The Carnatic Wars

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The Carnatic Wars

First  Carnatic  War (1746-1748)

  • The Anglo-French animosity in India ensued as a sequel to the state of affairs in Europe with the breakout of the Austrian War of Succession in March 1740 in which the English and the French were on opposite side.
  • This animosity was fuelled by the trading rivalry of the companies which climaxed with the arrival of Dupleix (who wanted to strengthen the French position) as the French Governor of Pondicherry in 1742.


  • The English navy under Barnett took the offensive and captured French ships. Dupleix, the French Governor General, appealed to La Bourdonnais, the French Governor of Mauritius (Isle of France) for help and the latter responded with a squadron of over 3000 men; defeating the English fleet, and reaching the Coromandal coast on 7 July 1746.
  • Madras besieged by the French both by land and the sea capitulated to the French on 21st September 1746. However, it was restored to the English by La Bourdonnais for a ransom of £ 4,00,000 without the consent of Dupliex who later recaptured Madras but was unsuccessful in capturing Fort David.
  • The Battle of St. Thome, on the banks of the River Adyar followed in which the French fought and defeated the Indian forces of Anwar-ud-din,the Nawab of Carnatic for the custody of Madras after its reduction in  1746.
  • The First Carnatic came to an end after the conclusion of hostilities in Europe with signing of the Treaty of Aix-La-Chappelle in 1848 which also concluded the 18-month long siege over Fort St. David.
  • The Treaty of Aix-La-Chappelle that concluded the war mandated the return of Madras back to the English company in exchange of Louisburg in North America to France.
  • The First Carnatic war demonstrated the importance of naval power in the Anglo-French conflict and the superiority of the small, welldisciplined and relatively modern European army against the much larger, loose Indian civivies.

Second  Carnatic  War (1748-1754)

  • Though the Anglo-French rivalry ended in Europe, it continued in India; where encouraged by his success against the Nawab’s forces, Dupleix sought to increase his power and the French political influence in Southern India by interfering in local dynastic disputes in a bid to outmaneuver the English.
  • On 21st May 1748 Subedar of Deccan i.e. the Nizam of Hyderabad Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah died, which resulted in a war of succession between his second son Nasir Jang and the Nizam’s grandson / the former’s nephew Muzaffar Jang on the ground that he was appointed by the Mughal Emperor as the Subedar of Deccan.
  • In Carnatic, the right of Nawab Anwaruddin was disputed by Chanda Sahib, son in law of former Nawab Dost Ali.
  • The two conflicts were merged into one and alliances formed as Muzzaffar Jang and Chanda Sahib joined under French support while Nasir Jang and Anwaruddin aligned together with the English help. Thus the disputes over the thrones of Hyderabad and Carnatic became the cause of the war.


  • The combined armies of Muzaffar Jang, Chanda Sahib and French defeated and killed Anwa ruddin at the battle of Ambur near Vellore in August 1749.
  • Anwaruddin’s son Muhammad Ali fled to Trichinopoly and Chanda Sahib became Nawab of Carnatic while Muzaffar Jang became Subedar of Deccan after the encounter death of Nasir Jung in 1750.
  • Dupleix was appointed Governor of all the Mughal territories south of river Some districts in Northern Circars were also surrendered to the French, including famous market town of Masulipatam. In return Bussey with a French army was stationed at Hyderabad.
  • In 1750, the situation changed with the appointment of Saunders as Madras Governor; who decided to assist Muhammad Ali and on the suggestion of Robert Clive, the British under the former captured Arcot, the capital of Carnatic in a bid to divert pressure on Trichinopoly in August 1751, successfully sustaining the siege for fifty three days (September 23 to November 14) and demoralizing the French.
  • Subsequently, the British under Major Stringer Lawrence relieved Trichinopoly defeating the French forces and Chanda Sahib in Arni and Kaveripakkam in Chanda Sahib was treacherously killed by Raja of Tanjore.
  • However, Dupleix not one to give up, won over Morari Rao, the Maratha chief of Mysore and secured the neutrality of Raja of Tanjore, thereby renewing the siege of Trichinopoly in December 1752 which continued for more than one year, both sides succeeding alternatively.
  • Dupleix failure to capture Trichinopoly along with his political ambitions and ruinous expenses sealed his fate as he was recalled by the Directors of French Company in 1754. With his recall the second Carnatic war came to an end.
  • In August 1754, Godeheu replaced Dupleix as Governor-General of French possessions in India and reopened negotiations with the British; concluding a provisional peace treaty – the Treaty of Pondicherry in January 1755 according to which each party was left in possession of the territories that it actually occupied at the time of the  treaty.Thus, Godeheu and his incompetent Generals Astru and Maisi lost those territories which Dupleix had won.
  • The English emerged victorious and Muhammad Ali was appointed Nawab of carnatic.
  • In Hyderabad, the French General, Bussy maintained a steady ascendency of the French with a grant of the Northern Sarkars by Subedar Salabat Jung (Muzaffar Jang had been killed in accidental skirmish in Feb, 1751) consisting of the districts of Mustafanagar, Ellore, Rajahmundry and Chicacole, generating annual revenue of more than Rs 30 lakhs to meet expense of maintaining the French army.

Third  Carnatic  War (1756-1763)

  • The third Carnatic war was an echo of the outbreak of the Seven Years War in Europe and ended the short peace between the European Companies in India.


  • In 1757, The British under Clive defeated Siraj- uddaula and captured Bengal. Clive and Watson also won Chandernagar, the French possession in Bengal, thus capacitating the British finances.
  • The French government sent Count-de-Lally as the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the French possessions in India, who soon after his arrival attacked and captured Fort St. David in 1758. The French military effort could not be sustained in Tanjore and on Indian waters due to lack of naval cooperation, shortage of finances and ammunition, mutual distrust,etc.
  • However, Lally continued to challenge the British and called Bussy from Hyderabad, leaving the French forces under the incompetent Commander Seizing the opportunity, Clive sent Colonel Ford from Bengal to Northern Circars and occupying Rajahmundry and Masulipatnam, the English concluded a favourable treaty with Salabat Jang, the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1759.
  • The decisive battle of the third Carnatic War was fought at Wandiwash on 22 January, 1760 where Sir Eyre Coote defeated Lally.
  • Bussy was taken prisoner; Lally retreated to Pondicherry and signed a treaty with Haider Ali. However, Pondicherry after a blocade of eight months was surrendered to the English on 16 January, 1761. Mahe, Jinji were lost by French in quick succession.
  • The third Carnatic war came to an end in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris.
  • Pondicherry, Karaikal and some other French settlements were returned to the French by the Treaty but these were never to be fortified.
  • This sealed the French ambitions in India and with the English conquest of Bengal and the significant disposal of resources; it furthered the growth of British power in Bengal.

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