throne of Bengal when he got rid of the young divan. Also, many of the Couch Soldiers have been bought off and are surrendering prematurely, throwing away their weapons, or turning them against their own side. There are only 23 dead and 49 wounded in the British ranks. Siraj al-Dawla takes refuge in Murshidabad but he is soon captured and assassinated, and Mir Jafar seizes power by paying the British East India Company such an enormous sum that it empties the treasure of the couch which then becomes a puppet in the hands of the company. This inaugural battle of the British Raj carries with it the seeds of the strategy of conquest of the sub-continent by the BEIC, where it keeps little of the promises it makes, where it respects little of the many treaties it signs (cf. Mysore wars), where it wins many battles by buying off its adversaries and using disinformation (cf. the Black Hole of Calcutta). Defeated, France and her allies withdraw; During the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Louis XV ceded almost all French possessions on the Indian continent to George III. Thus ends the dream of the French Indies and begins that of the British Indies, called to be the “jewel in the Crown” in the 19th century. The main reason for the loss of the battle by France would be a misunderstanding of the orders, because the soldiers