29 September 1725
“Conqueror of India” Robert Clive was born.
On 29 September 1725, Robert Clive, the man who had a mammoth role in laying the foundations of British rule in India was born in Shropshire, England.
- Robert Clive was born to Richard and Rebecca Clive. His father was a lawyer. The family had a moderate income.
- Clive had 12 younger siblings. As a child, he was prone to fighting and was described as a trouble-maker in school.
- In 1744, Clive’s father secured him a position as a ‘factor’ in the East India Company and he sailed for Bombay. In June 1744, Clive reached Fort St. George near Chennai.
- He worked as a bookkeeper for two years. Clive is said to have developed into a great reader here at the Governor’s library.
- Clive was able to distinguish himself in the First and Second Carnatic Wars in South India.
- During the First Carnatic War, the French attacked and captured Madras. The British residents in Madras were forced to promise that they would not fight against the French. A few British residents including Clive refused and so were kept under guard. However, Clive managed to escape along with a few others disguised as natives. They went to Fort St. David in Cuddalore where Clive helped in its defense against a French attack.
- He also showed his military brilliance in the Siege of Pondicherry.
- Clive also impressed his superiors in the Siege of Arcot (1751) during the Second Carnatic War. Arcot was the capital of the Nawab of the Carnatic. Chanda Sahib, the Nawab had left his capital to Trichy in order to besiege Muhammad Ali, his rival, who was stationed at the Trichy Fort.
- Chanda Sahib was an ally of the French. In order to curb the French influence in the region, the British were supporting Muhammad Ali. Robert Clive decided to attack Chanda Sahib’s capital Arcot as a divisionary tactic. This move proved to be brilliant and the British were successful in installing their ally Muhammad Ali as the Carnatic’s Nawab.
- Clive won praises for this siege including an appreciation from the then British Prime Minister.
- He left India for England in 1753 only to return in 1755. He was made the deputy governor of Fort St. David. He was also a lieutenant-colonel in the British Army.
- He also played an important role in the recapture of Calcutta from the Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah after the Black Hole Incident in 1757.
- His next major role was in the Battle of Plassey in June 1757. Even though the British troops were heavily outnumbered by the forces of the Nawab, he was easily defeated because of defections and betrayal by his own men. Clive had managed to bribe his way to victory. Siraj was dethroned and Mir Jafar was installed by the British as the new Nawab. Jafar had been Siraj’s chief commander, and had betrayed his own master.
- This battle led to a British puppet being installed as the ruler of Bengal. This established British supremacy in Bengal. Clive was made the Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in 1757.
- In 1760, Clive returned to England an extremely rich man.
- His third and final stint in India began with his arrival in Bengal in 1765. He was now Lord Clive and the Governor General of Bengal. By this time, the dewani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was won by the British after the Battle of Buxar.
- Clive now established the Dual System of Government which led to huge exploitation of Indian merchants who were rendered penniless. The British also extorted huge amounts of sum as taxes from farmers who were reduced to absolute poverty.
- It is said that Clive’s economic measures led to the massive famines in Bengal later. His legacy in India is that of a disliked colonial ruler whose actions led to the economic drain of the country.
- His tactics and measures left him a controversial figure in Britain. While he was applauded and thanked by a grateful Britain for virtually ‘giving’ away India to them, there were also charges of corruption against him since he had amassed a huge personal fortune in India.
- He is called ‘Clive of India’ and was also made 1st Baron Clive. He left India for good in 1767.
- Robert Clive died on 22 November 1774 aged 49. He either killed himself or died of an opium overdose.
Also on This Day
1836: Chamber of Commerce and Industry established in Madras. 1959: Arti Saha became the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel. 1977: Agreement signed between India and Bangladesh for distributing Ganga river water. 1993: National Human Rights Commission was set up.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.