Modern Indian history (from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present)- significant events, personalities and issues

India in the Eighteenth

 CenturyBahadur Shah 1 (1707-12)

  • Muzam succeeded Aurungzeb after latter’s death in 1707
  • He acquired the title of Bahadur Shah.
  • Though he was quite old (65) and his rule quite short there are many significant achievements he made
  • He reversed the narrow minded and antagonistic policies of Aurungzeb
  • Made agreements with Rajput states
  • Granted sardeshmukhi to Marathas but not Chauth
  • Released Shahuji (son of Sambhaji) from prison (who later fought with Tarabai)
  • Tried to make peace with Guru Gobind Sahib by giving him a high Mansab. After Guru’s death, Sikhs again revolted under the leadership of Banda Bahadur. This led to a prolonged war with the Sikhs.
  • Made peace with Chhatarsal, the Bundela chief and Churaman, the Jat chief.
  • State finances deteriorated

Jahandar Shah (1712-13)

  • Death of Bahadur Shah plunged the empire into a civil war
  • A noted feature of this time was the prominence of the nobles
  • Jahandar Shah, son of Bahadur Shah, ascended the throne in 1712 with help from Zulfikar Khan
  • Was a weak ruler devoted only to pleasures
  • Zulfikar Khan, his wazir, was virtually the head of the administration
  • ZK abolished jizyah
  • Peace with Rajputs: Jai Singh of Amber was made the Governor of Malwa. Ajit Singh of Marwar was made the Governor of Gujarat.
  • Chauth and Sardeshmukh granted to Marathas. However, Mughals were to collect it and then hand it over to the Marathas.
  • Continued the policy of suppression towards Banda Bahadur and Sikhs
  • Ijarah: (revenue farming) the government began to contract with revenue farmers and middlemen to pay the government a fixed amount of money while they were left free to collect whatever they could from the peasants
  • Jahandhar Shah defeated in January 1713 by his nephew Farrukh Siyar at Agra

Farrukh Siyar (1713-19)

  • Owed his victory to Saiyid Brothers: Hussain Ali Khan Barahow and Abdullah Khan
  • Abdullah Khan: Wazir, Hussain Ali: Mir Bakshi
  • FS was an incapable ruler. Saiyid brothers were the real rulers.
  • Saiyid Brothers
    • Known the Indian History as King Makers
    • adopted the policy of religious tolerance. Abolished jizyah (again?). Pilgrim tax was abolished from a number of places
    • Marathas: Granted Shahuji swarajya and the right to collect chauth and sardeshmukhi of the six provinces of the Deccan
    • They failed in their effort to contain rebellion because they were faced with constant political rivalry, quarrels and conspiracies at the court.
    • Nobles headed by Nizam-ul-Mulk and Muhammad Amin Khan began to conspire against them
    • In 1719, the Saiyid Brothers killed and overthrew FS.
    • This was followed by placing, in quick succession, of two young princes who died of consumption
    • Murder of the emperor created a wave of revulsion against the SB. They were looked down as ‘namak haram’
  • Now, they placed 18 year old Muhammad Shah as the emperor of India
  • In 1720, the nobles assassinated Hussain Ali Khan, the younger of the SB. Abdullah Khan was also defeated at Agra

Muhammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ (1719-1748)

  • Weak-minded, frivolous and over-fond of a life of ease
  • Neglected the affairs of the state
  • Intrigued against his own ministers
  • Naizam ul Mulk Qin Qulich Khan, the wazir, relinquished his office and founded the state of Hyderabad in 1724
    • “His departure was symbolic of the flight of loyalty and virtue from the Empire”
  • Heriditary nawabs arose in Bengal, Hyderabad, Awadh and Punjab
  • Marathas conquered Malwa, Gujarat and Bundelkhand
  • 1738: Invasion of Nadir Shah


Nadir Shah’s Invasion (1738)

  • Attracted to India by its fabulous wealth. Continual campaigns had made Persia bankrupt
  • Also, the Mughal empire was weak.
  • Didn’t meet any resistance as the defense of the north-west frontier had been neglected for years
  • The two armies met at Karnal on 13th Feb 1739. Mughal army was summarily defeated. MS taken prisoner
  • Massacre in Delhi in response to the killing of some of his soldiers
  • Plunder of about 70 crore rupees. Carried away the Peacock throne and Koh-i-noor
  • MS ceded to him all the provinces of the Empire west of the river Indus
  • Significance: Nadir Shah’s invasion exposed the hidden weakness of the empire to the Maratha sardars and the foreign trading companies

Ahmed Shah Abdali

  • One of the generals of Nadir Shah
  • Repeatedly invaded and plundered India right down to Delhi and Mathura between 1748 and 1761. He invaded India five times.
  • 1761: Third battle of Panipat. Defeat of Marathas.
  • As a result of invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah, the Mughal empire ceased to be an all-India empire. By 1761 it was reduced merely to the Kingdom of Delhi

Shah Alam II (1759-

  • Ahmed Bahadur (1748-54) succeeded Muhammad Shah
  • Ahmed Bahadur was succeeded by Alamgir II (1754-59)
    • 1756: Abdali plundered Mathura
  • Alamgir II was succeeded by Shah Jahan III
  • Shah Jahan III succeeded by Shah Alam II in 1759
  • Shah Alam spent initial years wandering for he lived under the fear of his wazir
  • In 1764, he joined forces with Mir Qasim of Bengal and Shuja-ud-Daula of Awadh in declaring a war upon the British East India company. This resulted in the Battle of Buxar
  • Pensioned at Allahabad
  • Returned to Delhi in 1772 under the protection of Marathas

Decline of the Mughal Empire

  • After 1759, Mughal empire ceased to be a military power.
  • It continued from 1759 till 1857 only due to the powerful hold that the Mughal dynasty had on the minds of the people of India as a symbol of the political unity of the country
  • In 1803, the British occupied Delhi
  • From 1803 to 1857, the Mughal emperors merely served as a political front of the British.
  • The most important consequence of the fall of the Mughal empire was that it paved way for the British to conquer India as there was no other Indian power strong enough to unite and hold India.

Succession States

  • These states arose as a result of the assertion of autonomy by governors of Mughal provinces with the decay of the central power
  • Bengal, Awadh, Hyderabad

Hyderabad and the Carnatic

  • Founded by Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724
  • Tolerant policy towards Hindus
    • A Hindu, Puran Chand, was his Dewan.
  • Established an orderly administration in Deccan on the basis of the jagirdari system on the Mughal pattern
  • He died in 1748
  • Nawab of Carnatic freed himself of the control of the Viceroy of the Deccan and made his office hereditary
    • Saadutullah Khan of Carnatic made his nephew Dost Ali his successor


  • 1700: Murshid Quli Khan made the Dewan of Bengal
  • Freed himself of the central control
  • Freed Bengal of major uprisings
    • Three major uprisings during his time: Sitaram Ray, Udai Narayan and Ghulam Muhammad, and then by Shujat Khan, and finally by Najat Khan
  • Carried out fresh revenue settlement. Introduced the system of revenue-farming.
  • Revenue farming led to the increased distress of the farmers
  • Laid the foundations of the new landed aristocracy in Bengal
  • MQK died in 1727. Succeeded by Shuja-ud-din.
  • 1739: Alivardi Khan killed and deposed Shuja-ud-din’s son, Sarfaraz Khan, and made himself the Nawab
  • All three Nawabs encouraged merchants, both Indian and foreign.
  • Safety of roads and rivers. Thanas and Chowkies at regular intervals.
  • Maintained strict control over the foreign trading companies
  • They, however, did not firmly put down the increasing tendency of the English East India Company to use military force, or to threaten its use, to get its demands accepted.
  • They also neglected to build a strong army


  • 1722: Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk
  • Suppressed rebellions and disciplined the Zamindars
  • Fresh revenue settlement in 1723
  • Did not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. The highest post in his government was held by a Hindu, Maharaja Nawab Rai
  • Died in 1739. Succeeded by Safdar Jung.
  • SJ’s reign was an era of peace
  • made an alliance with the Maratha sardars
  • Carried out warfare against Rohelas and Bangash Pathans
  • Organized an equitable system of justice
  • Distinct culture of Lucknow developed during his period


  • Haidar Ali, in 1761, overthrew Nanjaraj and established his own authority over Mysore
  • 1755: Established a modern arsenal at Dindigal with the help of French experts
  • Conquered Bidnur, Sunda, Sera, Canara and Malabar
  • He conquered Malabar because he wanted access to the Indian Ocean
  • First and Second Anglo-Mysore War
  • 1782: Succeeded by Tipu Sultan
  • TS was an innovator. Introduced a new calendar, a new system of coinage and new scales of weights and measures.
  • Keen interest in French Revolution
    • Planted a ‘tree of liberty’ at Srirangapatnam and became a member of the Jacobin Club
  • Made efforts to build a modern navy
  • Mysore flourished economically under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan
  • Sent missions to France, Turkey, Iran and Pegu Myanmar to develop foreign trade
  • Some historians say that Tipu was a religious fanatic. But facts don’t support this assertion.




  • Divided into large number of feudal chiefs in the 18th century
  • Four important states
    • Calicut (under Zamorin), Chirakkal, Cochin and Travancore
  • In 1729, Travancore rose to prominence under King Martanda Varma
  • Conquered Quilon and Elayadam, and defeated the Dutch
  • From 1766 Haidar Ali invaded Kerala and annexed northern Kerala up to Cochin
  • Revival of Malyalam literature
    • Trivandram became a famous centre of Sanskrit scholarship

Rajput States

  • Rajputana states continued to be divided as before
  • Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber was the most outstanding ruler of the era
    • Founded the city of Jaipur
    • Made Jaipur a great seat of science and art
    • Erected observatories at Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura
    • Drew up a set of tables, entitled Zij Muhammadshahi, to enable people to make astronomical observations
    • Translated Euclid’s “Elements of Geometry” into Sanskrit
    • Social reformers. Reduce lavish marriage expenditures.


  • Jat peasants revolted in 1669 and 1688
  • Jat state of Bharatpur set up by Churaman and Badan Singh
  • Reached its highest glory under Suraj Mal, who ruled from 1756 to 1763


  • Sikhsim transformed into a militant religion during Guru Hargobind (1606-45), the sixth guru.
  • Guru Gobind Singh waged constant war against the armies of Aurangzeb and the hill rajas
  • After Guru Gobind Singh’s death (1708), leadership passed to Banda Singh (Banda Bahadur)
    • He struggled with the Mughal army for 8 years
    • Put to death in 1715
  • Banda Bahadur failed because
    • Mughal centre was still strong
    • Upper classes and castes of Punjab joined forces against him
    • He could not integrate all the anti-Mughal forces because of his religious bigotry
  • After the withdrawal of Abdali from Punjab, Sikhs were again resurgent
  • Between 1765 and 1800 they brought the Punjab and Jammu under their control
  • They were organized into 12 misls
  • Ranjit Singh
    • Chief of the Sukerchakia Misl
    • Captured Lahore (1799) and Amritsar (1802)
    • Conquered Kashmir, Peshawar and Multan
    • Possessed the second best army in Asia
    • Tolerant and liberal
    • Fakir Azizuddin and Dewan Dina Nath were his important ministers
    • “known to step down from his throne to wipe the dust off the feet of Muslim mendicants with his long grey beard”
    • Negative point: He did not remove the threat of British. He only left it over to his successors. And so, after his death, when his kingdom was torn by intense internal struggle, English conquered it.


  • Maratha Families
    • Peshwa – Pune
    • Gaekwad – Baroda
    • Bhosle – Nagpur
    • Holkar – Indore
    • Scindia – Gwalior
  • The most powerful of the succession states
  • Could not fill the political vacuum because
    • Maratha Sardars lacked unity
    • Lacked the outlook and programme which were necessary for founding an all-India empire
  • Shahuji
    • Son of Sambhaji
    • Imprisoned by Aurungzeb
    • Released in 1707
    • Civil war between Shahu and his aunt Tarabai who ruled in the name of her infant son Shivaji II
    • The conflict gave rise to a new era of Maratha leadership, the era of Peshwa leadership
  • Balaji Vishwnath
    • 1713: Peshwa of King Shahu
    • Induced Zulfikar Khan to grant the chauth and sardeshmukhi of the Deccan
    • Helped the Saiyid brothers in overthrowing Farukh Siyar
    • Maratha sardars were becoming individually strong but collectively weak
    • Died in 1720. Succeeded by his son Baji Rao I
  • Baji Rao I
    • the greatest extent of guerrilla tactics after Shivaji
    • Vast areas ceded by the Mughals
    • Marathas won control over Malwa, Gujarat and parts of Bundelkhand
    • Rivalry with Nizam ul Mulk
    • Compelled the Nizam to grant chauth and sardeshmukhi of the Deccan provinces
    • 1733: Campaign against Sidis of Janjira and the Portuguese (Salsette and Bassein)
    • Died in 1740
    • Captured territories but failed to lay the foundations of an empire
    • Succeeded by Balaji Baji Rao (Nana Saheb)
  • Balaji Baji Rao (1740-61)
    • Shahu died in 1749. Peshwas became the de facto rulers
    • Shifted the capital to Poona
    • Captured Orissa
    • Mysore forced to pay tributes
    • In 1752, helped Imad-ul-Mulk to become the wazir
    • Brought Punjab under their control and expelled the agent of Ahmad Shah Abdali
      • This led AS Abdali to come to India to settle accounts with Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat
    • Third Battle of Panipat
      • ASA formed an alliance with Najib-ud-daulah of Rohilkhand and Shuja-ud-daulah of Awadh.

Saranjami system?

Social and economic condition


Administrative Organization of the British


Army fulfilled four important functions:

  1. Instrument to conquer Indian powers
  2. Defended the British Empire in India against foreign rivals
  3. Safe-guarded against internal revolt
  4. Chief instrument for extending and defending the British Empire in Asia and Africa.

Bulk of the army consisted of Indians. In 1857, of the total strength of 311400, about 265900 were Indians. Highest Indian rank was that of Subedar.

British could conquer and control India through a predominantly Indian army because:

  1. There was absence of modern nationalism at that time
  2. The company paid its soldiers regularly and well, as opposed to the Indian rulers and chieftains.


Cornwallis was responsible for the creation of a modern police system in India. He established a system of Thanas (or circles) headed by a daroga. The police:

  1. Prevented organization of a large-scale conspiracy against foreign control
  2. Was used to suppress the national movement.


Though started by Hastings, the system was stabilized by Cornwallis.

Civil Cases

District: Diwani Adalat (civil court) presided over by the District Judge

Provincial Court: Appeal from civil court

Sardar Diwani Adalat: Highest appeal

There were also, below the District Court, Registrar’s Court (headed by Europeans) and subordinate courts headed by Indians known as munsifs or amins.

Criminal Cases

4 divisions of Bengal presidency. Each had a Court of Circuit presided over by the civil servants. Appeals could be made to Sardar Nizamat Adalat.

William Bentinck:

  • Abolished the provincial courts of appeal and circuit
  • Their work was assigned to District Collectors
  • Raised the status and power of Indians in the Judicial service.

In 1865, High Courts were established at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay.

British brought about  uniformity in the system of law. In 1833, the government appointed Law Commission headed by Macaulay to codify Indian Laws. This eventually resulted in the Indian Penal Code, Code of Civil and Criminal Procedures and other codes of laws.

Spread of Modern Education

1781: Hastings set up the Calcutta Madrasah for the study and teaching of Muslim law and related subjects

1791: Jonathan Duncan started a Sanskrit College at Varanasi for the study of Hindu law and philosophy.

1813: Charter of 1813 directed the Company to spend Rs. 1 lakh for promoting modern sciences in the country. This sum was however made available only in 1823.

1835: Macaulay’s minute.

English was made the medium of instruction in schools. Education of masses was however neglected. British advocated the ‘downward filtration theory’ for education. As per this theory, since the allocated funds could educate only a handful of Indians, it was decided to spend them in educating a few persons from the upper and middle classes who were expected to assume the task of educating the masses and spreading modern ideas among them.

1844: Compulsion for applicants for government employment to possess knowledge of English. This made the English medium schools more popular.

1854: Wood’s Dispatch asked the government of India to assume responsibility for the education of the masses. It thus repudiated the ‘downward filtration theory’. As a result, Departments of Education were instituted in all provinces and universities were setup in 1857 at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay.

The main reason why British adopted some measures towards education in India was because:

  1. They needed educated people to man their system of administration. It was not possible to get enough Englishmen to man all the posts.
  2. Another important motive was the belief that educated Indians would help expand the market for British manufactures in India.
  3. Lastly, it was expected to reconcile the people of India to British rule.

Major drawbacks of the English education system:

  1. Neglect of mass education. Mass literacy in India was hardly better in 1921 than in 1821. High fees in schools and colleges led to the education becoming a monopoly of the rich.
  2. Almost total neglect of the education of girls. As late as 1921 only 2 percent Indian women could read and write.
  3. Neglect of scientific and technical education.
  4. The government was never willing to spend more than a scanty sum on education.

Development of Education


  • Charter act of 1813
    • Sanctioned 1 lakh rupees annually for promoting education and modern sciences
    • Not made available till 1823
  • Orientalist-Anglicist Controversy
  • Lord Macaulay’s minute (1835)
  • Wood’s Despatch (1854)
    • Rejected the downward filtration theory
    • Asked the government of India to assume the responsibility of education of the masses
    • English as medium for higher studies and vernaculars at school level
  • 1857: University of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras
  • Hunter Commission (1882-83)
    • State care required for promotion and spread of primary and secondary education
    • Transfer control of primary education to district and municipal boards
  • Raleigh Commission, 1902
  • Universities Act 1904
  • Saddler Education Commission (1917-19)
    • School course should cover 12 years
    • Less rigidity in framing university regulations
  • Hartog Committee (1929)
    • No hasty expansion or compulsion of education
  • Wardha Scheme of basic education (1937)
    • Vocation based education




CGPCS Notes brings Prelims and Mains programs for CGPCS Prelims and CGPCS Mains Exam preparation. Various Programs initiated by CGPCS Notes are as follows:-