In their opinion,
none of the rulers’, were capable of acting as an organized army, for
example per Sir Lepel Griffin: "`They are for the most part,, an
undrilled, wretchedly armed rabble, and two or three of our regiments, with a
battery of horse artillery, would disperse 50,000 of them.' With the exceptions
that I have named [armies of Gwalior (Maratha), the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the
Sikhs], they cannot cause us anxiety. They are not armies in the ordinary sense
of the term" (J. Strachey, India, 1888, p. 327).
Initially like it did in the case of Europe, gunpowder came to India from China although particularly the Mongols, appear to have introduced it in northwestern India during the second half of the thirteenth century. (Igtidar Khan, Gunpowder and Firearms Warfare in Medieval India, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 82.)
By the late fifteenth century however, gunpowder artillery had became a strong factor behind centralization of the state systems created in Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Bengal, the designation of `gunpowder empires'. (Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Vol. III, pp. 17-18, 26.)
Guns produced in China as well as elsewhere in Asia before 1500 lacked the effectiveness and efficiency of the European weapons of that time. This should partly explain the absence of any large import of Chinese cannons into neighbouring Central Asia, in contrast to equipment manned by Europeans plus also Ottoman Turks. For example Martin de Rada observed in South China in the Sixteenth Century, 1575 (tr. and ed. C.R. Boxer, London, 1953, p. 273) “Their artillery, at least that which we saw is most inferior.” Ottoman artillerists themselves influenced by Europeans in the service of the Indian rulers in fact appear to have contributed significantly to carrying the skill of forging wrought-iron cannons to the interior of India.
The impact of European gunnery on the nature of the firearms of different types in the Indian states during the sixteenth century turned out to be of far-reaching significance. It came in a variety of ways, partly with the Portuguese (1498) directly from Europe, and partly across West Asia to the northwestern parts of the subcontinent.
The technique of forging barrels, imported through the Portuguese, was initially used in the Deccan and South India for light pieces of artillery. (K.A. Nilkantha Sastri and N. Venkataramanyya (eds), Further Sources of Vjayanagara History, Vol. III, pp. 224-5.)
After the improvement of cavalry, the use of firearms is said to be the most important factor behind the success of the Vijaynagara Empire not only against the Bahmanis, but also `against the enemies within', such as the powerful chiefs of the Tamil region. (Burton Stein, The Cambridge Economic History of India, Vol. I, p. 119.)
Also the Bahmanis acquired a large stock of artillery (top-khana-i buzurg) manned by Europeans, Firingis. (Muhammad Qasim Firishta, Tarikh-i Firishta, Vol. I, pp. 73, 290-1.)
But there was more, just like the so called ‘first’ World War (WWI) in Europe was in fact a ‘colonial war’ (because of the need for access to raw materials).So in turn, shortly after they set foot in India the British became embroiled in conflicts with the other European powers in India - the Dutch, the French, and the Portuguese. Furthermore, they also fought local powers like the Marathas. Matters came to a head in 1744 with the declaration of war in Europe between England and France. The French, led by the energetic Joseph-François Dupleix, governor-general of all French possessions in India, seized Madras from the British in October 1746, only to return it in 1748 under the terms of the Aix-la-Chapelle treaty. One of the English defenders of Madras who became a prisoner of the French was Robert Clive, a young copywriter in the service of the company
Nizam-ul-Mulk, former Mughal viceroy of the Deccan and later an independent
ruler, died in 1748, the French supported Muzaffar Jang, one of the claimants
to the throne, and waged a successful campaign against the challenger, Anwar-udDin, the ruler of Karnatik. The
French then turned their attention to the second challenger, Nazir Jang, the de
facto ruler of the Deccan who had British support, led by Maj. Stringer
Lawrence. Muzaffar Jang defeated and killed Nazir Jang, and the French then
installed Muzaffar as the ruler of the Deccan in their stronghold of
Pondicherry. A grateful Muzaffar Jang bestowed upon the French considerable
territories in southern India.. In 1751 the British,
by then under the leadership of Robert Clive, struck back by installing their
own puppet, Muhammad Ali, as the nawab of Karnatik.
(G. B. Lord Clive Malleson, The Decisive Battles of
India., London., 1882, .39-42.)
Although the French eventually managed to establish a firm presence in the court of Hyderabad, they found themselves on the defensive; Dupleix himself was recalled to France in 1754. (Rose Vincent, "Dupleix: une ambitieuse politique." In Rose Vincent, ed., Pondicherry, 1624-1761: L'échec d'un rêve d'empire. Paris: Les Editions Auttrement, 1993121-44.)
But in 1756 the Seven Years' War broke out in Europe, and the French renewed their efforts against the British in India under Thomas-Arthur de Lally, who had been sent to India in 1758. Unfortunately for the French, Lally's campaigns were a series of disasters and blunders. His first mistake was to recall Gen. Charles de Bussy from Hyderabad just when the general had all but taken over this powerful kingdom. On the battlefield Lally suffered constant defeat at British hands, culminating in the disaster at Wandiwash in January 1760. The French navy too made little headway against a smaller British fleet and ultimately let the British capture Pondicherry in January 1761. With the fall of Pondicherry all French hopes for an Indian empire were dashed. The British were now the lone European power in the subcontinent. (Pierre-Antoine. Perrod, "La findu rêve d'empire." In Rose Vincent, ed., Pondicherry,1624-1761: L'échec d'un rêve d'empire. Paris: Les Editions Auttrement, 1993,221-33.)
While the British fought the French in southern India, they also carried out a protracted campaign in Bengal to expand their territories and influence. Bengal was a province of the Mughal Empire, and an appointed military governor, or faujdar, oversaw its administration. After the fall of the Mughal Empire the governor of Bengal, Ali Vardi Khan, broke away from Delhi's weak control in 1742. He ruled until his death in 1756, after which his son Siraj-ud-Daulah succeeded him. Both father and son maintained extremely rigid control of the Europeans at the trading posts in Bengal. The British, who had the largest presence in the region, resented this control. In 1752 Robert Orme, in a letter to Clive, noted that the company would have to remove Ali Vardi Khan in order to prosper. (S. C. Hill, The Indian Record Series, Bengal in 1756-7. 3 vols. London, 1895-1905, 2:307.)
Under Siraj-ud-Daulah relations were even worse, and finally the nawab decided to expel the British from his domain. After a brief siege the British garrison in Calcutta fell on June 1756. Subsequently, British prisoners died while being held in the fort.
Clive moved out of Madras in October 1756 and by January 1757 captured Calcutta. A treaty with Siraj-ud-Daulah followed in February in which he restored the British presence in Bengal. All this time Siraj-ud-Daulah had hesitated. But in January Ahmad Shah Durrani had sacked Delhi, and the nawab, fearing his Afghan brethren more than the British, sought peace with the British. But since by now the British had disposed of the French in Bengal, they were in no mood to compromise. Particularly when a member of the nawab's family requested British aid to overthrow Siraj-ud-Daulah and claim the throne for himself. Clive immediately agreed, noting that the "universally hated [nawab] would be overthrown whether we gave our consent or not. (PercivalGriffith, The British Impact on India, 1965, 72.)
Charging the nawab with violation of the February 1757 treaty, Clive moved out of Chandranagar with approximately 3,000 troops and established himself at Plassey (Palashi in Urdu), 23 miles south of Murshidabad, where the nawab was already stationed with 50,000 men. (Lord Clive Malleson, The Decisive Battles of India. Reprint, New Delhi, 1969, 76.)
Despite the overwhelming odds Clive decided to attack because he knew beforehand that Mir Jafar, one of the nawab's commanders, would not fight. In fact, only one of the commanders, Mir Muin-ud-Din, remained loyal to the nawab. Siraj-ud-Daulah himself had only a small contingent of 2,000 soldiers. At the start of the battle, when the British attacked, only Muin-ud-Din's unit moved to challenge them. Although damp gunpowder and devastating British fire hampered his efforts, Muin continued the advance until he was killed. Nevertheless, he managed to force the British to retreat to the mango groves from where they had started their advance. If the nawab's entire army had advanced at the same time, the British might have been crushed, but two other commanders, Yar Lutf Khan and Rai Durlab, along with Mir Jafar, kept their forces out of the fray. At this point the nawab fled the field, and the conspirators later murdered him as he fled Bengal. According tosome, the total British casualties numbered seventy-two dead and wounded, including seven Europeans killed and thirteen wounded and sixteen sepoys killed and thirty-six wounded. (Arthur Broome, History of the Bengal Army, London, 1850, Vol.I,48-49.) Others l gives a slightly different distribution of the casualties: four Europeans killed and fifteen wounded and fifteen sepoys killed and thirty-eight wounded. (Hil, The Indian Record Series, i:ccii.)
In due time, Mir Jafar was established as nawab and a British puppet. With total control of Bengal, the British had the foothold they needed to consolidate and expand their gains in India. Sir Thomas Roe's successful visit to Emperor Jahangir in Agra resulting in permission for British merchants to bear arms. (R.Carnac, The Presidential Armies of India. London, 1890, 27.)
Gradually, the British employed large numbers of local peons, or guards, to protect their factories. (Imperial Gazetteer of India. 25 vols. Oxford, 1907, 4:326 ) As British posts spread to the south and the east, large forts, including Fort William in Calcutta and Fort Saint George in Madras, came into being, and, as a consequence, royal charters granted in 1661 and 1669 allowed the company to enlist soldiers locally. (Malcolm Seton, The India Office, London, 1926. 187.)
Bengal was the first Presidency to establish its own native forces. Between 1668 and 1683 it created two companies of native soldiers with twenty-one cannons. (Carnac, The Presidential Armies, 52. 19) Bombay followed suit with two Rajput companies. In 1661400 royal troops were sent to the city for its protection, and Bombay formed the first European regiment in India, the Bombay Fusiliers, in 1668. (Seton, The India Office, 187.)
Madras experienced a similar evolution at a later date. Madras began setting up large military forces only in the eighteenth century during the Anglo-French wars. In 1748 Major Lawrence received command of all of the East India Company's forces in India. He established a Madras European regiment and recruited 2,000 Indian sepoys, which he used only for guard duties. (Robert Orme, A History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan. 3 vols. Madras: Atheaneum Press, 1861, 1:104)
Bombay too began to raise large local forces, recruiting, up to 2,000 men in Surat, mainly Arabs and Turks. (P.Cadell, History of the Bombay Army, London., 1938, 49. 22)
Bengal followed suit with a force of between five and seven companies. The British also created an artillery company to support each of the Presidency (Bengal, Bombay, and Madras) armies, with Bengal getting the first in 1749. (Richard Walter, India and Her Colonial Forces, London, 1850, 83.)
from 1757 to 1767, under Clive's leadership, the company's military
organization, beginning with that of the Bengal Presidency, underwent a
dramatic expansion and modernization. After the battle of Plassey Clive
realized that the local infantry, commanded by Indian officers, was an
ill-trained and undisciplined force.