In Episode 2, we explore how military leader, Robert Clive and statesman, Warren Hastings increased East India Company dominance in India, leading to the British Raj. How did the East India Company transition from trading to ruling? Diplomacy and bloodshed forged a new India at the helm of army officer Robert Clive, who set the foundations for British Raj.

Background: East India Company origins. As we’ve already found out with the earlier episode, the East India Company began around 1600 as a trading company, albeit one whose charter granted a near-monopoly over England’s trade across Asia. Thanks to close links with the crown, the company became a powerful imperial interest, with substantial influence over commerce and politics commercial. The EIC also battled against other European competitors for trade, displacing them from India and in turn, establishing British political control in India.

As the EIC became a dominant power in the subcontinent, tension developed between them and British government because the EIC was ultimately a trading company out to make profit and politicians feared its attempts to establish itself as a political power. Through the mechanism of the EIC, two people stand out as the chief enablers of the transition for Britain moving from a trading relationship to a ruling and colonising India.

Clive of India can be seen as the military pioneer who was able to bring large swathes of the subcontinent under the control of the EIC whereas, it was Warren Hastings who can be seen as the person who used statesmanship to develop bureaucratic control over areas where the EIC traded along with the right to collect taxes. Clive of India is seen as a figure whose actions in India consolidated Britain's power, although contemporaries and historians have questioned his methods. 

Born on 29 September 1725 near Market Drayton, Shropshire Clive was described as a difficult, troublesome, reckless child – as a bully, a daredevil, a thief who, with his Grammar School friends set up a “protection racket”. In 1744, Clive’s father was able to get him a position with the EIC.  The ship he embarked on run aground in Brazil where Clive was able to learn Portuguese. Robert Clive sailed to Madras and it was here when Fort St George was captured by the French that his life took a turn. The French Captors forced the Britons to take an oath that they would not to take up arms against the French. Clive and a few other people escaped by disguising themselves as natives. They managed to get to Fort St David where Clive enlisted in the Company army and helped hold off the French forces as they attempted to invade. This was known as the first Carnatic Wars. Clive was able to move up the ranks and lead many other battles including the second Carnatic Wars, the recapture of Calcutta and the battle of Plassey. 

Warren Hastings was born on 6 December 1732 and like Clive, Hastings was from a relatively modest background. After completing his education at age 17, he joined the East India Company and sailed out to Calcutta in August 1750. A diligent worker, Hastings was able to master some of the Urdu and Persian and in recognition of his achievements he was promoted and sent to Bengal in 1752.  Between 1758 and 1761, Hastings served as the EIC’s representative at the court of the nawabs of Bengal and between 1761-1764 he served on the EIC’s council, the controlling body for its affairs in Bengal. In 1765, Hastings resigns because of divisions and disputes among the council and returns to UK but later returns to India in 1769, and thanks to Robert Clive is appointed Deputy Ruler in Madras. He was later sent to Bengal as Governor and in essence he steps into the role Clive had held. 

During his tenure as governor, Hastings is instrumental in moving the machinery government from the nawab’s court, bringing under the under direct British control in Calcutta. He remodels the administration of justice throughout Bengal and brings the collection of taxation under his effective control. We can see the military conquest of Robert Clive dovetail the administrative conquests of Warren Hastings to shift power from the nobility in India to the EIC and in the next episode we see how the EIC pave the way for colonisation of India by Britain.