The Carnatic Wars (1746-1748, 1749-1754 and 1757-1763)
Inevitably the ‘Austrian’ conflict spread eastward too. The British and French East India Companies had long been fighting for control of the trading posts in the sub-continent.
The Mughal Emperor had died in 1707 and the sub-continent entered a period without any local central control. The Nawab of the Carnatic, Dost Ali Khan, was notionally in charge of the Mughal territories though several were run autonomously. There was unrest that resulted in the Battle of Damalcherry in 1740 between the Nawab and the Marathas; the Mughals were defeated and the Nawab died in battle. Intrigue and assassinations among the locals made for something of a moveable feast in the region.
Joseph François Dupleix arrived in India in 1715 and by 1742 had become the governor of the French East India Company in India. He saw the opportunity in the local uncertainties and entered in to various intrigues with local rulers to seek to advance the French areas of influence and control.
These three conflicts were termed Carnatic Wars, the word referring both to the province and to the classical music of southern India.
The first war focussed on the trading posts of Cuddalore, Madras and Pondicherry. What had seemed to be a relaxed relationship between the two colonisers was broken when British traders seized several French merchant ships. Dupleix called up naval support from the Isle de France (today’s Mauritius) and elsewhere and a series of indecisive naval confrontations resulted.
The French seized Madras. But Dupleix had promised the city to the Nawab of Arcot, when he did not hand it over the Nawab’s forces tried to attack, though they failed to unseat the French. Dupleix then tried to seize Cuddalore, but was foiled by British reinforcements and then the arrival of the monsoons.
It was the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748 that included an agreement on peace in India, Madras was handed back to the British.
A second Carnatic War ensued when both the French and the British picked sides within the local rulers bid for supremacy. Dupleix backed Chanda Sahib’s bid to become Nawab of Arcot, but Robert Clive, in support of other rulers, seized Arcot and then proved victorious in a number of other battles.
The Treaty of Pondicherry closed this second period of war with Dupleix order back to France for the huge financial cost of his actions.
The Third Carnatic War also embroiled Bengal. The Battle of Wandiwash saw the Comte de Lailly defeated in 1760 and the next year Pondicherry was seized by the British. The 1763 Treaty of Paris saw the French possessions returned but under British management. The British had effectively gained control of India.