Following the infamous ‘Black hole of Calcutta’ in 1756, Robert Clive was sent to exact retribution (and compensation) from the Nawab of Bengal. In doing so, he cemented the British East India Company’s place as the dominant European trading partner among Indian princes, at the expense of Dutch and French rivals.
DEFEAT at the hands of the Kingdom of Travancore in 1741 was a body blow to the Dutch in India. And to the disappointment of the French, Robert Clive’s victory at Arcot in 1751 ensured that Britain’s friend, Mohammed Ali Khan Wallajah, became Nawab of the Carnatic in the south.*
But in the northeast, the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, remained hostile, so when his men crammed over a hundred civilians from a British trading-post in Calcutta into a single prison cell one sweltering June night in 1756, causing dozens of deaths, Clive was despatched to teach the Nawab a lesson.*
He took Calcutta in February 1757, and soundly defeated Siraj’s far larger army (with artillery manned by the French) at Plassey on 23rd June.
Mir Jafar Ali Khan, who had arranged to defect to the British mid-battle, was duly crowned Nawab of Bengal. And such was Britain’s prestige and power, that it was Robert Clive who conducted him to his throne.