Anglo Maratha War – Causes, History of First Anglo Maratha War

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Anglo-Maratha wars took place in three phases in India and were fought between the British East India Company and the Indian Maratha Empire. The war started with the Treaty of Surat and ended with the Treaty of Salbai. The first Anglo-Maratha war was fought between 1775 and 1818. The Marathas won the first Anglo-Maratha war with the Treaty of Salbai.

The implication of the first Anglo-Maratha war was that the British returned the territories occupied by them to the Marathas. The Anglo-Maratha War is part of modern Indian history. The aspirants must be well-versed in all the information related to these wars while preparing for the upcoming IAS exam.

What is Anglo-Maratha War?

The Anglo-Maratha Wars were fought between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India between 1775 and 1818. The Maratha Empire consisted of some legendary rulers and warriors who fought against the British East India Company and other foreign invaders. The Anglo-Maratha War was fought over territorial disputes, political dominance, and control over resources.

The British wanted to establish a strong hold on the Maratha region, just like they had in Odisha, Bihar, and Bengal. Since the Marathas disagreed and fought back, the British got the opportunity to attack their territories. Hence, there were a series of three Anglo-Maratha wars that are significant in the history of India, as they marked the decline of the mighty Maratha Empire and the solidification of British power in India.

Causes of Anglo-Maratha War

As mentioned above, the Anglo-Maratha Wars were a series of multiple wars that shaped the history of India. There were several causes for these wars that we have discussed below.

  • Territorial disputes: The Maratha Empire controlled a vast territory in India, and the British East India Company wanted to expand its territorial control. This led to conflicts over disputed territories that caused the wars.
  • Other Alliances: The Marathas had formed alliances with other Indian powers, such as the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Mysore Kingdom. These alliances were seen as a threat to British rule in India, which led to the Anglo-Maratha wars.
  • Political dominance: The British wanted to establish political dominance over India. The Marathas were seen as a major obstacle to British domination, which led to further conflicts.

History of Anglo Maratha War

The third Peshwa of the Maratha empire, Balaji Bajirao, died in 1761 due to the shock of losing the third battle of Panipat. After his death, his son Madhavrao succeeded him and was able to successfully bring back some of the territories of the Maratha empire that they had lost in the battle of Panipat.

  • After the death of Madhavrao, there was a strong tussle in the Maratha empire for the ownership of the throne.
  • There was a constant struggle between Narayan Rao and his uncle Raghunath Rao as both wanted to become the Peshwa. However, Narayan Rao became a Peshwa, and his uncle tried to seek help from the Britishers.
  • 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 army under Raghunath Rao attacked Peshwa Narayan Rao, had a battle with him, and won the battle.
  • The British Calcutta Council cancelled the agreement under Warren Hastings, and a new treaty was signed in 1776, which was the agreement between the Calcutta Council and the Minister of Maratha.
  • As part of his agreement with the Calcutta Council, Nana Fadnavis approved a French port on the West Coast in 1777. As a result, the British sent their soldiers to Pune and held a battle at Wadgaon in which the Marathas, led by Mahadji Shinde, won the battle of Wadgaon near Pune decisively.
  • After the English lost the battle in 1779, the British were forced to sign an agreement with the Indians called the Wadgaon Agreement.

First Anglo-Maratha War

The first of three Anglo-Maratha wars fought in India between the Maratha Empire, and Great Britain was known as the first Anglo-Maratha War. The Treaty of Salbai marked the end of the war, which started with the Treaty of Surat.

  • The demise of Madhavrao Peshwa in the year 1772 and the conspiracy killing by Raghunath Rao of his nephew made Raghunath the Peshwa, even though he was not a legal descendant.
  • When the question of an infant, Narayana Rao’s child, to be named the next year arose, Nana Fadnavis and 12 other Maratha chiefs were in favour of this decision.
  • Reluctant to surrender his position of authority, Raghunath Rao sought assistance from the British in Bombay and, on March 7, 1777, signed the Treaty of Surat.
  • In accordance with the terms of the treaty, the Salsette and Bassein regions, as well as a portion of the earnings from the Surat and Bharuch districts, were transferred by Raghunath Rao to the British.
  • In exchange, the British provided 2500 soldiers to Raghunath Rao. On the other side of India, the British Calcutta Council denounced the Surat treaty and dispatched Colonel Uttan to Pune to void it.
  • Nana Fadnavis violated the treaty in 1777. In response, the British sent forces in the direction of Pune. After being cornered, the Maratha cavalry attacked the British by adopting a “scorched earth strategy”.
  • The British started to retire to Talegaon, forcing them to flee to Wadgaon. The British finally gave up by signing the treaty of Wadgaon which required the Bombay administration to cede all lands it had won since 1775.
  • Warren Hastings, the British governor-general in Bengal, rejected this pact and dispatched an army.
  • In August 1780, a second Bengali force under the command of Captain Popham took Gwalior. Maharaj Shinde was pursued by yet another troupe dispatched by Hastings.
  • The British eventually beat Shinde at Sikri in February 1781. Following the loss, Shinde suggested the treaty of Salbai between the Peshwa and the British, which would acknowledge the young Madhava Rao as the Peshwa and provide Raghunath Rao with a pension.
  • This treaty was signed in May 1782 and ratified in June 1782 by Hastings and in February 1783 by Phadnis.

Second Anglo-Maratha War

The United Kingdom and the Maratha empire in India engaged in battle once more during the second Anglo-Maratha War (1803 to 1805). On September 23, 1803, the British crushed the Maratha rebels on behalf of Bajirao, who they restored to power in accordance with the treaty of Bassein.

  • The Bhosale rulers of Nagpur and Berar, as well as the Sindhia kings of Gwalior, resisted the agreement and were overthrown by Sir Arthur Wellesley. When they finally entered the battle, the Holkar rulers of Indore were defeated as well.
  • Following the signing of the peace treaty in 1805, the British took possession of Orissa as well as portions of western Gujarat and Bundelkhand from the Marathas who continued to rule freely over most of central India.
  • A large portion of Rajasthan was still ruled and dominated by Sindhia Maharajas.

Third Anglo-Maratha War

The third Anglo-Maratha War from 1817 to 1818 was the one that engaged the British against the Maratha empire in India, and the UK gained control of the majority of the country.

  • As part of operations against Pindare robber groups, the British governor-general, Lord Hastings, invaded Maratha territory. Although the soldiers of the Sindhia of Gwalior rose out against the British, despite losing control of Rajasthan, British diplomacy was able to persuade him to remain neutral. His region was mostly included in the Bombay presidency.
  • Despite this, the Maharaja of Satara continued to rule a princely state until 1848, when it was annexed by the Bombay State.
  • The Saugor and Nerbudda Territories, which included the Peshwas possessions in Bundelkhand in the northern section of the Nagpur Bhosale dominion, were ceded to British India.
  • The Maratha kingdoms of Indore Gwalior, Nagpur, and Jhansi accepted British rule by becoming princely states.
  • The British had practically complete authority over modern-day India South of the Sutlej River following the third Anglo-Maratha War.

Central India And Deccan In Anglo Maratha War

Goddard marched towards Pune after conquering Bassein. He was defeated in the battle of Bhor Ghat in 1781. Mahadji challenged Camac at Malwa in Central India. At first, he was supported by the British, but Camac was later harassed, and he had to return to Hadur.

  • In late March, the British made a desperate raid capturing both their supplies as well as weapons and elephants after defeating Shinde of the town of Sipri in February 1781.
  • After that, Shinde’s forces were then less likely to pose a military threat to Britain and hence the contest was equally balanced.
  • The victory of Mahadji over Camac was significant, but they had to pay for it in 1781 in the battle of Durdah.
  • After that, in April 1781, a new force led by Colonel Murre aided Pophem and Camac.
  • Mahadji Shinde successfully defeated the forces of Murre on the first of July 1781.
  • From that time, Mahadji became a powerful leader who was difficult to defeat.

Anglo-Maratha War Treaty

The Treaty of Salbai played an instrumental role in the Anglo-Maratha wars. Check here the features of the Treaty of Salbai.

  • The agreement of Salbai was signed and approved by Hastings on May 17th, 1782, and it was signed by Nana Fadnavis on June 1782.
  • This treaty ended the first Anglo-Maratha war, followed by restoring the status and establishing fees among both parties for two decades.

Results of Anglo Maratha War

The British East India Company preserved Salsette and Broach, and they also obtained a promise from Maratha to take their precessions from Hyder Ali. The Marathas agreed to their point of view and agreed not to share their land with the French. Raghunath Rao was decided to be given a pension every year.

All the territories that were captured by the British were surrendered back to the Marathas after the Treaty of Purandhar. The East India Company accepted Madhavrao as Peshwa of the Marathas.

Reasons For Fall Of Marathas

The following were the reasons for the fall of the Maratha empire:

  • Weakened leadership.
  • Inadequate political vision.
  • The Jagirdari system.
  • Weakness in the Marathas’ social structure.
  • The Marathas became weak in the military.
  • Economic affairs were neglected by the Marathas.

Anglo-Maratha Wars And Subsidiary Alliances

Under the subsidiary alliance formed between the Indian state and the British, the Indian rulers would be protected by the British from attacks from other rulers. In return, the British required their army to be kept in the capital of these states, provided with money or some land, and take British personnel as a resident in their capitals who would be the participant in all the decisions and would act as intermediate between other rulers and the state. In 1782, the “Treaty of Salbai was ratified. The agreements conditions were as follows:

  1. Raghunath Rao received a pension from the Poona government in exchange for mutual restitution of conquest.
  2. The surrounding islands of Bombay and Salselte were allowed to stay under English control.

Bajirao made his getaway and ratified the treaty of the basin in 1802. A subsidiary forces with:

  1. A minimum of 6000 regular infantrymen,
  2. An equal number of field and artillery and European artilleryman.
  3. Rs.26 lakh was to be set aside for the upkeep of the army.

Anglo-Maratha War UPSC

The Anglo-Maratha War is the topic covered in the UPSC Syllabus under the modern Indian history section. Modern Indian history is important to learn for the exam as at least 3 to 4 questions are definitely expected in the prelims paper. The aspirants preparing for IAS Exam can download the notes for preparing comprehensively.

Anglo-Maratha War PDF

Additionally, candidates must choose the right recommended books to prepare for other topics from the Indian History section. Candidates are recommended to go through the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to learn more about the types of questions being asked in prelims and mains.

Anglo-Maratha War Sample Question

The candidates must prepare comprehensively for the exam and solve the questions on regular basis. The questions pertaining to the topic “Anglo Maratha war” are essential for the Prelims and Mains syllabus. Check here the sample questions of the UPSC Anglo Maratha war as provided here-

Question. In which year did Peshwa Bajirao 2 sign a subsidiary Treaty?

  1. 1802
  2. 1823
  3. 1907
  4. 1834

Answer – A

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