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Spectrum – Lecture 03 : Anglo-Maratha Wars | Modern Indian History – Free PDF Download

  • Anglo-Maratha Struggle for Supremacy
  • Rise of the Marathas – As the Mughal Empire declined, one of the staunchest and hardiest of the empire’s adversaries, the Marathas, got a chance to rise in power. They controlled a large portion of the country; besides, they also received tributes from areas not directly under their control

Entry of the English into Maratha Politics

  • The years between the last quarter of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century witnessed the Marathas and the English clashing thrice for political supremacy, with the English emerging victorious in the end.
  • The cause of these conflicts was the inordinate ambition of the English, and the divided house of the Marathas that encouraged the English to hope for success in their venture. The English in Bombay wanted to establish a government on the lines of the arrangement made by Clive in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.

First Anglo-Maratha War (1775 – 1782)

  • The third Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao died in 1761 due to shock after his defeat at the Third Battle of Panipat.
  • His son Madhavrao I succeeded him. Madhavrao I was able to recover some of the Maratha power and territories which they had lost in the Battle of Panipat.
  • The English were aware of the growing Maratha power.
  • When Madhavrao I died, there was a tussle for power in the Maratha camp.
  • His brother Narayanrao became the Peshwa but his uncle Raghunathrao wanted to become the Peshwa. For this, he sought the help of the English
  • So, the Treaty of Surat in 1775 was signed according to which Raghunathrao ceded Salsette and Bassein to the English and in return he was given 2500 soldiers.
  • The British and army of Raghunathrao attacked the Peshwa and won.
  • The British Calcutta Council under Warren Hastings annulled this treaty and a new treaty, the Treaty of Purandhar was signed in 1776 between the Calcutta Council and Nana Phadnavis, a Maratha minister.
  • Accordingly, Raghunathrao was given a pension only and Salsette was retained by the British.
  • But the British establishment at Bombay violated this treaty and sheltered Raghunathrao.
  • In 1777, Nana Phadnavis went against his treaty with the Calcutta Council and granted a port on the west coast to the French.
  • This led the British to advance a force towards Pune. There was a battle at Wadgaon near Pune in which the Marathas under Mahadji Shinde secured a decisive victory over the English.
  • The English were forced to sign the Treaty of Wadgaon in 1779.
  • There was a series of battles at the end of which the Treaty of Salbai was signed in 1782. This ended the first Anglo-Maratha war.

Results of the First Anglo-Maratha War:

  • The East India Company retained Salsette and Broach.
  • It also obtained a guarantee from the Marathas that they would retake their possessions in the Deccan from Hyder Ali of Mysore.
  • The Marathas also promised that they would not grant any more territories to the French.
  • Raghunathrao was to receive a pension of Rs.3 lakh every year.
  • All territories taken by the British after the Treaty of Purandhar were ceded back to the Marathas.
  • The English accepted Madhavrao II (son of Narayanrao) as the Peshwa.
  • First Anglo-Maratha War (1775–82)
  • Background After the death of Madhavrao in 1772, his brother Narayanrao succeeded him as the fifth peshwa.
  • However, Narayanrao’s uncle, Raghunathrao, had his nephew assassinated and named himself as the next peshwa, although he was not a legal heir. Narayanrao’s widow, Gangabai, gave birth to a son after her husband’s death. The newborn infant was named ‘Sawai’ (One and a Quarter) Madhavrao and he was legally the next peshwa.
  • Twelve Maratha chiefs (Barabhai), led by Nana Phadnavis, made an effort to name the infant as the new peshwa and rule for him as regents.

Course of War

  • The English and the Maratha armies met on the outskirts of Pune. Though the Maratha army had a larger number of soldiers than the English, the latter had highly superior ammunition and cannons.
  • However, the Maratha army was commanded by a brilliant general named Mahadji Scindia (also known as Mahadji Shinde). Mahadji lured the English army into the ghats (mountain passes) near Talegaon and trapped the English from all sides and attacked the English supply base at Khopali.
  • The Marathas also utilised a scorched earth policy, burning farmland and poisoning wells. As the English began to withdraw to Talegaon, the Marathas attacked, forcing them to retreat to the village of Wadgaon. Here, the English army was surrounded on all sides by the Marathas and cut off from food and water supplies. The English surrendered by mid-January 1779 and signed the Treaty of Wadgaon that forced the Bombay government to relinquish all territories acquired by the English since 1775

Treaty of Salbai (1782): End of the First Phase of the Struggle

  • Sindhia proposed a new treaty between the Peshwa and the English, and the Treaty of Salbai was signed in May 1782; it was ratified by Hastings in June 1782 and by Phadnavis in February 1783. The treaty guaranteed peace between the two sides for twenty years. The main provisions of the Treaty of Salbai were:
  • (i) Salsette should continue in the possession of the English.
  • (ii) The whole of the territory conquered since the Treaty of Purandhar (1776), including Bassein, should be restored to the Marathas.
  • (iii) In Gujarat, Fateh Singh Gaekwad should remain in possession of the territory which he had before the war and should serve the Peshwa as before.
  • The Peshwa should not support any other European nation.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803 – 1805)

  • After Tipu Sultan’s Mysore was captured by the British in 1799, the Marathas were the only major Indian power left outside of British domination.
  • At that time, the Maratha Confederacy consisted of five major chiefs, the Peshwas at Pune, the Gaekwads at Baroda, the Holkars at Indore, the Scindias at Gwalior and the Bhonsles at Nagpur.
  • There were internal squabbles among themselves.
  • Baji Rao II (son of Raghunathrao) was installed as the Peshwa after the death of Madhavrao II.
  • In the Battle of Poona in 1802, Yashwantrao Holkar, the chief of the Holkars of Indore defeated the Peshwas and the Scindias.
  • Baji Rao II sought British protection and signed the Treaty of Bassein with them.
  • As per this treaty, he ceded territory to the British and agreed to the maintenance of British troops there.
  • The Scindias and the Bhonsles did not accept this treaty and this caused the second Anglo-Maratha war in central India in 1803.
  • The Holkars also joined the battle against the English at a later stage.

Result of Second Anglo Maratha War

  • All the Maratha forces were defeated by the British in these battles.
  • The Scindias signed the Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon in 1803 through which the British got the territories of Rohtak, Ganga-Yamuna Doab, Gurgaon, Delhi Agra region, Broach, some districts in Gujarat, parts of Bundelkhand and Ahmadnagar fort.
  • The Bhonsles signed the Treaty of Deogaon in 1803 as per which the English acquired Cuttack, Balasore and area west of Wardha River.
  • The Holkars signed the Treaty of Rajghat in 1805 according to which they gave up Tonk, Bundi and Rampura to the British.
  • As a result of the war, large parts of central India came under British control.
  • Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803–05)


  • The Second Anglo-Maratha war started in circumstances similar to those of the first. After Peshwa Madhavrao Narayan committed suicide in 1795, Bajirao II, the worthless son of Raghunathrao, became the Peshwa.
  • Nana Phadnavis, a bitter foe of Bajirao II, became the chief minister. The dissensions among the Marathas provided the English with an opportunity to intervene in Maratha affairs. The death of Nana Phadnavis in 1800 gave the British an added advantage.

Course of War

  • On April 1, 1801, the Peshwa brutally murdered the brother of Jaswantrao (also called Yashwantrao by some historians) Holkar, Vithuji. A furious Jaswant arrayed his forces against the combined armies of Scindia and Bajirao II.
  • The turmoil
  • continued, and on October 25, 1802, Jaswant defeated the armies of the Peshwa and Scindia decisively at Hadapsar near Poona and placed Vinayakrao, son of Amritrao, on the Peshwa’s seat. A terrified Bajirao II fled to Bassein where, on December 31, 1802, he signed a treaty with the English.
  • Treaty of Bassein (1802) Under the treaty, the Peshwa agreed:
  • (i) to receive from the Company a native infantry (consisting of not less than 6,000 troops), with the usual proportion of field artillery and European artillery men attached, to be permanently stationed in his territories;
  • (ii) to cede to the Company territories yielding an income of Rs 26 lakh; to subject his relations with other states to the control of the English.
  • Reduced to Vassalage
  • After the Peshwa accepted the subsidiary alliance, Scindia and Bhonsle attempted to save Maratha independence. But the well-prepared and organized army of the English under Arthur Wellesley defeated the combined armies of Scindia and Bhonsle and forced them to conclude separate subsidiary treaties with the English.
  • In 1804, Yashwantrao Holkar made an attempt to form a coalition of Indian rulers to fight against the English. But his attempt proved unsuccessful. The Marathas were defeated, reduced to British vassalage and isolated from one another.
  • [(i) Defeat of Bhonsle (December 17, 1803, Treaty of Deogaon); (
  • ii) Defeat of Scindia (December 30, 1803,
  • Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon); and
  • (iii) Defeat of Holkar
  • (1806, Treaty of Rajpurghat)].

Significance of the Treaty of Bassein

  • Admittedly, the treaty was signed by a Peshwa who lacked political authority, but the gains made by the English were immense. The provision of keeping English troops permanently in Maratha territory was of great strategical benefit. The Company already had troops in Mysore, Hyderabad, and Lucknow.
  • The addition of Poona on the list meant that the Company’s troops were now more evenly spread and could be rushed to any place without much delay in times of need.
  • Though the Treaty of Bassein did not hand over India to the Company on a platter, it was a major development in that direction; the Company was now well placed to expand its areas of influence. In the circumstances, the observation that the treaty “gave the English the key to India,” may be exaggerated, but appears understandable

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817 – 1818)

  • After the second Anglo-Maratha war, the Marathas made one last attempt to rebuild their old prestige.
  • They wanted to retake all their old possessions from the English.
  • They were also unhappy with the British residents’ interference in their internal matters.
  • The chief reason for this war was the British conflict with the Pindaris whom the British suspected were being protected by the Marathas.
  • The Maratha chiefs Peshwa Bajirao II, Malharrao Holkar and Mudhoji II Bhonsle forged a united front against the English.
  • Daulat Rao Shinde, the fourth major Maratha chief was pressured diplomatically to stay away.
  • But the British victory was swift.
  • The Treaty of Gwalior was signed in 1817 between Shinde and the British, even though he had not been involved in the war. As per this treaty, Shinde gave up Rajasthan to the British. The Rajas of Rajputana remained the Princely States till 1947 after accepting British sovereignty.
  • The Treaty of Mandasor was signed between the British and the Holkar chief in 1818. An infant was placed on the throne under British guardianship.
  • The Peshwa surrendered in 1818. He was dethroned and pensioned off to a small estate in Bithur (near Kanpur). Most parts of his territory became part of the Bombay Presidency.
  • His adopted son, Nana Saheb became one of the leaders of the Revolt of 1857 at Kanpur.
  • The territories annexed from the Pindaris became the Central Provinces under British India.
  • This war led to the end of the Maratha Empire. All the Maratha powers surrendered to the British.
  • An obscure descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji was placed as the ceremonial head of the Maratha Confederacy at Satara.
  • This was one of the last major wars fought and won by the British. With this, the British controlled most parts of India barring Punjab and Sindh directly or indirectly.
  • Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–19)


  • Lord Hastings had the imperialistic design of imposing British paramountcy. By the Charter Act of 1813, the East India Company’s monopoly of trade in China (except tea) ended and, hence, the company needed more markets.
  • The Pindaris, made up of many castes and classes, were attached to Maratha armies as mercenaries. When the Marathas became weak, the Pindaris could not get regular employment.
  • As a consequence, they started plundering neighbouring territories, including those of the Company. The English charged the Marathas with giving shelter to the Pindaris. Pindari leaders like Amir Khan and Karim Khan surrendered, while Chitu Khan fled into the jungles
  • The Treaty of Bassein, described as “a treaty with a cipher (the Peshwa)”, wounded the feelings of the other Maratha leaders.
  • They saw the treaty as an absolute surrender of independence.
  • Lord Hastings’ actions taken against the Pindaris were seen as a transgression of the sovereignty of the Marathas; they served to once again unite the Maratha confederacy. A repentant Bajirao II made a last bid in 1817 by rallying together the Maratha chiefs against the English in course of the Third Anglo-Maratha War

Course of War

  • The Peshwa attacked the British Residency at Poona. Appa Sahib of Nagpur attacked the residency at Nagpur, and the Holkar made preparations for war. But, by then, the Marathas had lost almost all those elements which are needed for the growth of a power. The political and administrative conditions of all the Maratha states were confused and inefficient
  • The Bhonsle at Nagpur and the Scindia at Gwalior had also become weak. So, the English, striking back vigorously, succeeded in not allowing the Peshwa to exert his authority again on the Maratha confederacy.


  • The Peshwa was defeated at Khirki, Bhonsle at Sitabuldi, and Holkar at Mahidpur.
  • Some important treaties were signed. These were:
  • June 1817, Treaty of Poona, with Peshwa.
  • November 1817, Treaty of Gwalior, with Scindia.
  • January 1818, Treaty of Mandasor, with Holkar.
  • In June 1818, the Peshwa finally surrendered and the Maratha confederacy was dissolved. The peshwaship was abolished. Peshwa Bajirao became a British retainer at Bithur near Kanpur. Pratap Singh, a lineal descendant of Shivaji, was made ruler of a small principality, Satara, formed out of the Peshwa’s dominions

Why the Marathas Lost

  • (i) Inept Leadership The Maratha state was despotic in character. The personality and character of the head of the state had a great bearing on the affairs of the state. But, unfortunately, the later Maratha leaders Bajirao II, Daulatrao Scindia and Jaswantrao Holkar were worthless
  • (ii) Defective Nature of Maratha State The cohesion of the people of the Maratha state was not organic but artificial and accidental, and hence precarious
  • (iii) Loose Political Set-up The Maratha empire was a loose confederation under the leadership of the Chhatrapati and later the Peshwa. Powerful chiefs such as the Gaikwad, the Holkar, the Scindia, and the Bhonsle carved out semiindependent kingdoms for themselves and paid lip service to
  • (v) Unstable Economic Policy The Maratha leadership failed to evolve a stable economic policy to suit the changing needs of time




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