Anglo-Maratha wars

There were three Anglo-Maratha wars (or Maratha Wars) fought between the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century between the British and the Marathas. In the end, the Maratha power was destroyed and British supremacy established.

Background and course
  • The third Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao died in 1761 due to shock after his defeat at the Third Battle of Panipat.
  • His son Madhavrao succeeded him. Madhavrao 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 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.

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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.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803  1805)

Background and course
  • 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.

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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.

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817 – 1818)

Background and course
  • 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.
  • Daulatrao 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 the last major war fought and won by the British. With this, the British controlled most parts India directly or indirectly.
Reasons for Maratha Loss
  • Lack of unity among the Maratha chiefs themselves.

  • Lack of good relations with other Indian princes and ruling dynasties.

  • Failure to understand the British political and diplomatic strengths.



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